Original theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Alfred Hitchcock|
|Produced by||Alfred Hitchcock|
|Screenplay by||John Michael Hayes|
"It Had to Be Murder"|
1942 short story (in Dime Detective)
by Cornell Woolrich
|Music by||Franz Waxman|
|Edited by||George Tomasini|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$36.8 million|
Rear Window is a 1954 American Technicolor mystery thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and written by John Michael Hayes based on Cornell Woolrich's 1942 short story "It Had to Be Murder". Originally released by Paramount Pictures, the film stars James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter and Raymond Burr. It was screened at the 1954 Venice Film Festival.
The film is considered by many filmgoers, critics and scholars to be one of Hitchcock's best and one of the greatest movies ever made. The film received four Academy Award nominations and was ranked No. 42 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies list and No. 48 on the 10th-anniversary edition. In 1997, Rear Window was added to the United States National Film Registry in the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
After breaking his leg photographing a racetrack accident, a professional photographer, the adventurous L. B. "Jeff" Jefferies (James Stewart), is confined to a wheelchair in his Greenwich Village apartment to recuperate. His rear window looks out onto a courtyard and several other apartments. During a powerful heat wave, he watches his neighbors, who keep their windows open to stay cool.
He observes a flamboyant dancer he nicknames "Miss Torso"; a single middle-aged woman he calls "Miss Lonelyhearts"; a talented, single, middle-aged composer-pianist; several married couples; a female sculptor; and Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr), a traveling jewelry salesman with a bedridden wife.
Jeff's sophisticated, beautiful socialite girlfriend, Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly), visits him regularly, as does his insurance company's nurse, Stella (Thelma Ritter). Stella wants Jeff to settle down and marry Lisa, but Jeff is reluctant.
One night during a thunderstorm Jeff hears a woman scream "Don't!" and then the sound of breaking glass. Later he is awakened by thunder and observes Thorwald leaving his apartment. Thorwald makes repeated late-night trips carrying his sample case. The next morning Jeff notices that Thorwald's wife is gone, and then sees Thorwald cleaning a large knife and handsaw. Later, Thorwald ties a large trunk with heavy rope and has moving men haul it away. Jeff discusses all this with Lisa and with Stella.
Jeff becomes convinced that Thorwald has murdered his wife. Jeff explains this to his friend Tom Doyle (Wendell Corey), a New York City Police detective, and asks him to do some research. Doyle finds nothing suspicious; apparently Mrs. Thorwald is upstate, and picked up the trunk herself.
Soon after, a neighbor's dog is found dead, its neck broken. The owner yells out into the courtyard, "You don't know the meaning of the word 'neighbors'! Neighbors like each other, speak to each other, care if anybody lives or dies! But none of you do!" All the neighbors run to their windows to see what is happening, except for Thorwald, whose cigar can be seen glowing as he sits quietly in his dark apartment.
Certain that Thorwald is also guilty of killing the dog, Jeff asks Lisa to slip an accusatory note under his door, so Jeff can watch his reaction when he reads it. Then, as a pretext to get Thorwald out of his apartment, Jeff telephones him and arranges a meeting at a bar. He believes Thorwald buried something incriminating in the courtyard flower bed and killed the dog to stop it digging there, so when Thorwald leaves, Lisa and Stella dig up the flowers; they find nothing.
Much to Jeff's amazement and admiration, Lisa then climbs the fire escape to Thorwald's apartment and clambers in through an open window. When Thorwald returns and grabs Lisa, Jeff calls the police, who arrive in time to save her by arresting her. Jeff sees Lisa has her hands behind her back, wiggling her finger with Mrs. Thorwald's wedding ring on it. Thorwald notices this, and realizing that she is signaling to someone, he sees Jeff across the courtyard.
Jeff phones Doyle and leaves an urgent message. Stella heads for the police station to post bail for Lisa. When his phone rings, Jeff assumes it is Doyle, and says that the suspect has left the apartment. When no one answers, Jeff realizes that Thorwald himself had called, and is heading over to confront him. When Thorwald enters, Jeff repeatedly sets off his camera flashbulbs, temporarily blinding him. However, Thorwald grabs Jeff and manages to push him out of the open window, as Jeff is yelling for help. Police officers enter the apartment as he falls to the ground; other officers have run over to break his fall. Thorwald confesses to the police soon afterward.
A few days later, the heat has lifted, and Jeff rests peacefully in his wheelchair, now with casts on both legs. The lonely neighbor is chatting with the pianist in his apartment, the dancer's lover returns home from the army, the couple whose dog was killed have a new dog, and the newly married couple are bickering.
Lisa reclines on the daybed in Jeff's apartment, wearing jeans and apparently reading a book titled Beyond the High Himalayas. As soon as Jeff falls asleep, Lisa puts the book down and happily opens a fashion magazine.
- James Stewart as L.B. "Jeff" Jefferies
- Grace Kelly as Lisa Carol Fremont
- Wendell Corey as NYPD Det. Lt. Thomas J. Doyle
- Thelma Ritter as Stella
- Raymond Burr as Lars Thorwald
- Judith Evelyn as Miss Lonelyhearts
- Ross Bagdasarian as the Songwriter
- Georgine Darcy as Miss Torso
- Frank Cady and Sara Berner as the husband and wife living above the Thorwalds, with their dog
- Jesslyn Fax as sculptor neighbor with a hearing aid
- Rand Harper and Havis Davenport as the newlywed couple
- Irene Winston as Mrs. Anna Thorwald
- Gig Young as the voice of Jeff's editor at telephone (uncredited)
- Harry Landers as the Miss Lonelyhearts' guest (uncredited)
- Ralph Smiles as Carl, the waiter (uncredited)
- Director Alfred Hitchcock makes his traditional cameo appearance in the songwriter's apartment, where he is seen winding a clock.
The film was shot entirely at Paramount studios, which included an enormous indoor set to replicate a Greenwich Village courtyard. Set designers Hal Pereira and Joseph MacMillan Johnson spent six weeks building the extremely detailed and complex set, which ended up being the largest of its kind at Paramount. One of the unique features of the set was its massive drainage system, constructed in order to accommodate the rain sequence in the film. They also built the set around a highly-nuanced lighting system which was able to create natural-looking lighting effects for both the day and night scenes. Even though the address given in the film is 125 W. Ninth Street in New York's Greenwich Village, the set was actually based on a real courtyard located at 125 Christopher Street.
In addition to the meticulous care and detail put into the set, there was also careful attention given to sound, including the use of natural sounds and music that would drift across the courtyard and into Jefferies' apartment. At one point, the voice of Bing Crosby can be heard singing "To See You Is to Love You", originally from the 1952 Paramount film Road to Bali. Also heard on the soundtrack are versions of songs popularized earlier in the decade by Nat King Cole ("Mona Lisa", 1950) and Dean Martin ("That's Amore", 1952), along with segments from Leonard Bernstein's score for Jerome Robbins' ballet Fancy Free (1944), Richard Rodgers' song "Lover" (1932), and "M'appari tutt'amor" from Friedrich von Flotow's opera Martha (1844), most borrowed from Paramount's music publisher, Famous Music.
Hitchcock used costume designer Edith Head on all of his Paramount films.
Although veteran Hollywood composer Franz Waxman is credited with the score for the film, his contributions were limited to the opening and closing titles and the piano tune ("Lisa") written by one of the neighbors, a composer (Ross Bagdasarian), during the film. This was Waxman's final score for Hitchcock. The director used primarily "diegetic" sounds—sounds arising from the normal life of the characters—throughout the film.
A "benefit world premiere" for the film, with United Nations officials and "prominent members of the social and entertainment worlds" in attendance, was held on August 4, 1954 at the Rivoli Theatre in New York City, with proceeds going to the American-Korean Foundation (an aid organization founded soon after the end of the Korean War and headed by President Eisenhower's brother).
The movie was released wide on September 1, 1954.
The movie went on to earn an estimated $5.3 million at the North American box office in 1954.
The film received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics and is considered one of Hitchcock's finest films. On the website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has been universally praised, garnering a 100% certified fresh rating, based on 61 reviews, with the consensus stating that "Hitchcock exerted full potential of suspense in this masterpiece."
Critic Bosley Crowther of The New York Times attended the benefit premiere, and in his review called the film a "tense and exciting exercise" and Hitchcock a director whose work has a "maximum of build-up to the punch, a maximum of carefully tricked deception and incidents to divert and amuse." Crowther also notes: "Mr. Hitchcock's film is not 'significant.' What it has to say about people and human nature is superficial and glib. But it does expose many facets of the loneliness of city life and it tacitly demonstrates the impulse of morbid curiosity. The purpose of it is sensation, and that it generally provides in the colorfulness of its detail and in the flood of menace toward the end."
Time called it "just possibly the second most entertaining picture (after The 39 Steps) ever made by Alfred Hitchcock" and a film in which there is "never an instant ... when Director Hitchcock is not in minute and masterly control of his material." The same review did note "occasional studied lapses of taste and, more important, the eerie sense a Hitchcock audience has of reacting in a manner so carefully foreseen as to seem practically foreordained." Variety called the film "one of Alfred Hitchcock's better thrillers" which "combines technical and artistic skills in a manner that makes this an unusually good piece of murder mystery entertainment."
Nearly 30 years after the film's initial release, Roger Ebert reviewed the Universal re-release in October 1983, after Hitchcock's estate was settled. He said the film "develops such a clean, uncluttered line from beginning to end that we're drawn through it (and into it) effortlessly. The experience is not so much like watching a movie, as like ... well, like spying on your neighbors. Hitchcock traps us right from the first ... And because Hitchcock makes us accomplices in Stewart's voyeurism, we're along for the ride. When an enraged man comes bursting through the door to kill Stewart, we can't detach ourselves, because we looked too, and so we share the guilt and in a way we deserve what's coming to him."
In his book, Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window", John Belton addresses the underlying issues of voyeurism, patriarchy and feminism that are evident in the film. He asserts "Rear Window's story is "about" spectacle; it explores the fascination with looking and the attraction of that which is being looked at."
In 1997, Rear Window was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". By this time, the film interested other directors with its theme of voyeurism, and other reworkings of the film soon followed, which included Brian De Palma's 1984 film Body Double and Phillip Noyce's 1993 film Sliver.
Rear Window was restored by the team of Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz for its 1999 limited theatrical re-release (utilizing Technicolor dye-transfer prints for the first time in this title's history) and the Collector's Edition DVD release in 2000.
American Film Institute included the film as #42 in AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies, #14 in AFI's 100 Years... 100 Thrills, #48 in AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) and #3 in AFI's 10 Top 10 (Mysteries).
Ownership of the copyright in Woolrich's original story was eventually litigated before the United States Supreme Court in Stewart v. Abend, 495 U.S. 207 (1990). The film was copyrighted in 1954 by Patron Inc., a production company set up by Hitchcock and Stewart. As a result, Stewart and Hitchcock's estate became involved in the Supreme Court case, and Sheldon Abend became a producer of the 1998 remake of Rear Window.
Rear Window is one of several of Hitchcock's films originally released by Paramount Pictures, for which Hitchcock retained the copyright, and which was later acquired by Universal Studios in 1983 from Hitchcock's estate.
Rear Window has been repeatedly re-told, parodied, or referenced.
- Australian screenwriter Everett De Roche & director Richard Franklin (known as the "Alfred Hitchcock of Australia") both collaborated on Roadgames, which is described as "Rear Window set in a moving vehicle".
- Disturbia (2007) is a modern-day retelling, with the protagonist (Shia LaBeouf) under house arrest instead of laid up with a broken leg, and who believes that his neighbor is a serial killer rather than having committed a single murder. On September 5, 2008, the Sheldon Abend Trust sued Steven Spielberg, DreamWorks, Viacom, and Universal Studios, alleging that the producers of Disturbia violated the copyright to the original Woolrich story owned by Abend. On September 21, 2010, the U.S. District Court in Abend v. Spielberg, 748 F.Supp.2d 200 (S.D.N.Y. 2010), ruled that Disturbia did not infringe the original Woolrich story.
- The set of the film was the basis for a comedy sketch on a 2009 episode of Saturday Night Live. The sketch featured Jason Sudeikis as James Stewart and January Jones as a flatulent Grace Kelly whose persistent flatulence made it impossible to finish filming the scene. Bobby Moynihan was also featured as Alfred Hitchcock.
- Rear Window was remade as a television movie of the same name in 1998, with an updated storyline in which the lead character is paralyzed and lives in a high-tech home filled with assistive technology. Actor Christopher Reeve, himself paralyzed as a result of a 1995 horse-riding accident, was cast in the lead role. The telefilm also starred Daryl Hannah, Robert Forster, Ruben Santiago-Hudson and Anne Twomey. It aired November 22, 1998, on the ABC television network.
- The Simpsons spoofed Rear Window in the episode Bart of Darkness, which takes place during the summer. The Simpsons get a swimming pool and Bart later breaks his leg, forcing him to spend time in his bedroom with his leg in a cast. Like Jeff in Rear Window, Bart uses a telescope and watches the residents of Springfield from his bedroom window. He suspects Ned Flanders of murdering his wife Maude, only to discover that Ned killed Maude's plant by accident.
- That '70s Show spoofed Rear Window, along with other Hitchcock films, in season 3, episode 4's "Too Old to Trick or Treat, Too Young to Die" (originally aired October 31, 2000).
- The Flintstones spoofed Rear Window in season 2, episode 4's "Alvin Brickrock Presents".
- The Rocko's Modern Life episode "Ed is Dead: A Thriller!" is a parody of Rear Window.
- The 100th episode of Castle, S05 E19 "The Lives of Others" was a spoof featuring an injured Richard Castle, who is confined to his apartment and becomes obsessed after witnessing what he believes is a murder, but is actually a setup by his friends and family to celebrate his birthday.
- The White Collar episode "Neighborhood Watch" drew various themes from Rear Window.
- The first episode of British comedy series My Life in Film was a parody of the film.
- An episode of the British sitcom The Detectives, also titled "Rear Window", spoofed the movie, with one of the protagonists wheelchair-bound after an accident and convinced a neighbour is guilty of murder.
- The Psych episode "Mr. Yin Presents" referenced themes from "Rear Window" when Mr. Yin casts Shawn as "Jefferies." Shawn does an impression of James Stewart before taking his place in a wheelchair overlooking all of the action. Shawn then replies to Gus "Gus it's Rear Window, I can see all of you I can see everything, the question is what actually matters."
- The Raising Hope episode "Murder, He Hoped" parodies Rear Window as well as several other Hitchcock movies.
- Nova Ren Suma's short story "The Birds of Azalea Street", in the 2015 anthology Slasher Girls and Monster Boys, is mentioned as being partially inspired by Rear Window.
Rear Window was re-released to DVD on September 4, 2012 by Universal Studios Home Entertainment as a Region 1 widescreen DVD with the items available in the 2001 release and to the Blu-ray format on May 6, 2014 with slightly expanded extras.
- List of films featuring surveillance
- List of films with a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a film review aggregator website
- Rear Window (Box office/business) at the Internet Movie Database
- "Rear Window (1954) – Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
- "Rear Window Movie Reviews, Pictures – Rotten Tomatoes". Rottentomatoes.com. Retrieved December 4, 2012.
- Lumenick, Lou (7 August 2014). "Inside the real Greenwich Village apartment that inspired 'Rear Window'". New York Post. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
- DVD documentary
- A 'Rear Window' View Seen at the Rivoli, an August 5, 1954 review from The New York Times
- Statement by the President on the fund-raising campaign of the American-Korean Foundation from a University of California, Santa Barbara website
- 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1954', Variety Weekly, January 5, 1955
- The New Pictures, an August 2, 1954 review from Time magazine
- Review of Rear Window, a July 14, 1954 article from Variety magazine
- 1983 Review of Rear Window re-release by Roger Ebert
- Belton, John (2002). "Introduction: Spectacle and Narrative". In Belton, John. Alfred Hitchcock's 'Rear Window'. Cambridge University Press. p. 1. ISBN 9780521564236. OCLC 40675056.
- "AFI's 10 Top 10". American Film Institute. 2016. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
- Edith Honan (September 8, 2008). "Spielberg ripped off Hitchcock Classic". Reuters. Retrieved September 8, 2008.
- Chad Bray (September 9, 2008). "2nd UPDATE: Trust Files Copyright Lawsuit Over Disturbia". CNN Money. Retrieved September 8, 2008.
- "Rear Window copyright claim rejected". BBC News. September 22, 2010.
- "Rear Window | Video | Saturday Night Live". NBC. Retrieved December 4, 2012.
- Irwin, William; Conard, Mark (February 1, 2001). Skoble, Aeon, ed. The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh! of Homer. Open Court. ISBN 978-0812694338.
- Duration: 30 min (October 31, 2000). "Watch That '70s Show Season 3 Episode 4 Too Old to Trick or Treat, Too Young to Die". Ovguide.com. Retrieved December 4, 2012.
- Herzog, Kenny (January 31, 2012). "Neighborhood Watch". The A.V. Club. Retrieved February 1, 2012.
- Tucholke, April Genevieve; Suma, Nova Ren (2015). Slasher Girls and Monster Boys. New York, New York: Dial Books. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-8037-4173-7.
- Orpen, Valerie (2003). "Continuity Editing in Hollywood". Film Editing: The Art of the Expressive. Wallflower Press. pp. 18–43. ISBN 978-1-903364-53-6. OCLC 51068299. Orpen treats Hitchcock's and Tomasini's editing of Rear Window at length in a chapter of her monograph.
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- Rear Window at the Internet Movie Database
- Rear Window at Rotten Tomatoes
- Rear Window at the TCM Movie Database
- Rear Window at AllMovie
- Rear Window at the American Film Institute Catalog
- Rear Window at Box Office Mojo
- Detailed review at Filmsite.org