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Rear Window - Best of Hitchcock
I am the ultimate Jimmy Stewart fan! I love how multidimensional he is. He has it all - humor, drama, horror - and he pulls you into the screen and makes you think, "Hey, I know you. We've been friends forever."
Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window with James (Jimmy) Stewart and Grace Kelly is definitely a masterpiece in detective story. Stewart plays L.B. "Jeff" Jefferies, a sports/adventure photographer who is laid up with a broken leg. He has nothing to do but to look out his New York City Chelsea apartment complex window at the central courtyard. It is the 1950's, so television and stereo systems weren't really around yet to provide entertainment.
Jefferies' beautiful girlfriend, Lisa Freemont, played by the elegant Grace Kelly, works in the fashion industry and visits daily. She loves Jefferies and wants to marry the adventurous photographer, who avoids the topic of marital bliss like the plague.
His other daily visitor is Stella the insurance nurse, played by the funny Thelma Ritter. Stella is constantly giving him sage advice in a matter-of-fact tone and is irritated with him when she sees he has slept in his wheelchair while watching out the window.
What does Jefferies see in the surrounding courtyard? Just his neighbors going on with their everyday lives.
- There is "Miss Torso," who is obviously a dancer. She enjoys entertaining young men, and she is easy on Jefferies' eyes. Lisa is not jealous of the girl, and she let's Jeff know the happy-go-lucky girl is not as happy as she appears.
- A married couple who fights a lot. The woman is bed-ridden, and her husband cannot make her happy. It appears the man is a jewelry salesman because he has a case full of necklaces and bracelets. Their constant arguing only solidifies Jefferies' distaste for marriage.
- A piano player also lives in a loft in the same complex. He writes music that sounds lovely, yet Jeff sees this man's frustrations at times.
- A couple who sleeps on their fire escape at nights when it is too hot. Remember, there was no air conditioning in apartments in the 50's. They have a little Yorkie trained to sit in a basket as they lower it to the ground from the 3rd floor. The dog gets his exercise and jumps back in the basket when he is ready to come in.
- "Miss Lonely Heart" is a middle-aged woman who is trying to date, but is not too successful.
- An older lady who loves to do her sculpting, reading, and lounging in the courtyard. She also seems to be the complex's busy body.
- There is also a newly wed couple who keeps their blinds closed. Jeff chooses not to comment on them when Lisa is around.
Jefferies stays up too late one night and believes someone in the complex has been murdered. As the audience, we receive the clues as he sees them. His friend from the war is a detective who comes over to listen to what Jefferies believes has happened. All the main characters reveal truths about themselves as the movie progresses.
I have never been one to like "old movies," but Rear Window has become one of my all-time favorites. I learn something new each time I watch it. You have to always look out for Hitchcock... He makes a non-speaking cameo appearance in all his movies. This is classic Hitchcock where you are pulled right into the action of the movie. James Stewart, Grace Kelly, and Thelma Ritter are just the "cherries on top" of great talent.
More Great Alfred Hitchcock
On a Personal Note as a Teacher
I teach high school English. Rear Window is an excellent film to show for a detective story genre. Split the movie down to two parts. Get it past the part where Jeff believes a murder has been committed. Have students write down the clues. They must pay careful attention in order to get them all. On the first day, instruct students to look at their notes then write a paragraph with their inferences as to what they believe will happens.
On the second, watch the rest of the movie and give the same note-taking assignment. At the end of the movie, instruct them to write a paragraph focusing on compare and/or contrast in their inferences and what actually happened.
The kids love this assignment, and you have introduced them to a classic movie with Hollywood legends.
Take a look at the trailer and a scene where Jeff sees there is more to Lisa than just a pretty face.