Appreciating Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954)
If there’s one thing I struggle with here at Mike’s Take, it’s attempting to write something new and enlightening concerning a bona fide classic. But after watching this Hitchcock masterpiece once again, I’m reminded of how much I love movies and can be swept up in the excitement taking place on screen. Even after having seen this film numerous times, though I’ll admit it’s been a number of years.
What’s a father to say when his son (Kirk aka Number 2 Son) is home from college for the weekend, his girlfriend has gone home and he comes to me and says, “Hey Dad, I thought I’d watch Rear Window if you’d like to join me.” Longing for the days when I’d introduce him to something he hadn’t yet seen two or three nights a week, I shut the hockey game off and sat in to watch the film with him and share the joys of this wonderful film for what would be his first time viewing. Judging from his reaction, it’ll be the first of many.
While I suspect the majority of you dropping in have seen this, the second of four films James Stewart would make with The Master, a quick plot synopsis is in order. Stewart, who claims that this is his personal favorite of the four Hitchcock teamings is saddled with a broken leg encased in a full length cast, stuck in his apartment moving about in a wheelchair. He’s a professional photographer staring into the courtyard and windows of his neighbors. It’s all rather innocent until his imagination just might be getting the best of him.
Screen Goddess and the perfect Hitchcock leading lady, Grace Kelly is the woman who wants Stewart to put a wedding ring on her finger. Their scenes are sexy and provocative and it’s a firm reminder of the screen presence Miss Kelly had during her all too brief career. Added for good measure is Stewart’s nursemaid and for my money, the best character actress money could buy, Thelma Ritter. When Stewart tells them of his suspicions concerning a man across the courtyard, they get wound up in his tale of murder leading to an amazing adventure without ever really leaving Stewart’s apartment.
Did Raymond Burr kill and dismember his wife? That’s all you need to ask yourself. That and just how could a screen heavy that was as nasty as Raymond Burr up to this point in his career turn it around to become the champion of lawyers everywhere portraying Perry Mason on TV. Stewart’s pal and local detective Wendell Corey doesn’t think so. He just figures Stewart has had far too much time on his hands which in turn has led to his imagination working overtime.
A tight story, characters that quickly grow on you including those we never meet but join Stewart in getting to know as if they were in a silent movie. Those he watches and learns about through his viewfinder and window. For a movie that has a camera never leaving Stewart’s apartment, Hitchcock treats us to so many classic images and angles during the sweat inducing moments that we share with the helpless Stewart in the scorching heat of his apartment. I also like the way the script gives Jimmy the background of being a pilot during the second world war. As many of you know, a true fact that caused Stewart to disappear from movie screens for over five years while fighting the axis powers.
It’s so hard to fathom how this perfect film never won a single Academy Award. The fact that it wasn’t nominated for Best Picture alone is a stunner. I can easily switch it with four of the five titles that were. No offence to any of them. You’ll have to look them up. I won’t argue with the year’s winner though. Stewart should have scored a nomination as well. Once again I have no problem with the winner of 54. Grace Kelly would actually win the Oscar but not for this film, that honor was bestowed upon her for The Country Girl. I’ll have to revisit that one to see if I think that was the better role of the two.
Character actress Thelma Ritter’s streak came to an end for Oscar Nominations in 1954 despite being more than worthy of another nod for keeping pace with Jimmy during their multiple scenes together. Thelma had been nominated for four consecutive years leading up to this role. She’d be back with nominations for Pillow Talk and Birdman of Alcatraz giving her a total of six nominations though she’d never claim a win. Another Oscar tragedy.
Then there’s Alfred with a rare nomination here for directing but no Oscar. While he did receive five Oscar nominations for directing, he incredibly never won a single statuette. Is it the greatest single shame upon the Academy? One could easily make the argument. I say rare nomination even though the number is five. I say this mainly because his films are so stylish and inventive that any number of them could have been given a nomination for directing.
I’ve yet to see the remake of this which was tailor made for Christopher Reeve following his equestrian accident. Have a copy so I guess now would be the time to check it out. Any comments on it?
I’ll close by pointing out it’s a film like this one that reinvigorates me to look back at movies from The Master and how much I love the on screen presence of Jimmy Stewart during the decade of the fifties. What’s your favorite Stewart – Hitchcock film? Given a choice would you rather have a festival of Jimmy’s Hitch films or the run of westerns he made with Anthony Mann? I’ll have to think on that one.
Princess Grace? She adds the “icing” to the cake.