L.B. “Jeff” Jefferies (James Stewart) is a photographer stuck at home nursing a broken leg. With one week left to go wearing a cast he has nothing to do but look out his window onto the courtyard of his apartment building. Across the courtyard he can play voyeur and look into the apartments of the people living across the yard. To pass the time he has given some of them nicknames and made up stories about their lives. Because of a heat wave most of the people across the yard leave their shades up and windows open. He can catch bits of conversation and music from the other apartments.
There is a woman living alone he calls Miss Lonely-hearts, a young dancer he calls Miss Torso, a composer, a few married couples, one with a small dog, newlyweds that never come up for air and Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr). Thorwald is a traveling salesman with a sick bedridden wife. Jeff’s few visitors are the insurance company nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter) and Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly) his beautiful girlfriend, who is ready for marriage. Something Jeff is not ready for.
During a thunderstorm Jeff hears a woman scream and the sound of something crashing. Later he sees Thorwald leave his apartment several times during the night in the rain. Each time with a suitcase. The next day he sees Thorwald cleaning a large knife and a hand saw. Jeff never sees Mrs. Thorwald again. Later Thorwald ties a trunk up with rope and has a freight company come and take it away.
By now Jeff fully believes that Thorwald has killed his wife. His paranoia is rubbing off on both Lisa and Stella. Jeff calls his friend Detective Lieutenant Tom Doyle (Wendell Corey) from the police department. He asks Tom to investigate. Tom can find nothing amiss. He says Thorwald’s wife is upstate and picked up the trunk herself.
But strange things keep happening. A dog that was digging in the garden is noticed by Thorwald. Later the dog is found with his neck broken. When the dog’s owner screams, Thorwald is the only one who doesn’t go to his window to see what happened. Jeff’s obsession causes him to do rash things. Lisa gets herself involved. But Thorwald realizes that the man across the courtyard is watching him. The man in the wheelchair. And now Thorwald is watching back.
“Rear Window” was released in 1954 and was directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It is an American mystery thriller and a film noir. It is based on the 1942 short story “It Had to Be Murder” by Cornell Woolrich. The film received four Academy Award nominations. In 1997 it was added to the United States National Film Registry in the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
Alfred Hitchcock’s cameo happens in the songwriter's apartment. He is standing at a mantle winding a clock. The songwriter is real-life songwriter Ross Bagdasarian, creator of Alvin and the Chipmunks.
The entire film was shot at Paramount Studios. The huge indoor set replicates a Greenwich Village courtyard. The set designers were Hal Pereira and Joseph MacMillan Johnson. They spent six weeks building the complex set. One of its features was its massive drainage system. It was constructed to accommodate the film’s rain sequence. The lighting system was also very sophisticated allowing special lighting effects to represent both the day and night scenes. 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.
The apartment-courtyard set measured ninety-eight feet wide, one hundred eighty-five feet long, and forty feet high, and consisted of thirty-one apartments, eight of which were completely furnished. All the apartments in Thorwald's building had electricity and running water.
“Rear Window” is one of Hitchcock’s most popular films. Whether it’s the voyeurism or the suspense the film is well crafted. The acting is perfect. Stewart is cool, Burr is freaky, Grace Kelly is stunning and Thelma Ritter is a hoot. There are times when this film is absolutely terrifying. The fact that the entire film is based on what Stewart sees from his window was an inventive concept in film. It’s like watching a stage play with basically one set. A big-ass set but still just one set. Stewart is a captive audience and so are we. Known for trying new and innovative ways of filming Hitchcock managed to hit the nail on the head with this one. The film is awesome.