By Francesca Macera
Vice President of the English and Communications Club
In Rear Window (Hitchcock, 1954), photojournalist L.B. Jeffries (James Stewart) finds himself gazing intently out of his rear apartment window after he is confined to a wheelchair for seven weeks. He takes pleasure in observing the peculiar and amusing undertakings of his neighbors, including a lithe young dancer whom he refers to as “Miss Torso” (Georgine Darcy) and a lugubrious bachelorette whom he calls “Miss Lonelyhearts” (Judith Evelyn). One fateful evening, Jeffries notices that one individual, a morose salesman by the name of Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr), leaves his apartment repeatedly throughout the night with a mysterious briefcase before he returns to clean a collection of knives and swords. As the days drag on, it is apparent that his invalid wife has disappeared and that he is meticulous in cleaning out her purse and making frequent travel arrangements on the telephone. Convinced that Thorwald has committed murder and is planning to flee the country, Jeffries enlists the aid of his petulant nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter) and his sophisticated lover Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly) to locate the missing corpse and bring justice upon a man they believe has stooped so far as to conceal a vicious crime on his own spouse.
Although this early gem from the twisted imagination of Hitchcock is more predictable and less terrifying than his later classics, Rear Window is still a vivid thriller that is presented entirely from the viewpoint of Jeffries, whose mobility is greatly limited for the entirety of the film. Therefore, the audience glances at the inhabitants of the adjoining apartment through the eyes of Jeffries; the result is that the cryptic actions of Thorwald come forth as even more dark and suspicious. With his caustic wit and charming Midwestern drawl, Stewart is quite engaging as he takes on the role of a clumsy detective who actually unveils a sinister plot. Ritter is a joy to behold as the sour yet affectionate nurse who reluctantly becomes a pawn in the game of hide-and-seek that Jeffries takes up with Thorwald, while Kelly is serene and elegant as the beautiful heroine with cunning and intelligence.