Rear Window (1954)

Reminds me of my childhood suspicions of neighbors.

“I’m not much on rear window ethics.”

My friends and I sat in a tree. Steely expressions. Plastic guns. Walkie-talkies. We had just seen our neighbor commit a grisly murder.

Or was he simply feeding his dog? Darn. I was sure that he was wielding a large sword. And wasn’t that a gun he just lifted? Confound it. Look, look! He’s–oh. Nope.

No matter how many times we were proven wrong, my friends and I were always convinced that our neighbors were utterly diabolical. How heartbroken I was when we discovered that no killing had taken place at the house directly next to mine.

…Which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, now that I think about it.


I think it’s high time we watched a Hitchcock. He’s a cinematic genius, widely regarded as one of the very best Hollywood directors. We’ll be watching many of his masterpieces throughout the year, but I believe Rear Window is the best “beginner” Hitchcock film. It has everything that makes a good movie–and more.

For those of you who relate Hitch’s name with dark, sinister stories of immorality and brutal, indiscriminate killing…stop it. Granted, his films are of a mature nature (some more so than others). However, there is very little objectionable content, especially by today’s standards. Hitchcock’s films are all filled to the brim with wit, suspense, and they are always, always entertaining.

To tell you the truth, I wasn’t expecting much when I first popped the disc into my DVD player. I thought the film would be another marginal, run-of-the-mill 50s drama.

I do realize that I often attempt to dictate your thoughts. I also realize that I am not a woman; thus, my efforts to do so are in vain. However, if you are expecting this movie to be boring, STOP. I refuse to hear any more from you until you experience the film for yourself. Try it, and you might just be amazed.

As you may know, Rear Window stars two of my favorite screen personalities, Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly. Indeed, the two make a rather odd couple, but their acting is excellent nonetheless. Stewart is entirely believable. In this film, Jimmy Stewart is a human, not an actor. He has realistic delays, overlaps, and stammering in his dialogue; he doesn’t just read it off the page.

I suppose I should stop rambling soon, but I’m afraid I’ll have to drone on for a moment longer. Hang in there.

A thriller is meant to, of course, thrill. Sounds obvious, no? Well, it seems that nowadays, “thriller” is synonymous with “violence” and “sexual content”. Hitchcock, especially in Rear Window, displays his ability to keep you on the edge of your seat (I nearly fell off at one point) without resorting to either.

The events preceding the end are actually more climactic than the climax itself. I won’t reveal any more. Luckily for you, I won’t talk anymore, either.


After an assignment goes wrong, professional photographer L.B. Jefferies (Stewart) is confined to his New York apartment with a broken leg. He suffers from severe boredom, the only “excitement” being the visits of his nurse, Stella, and his socialite girlfriend, Lisa (Grace Kelly–who else?). To pass the time, he begins to look out of his large rear window, observing his neighbors. A string of suspicious events leads Jefferies to believe that one of his neighbors has murdered his wife. He enlists the help of Stella and Lisa to find evidence and prove the crime.


Directed by Alfred Hitchcock;

Written by Cornell Woolrich (short story on which it was based), and John Michael Hayes (screenplay);

Starring Jimmy Stewart as L.B. “Jeff” Jefferies, Grace Kelly as Lisa Carol Fremont, Thelma Ritter as Stella, Raymond Burr as Lars Thorwald, and Wendell Corey as Det. Lt. Thomas J. Doyle;

Produced by Alfred Hitchcock, and James C. Katz (1998 restoration);

Music by Franz Waxman.


The size of the set demanded excavation of the soundstage floor. Therefore, Jeff’s apartment was actually at street level.

At the time, the set was the largest indoor set built at Paramount.

At one time, during the filming, the lights were so hot they set off the soundstage sprinkler system.

While shooting, Hitchcock only worked in Jefferies’ apartment. The actors in the other apartments wore flesh-colored earpieces so Hitch could radio his directions to them.

During the month-long shoot, Georgine Darcy (Miss Torso) “lived” in her apartment all day, relaxing between takes as if it were her own.

Coincidentally, Raymond Burr (Lars Thorwald) went on to play Robert Ironside in the Ironside series. Ironside is a wheelchair-bound detective, a character not unlike Stewart’s in Rear Window.

What’s a more masculine phrase that I could use instead of “sneak peek”?

Next week I’ll be recommending the perfect film for St. Patty’s Day.



High Society (1956)

Bing and Grace

Bing and Grace make a great couple.

“My dear boy, this is the sort of day history tells us is better spent in bed.”

One of my personal favorites, High Society is an essential film. Based on The Philadelphia Story, which was made sixteen years earlier, it is a textbook example of why the trials and complications of love and attraction make for great comedy.

This film occupies a special place in my heart, not to mention movie history. There is nothing especially spectacular about the film’s production, or even about the content itself. It didn’t have a multimillion dollar budget, no car chases, not even a single, solitary explosion. There were no uproars about this film, no controversy, and it didn’t spark a nationwide rebellion. Rather unimaginable, isn’t it?

One of the reasons I love this movie: it’s fun. Very few movies arrive at the theaters nowadays that are purely guiltless fun. This is a movie you’ll watch with a smile on your face. At least, I did. The chemistry in this film is the highlight; I wish modern actors worked together as well as these. The film is part screwball comedy, part tender romance, part whimsical musical (with the legendary Louis Armstrong leading many of the songs).

I may go into a bit of info about each main actor in this film. Don’t worry, it won’t take to long. However, I feel obligated. It is my duty, as a patriotic citizen, to inform you of the history of the legends that populate this film. Here we go…

Bing Crosby, who began entertaining in the 1920s, enjoyed a career as one of the most successful male vocalists of all time. His is said to be the most electronically recorded voice in history. But he wasn’t just a singer. He’s acted in close to 80 movies, implanting in each his mellow, cool-cat attitude and his legendarily smooth and disarming voice. In two words: HE’S AWESOME.

Frank Sinatra started his solo career in ’42, instantly becoming a superstar. And it’s easy to see why. As one of the most talented singers/actors in the history of popular American music (and rival to Crosby), you can understand why having him in this film brings it up a notch. And the movie contains a duet. Yes, Bing and Frankie singing…together! As if this wasn’t reason enough to watch it…

*grand, whimsical music begins with a flourish* Grace Kelly! Yes, Princess Grace of Monaco, in her last film before becoming…well, Princess Grace of Monaco. In fact, the engagement ring she wears in High Society is the ring given to her by her then-fiancee, Prince Rainier of Monaco. Grace Kelly is not exactly the greatest actress in movie history. Come to think of it, she’s one of the finest examples of overacting in film…but she does it with such grace (pun intended).

You probably know Louis Armstrong from the song, “What a Wonderful World”. The following fact is one that everyone needs to know: HE PLAYED AND SANG SONGS BESIDES “WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD”. There. I’ve said it. Your mouth drops open in shock. But it’s true. And he displays some of his best jazz know-how in High Society. ‘Nuff said.


Now that I’ve put you to sleep, here’s what you’re actually reading the article for.

Firstly, High Society is a musical remake of The Philadelphia Story (1940), which starred Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, and Katharine Hepburn. We’ll be watching that later on, but I much prefer High Society.

C.K. Dexter-Haven (Bing Crosby), a successful jazz musician, lives in a mansion near the estate of Tracy Lord (Grace Kelly), his ex-wife. Egads! She’s about to enter a marriage with a stuffy, snobby social-climber, George Kittridge. The problem: Dex is still in love with Tracy. And Tracy may just be pondering her feelings about Dexter, too. Throw in the mix Mike Connor (Frank Sinatra), a tabloid reporter sent to cover the Lord-Kittredge elopement, who inevitably catches Tracy’s eye. Tracy must decide between these three men when she realizes that “safe” can indeed mean “dreary” when it comes to love and life.


Directed by Charles Walters

Written by Philip Barry (play on which it was based) and John Patrick (screenplay);

Starring Bing Crosby as C.K. Dexter-Haven, Grace Kelly as Tracy Samantha Lord, Frank Sinatra as Mike Connor, and Celeste Holm as Elizabeth Imbrie;

Produced by Sol C. Siegel;

Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter.

Now that is a crew.


The popular ABC game show is named after Sinatra’s and Celeste Holm’s duet, “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire”.

The incredible song “Well, Did You Evah?” (from a previous Cole Porter musical) was added at the last minute when it was realized that there wasn’t a song for Bing and Frank to sing together.

This was Grace Kelly’s last film before retiring from acting (to become Princess Grace of Monaco).  *sobs*

Although she is a main character, Grace Kelly doesn’t sing a solo. She has a duet (“True Love”) with Bing Crosby, but that is the only time she sings in the film.

Elizabeth Taylor was originally set to play for the part of Tracy Lord; however, she was unavailable, so the part went to Kelly. As I’m sure I’ll say many times in my writing, thank goodness for that.