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.



Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

Jefferson Smith bringing sense to the Senate.

“There’s a lot of fancy words in this town.”

1939 was just a good year for movies. Two beloved classics, Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz (both of which we’ll get to later), were released in this year. However, there was another gem to come out of ’39: the dramatic, powerful, unabashedly patriotic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

When Frank Capra and Jimmy Stewart pair up, you can’t go wrong. A subject that might seem slightly dull on the outset is instantly illuminated by the professionalism and expertise of both the director and the leading man. While by modern definition the film isn’t epic, it is certainly powerful. Brace yourself for a cliché: they just don’t make ’em like they used to.

Although politics are considerably more aggressive now than they were in ’39, the topic was just as popular and controversial in those days. Capra pulls it off with grace, and the undeniably likable Stewart just increases the appeal. There are some surprisingly profound lines concerning Washington, corruption, patriotism, and the country itself.

However, Mr. Smith is not entirely solemn and somber. There are actually some priceless comedic moments, thanks to the awkwardness of our beloved Jimmy. The chemistry between Stewart and Jean Arthur is also fantastic.

As I’ve further familiarized myself with his filmography, I find that Jimmy Stewart can display a rather wide range of emotions. In Shenandoah, he’s a crusty, disagreeable Virginia landowner, who experiences terrible loss. In The Philadelphia Story, he’s a hilarious, awkward tabloid reporter. But in Mr. Smith, he’s an idealistic small-towner who just wants his voice heard. He plays all three of these characters to perfection.


I could talk forever, but I suppose I should give you the synopsis now. Sorry.

Naive Jefferson Smith (Stewart), leader of the Boy Rangers, is appointed to the Senate on a lark by the vacillating, malleable governor of his state. He is reunited with the state’s senior senator–presidential hopeful and Smith’s childhood hero, Senator Joseph Paine (Claude Rains). In Washington, however, Smith’s expectations are soon depleted by the harsh reality of politics. He discovers many of the shortcomings of the political process as his earnest goal of a national boys’ camp leads to a conflict with the hateful state political boss, Jim Taylor. Taylor first tries to corrupt Smith and then later attempts to destroy Smith with a scandal.


Check this out:

Directed by Frank Capra;

Written by Lewis R. Foster (story), and Sydney Buchman (screenplay);

Starring James Stewart as Jefferson Smith, Jean Arthur as Clarissa Saunders, and Claude Rains as Joseph Paine;

Produced by Frank Capra;

Music by Dimitri Tiomkin.

*sigh* Awesome.


Apparently, real politicians are rather offended by this movie. Hee hee. A Montana senator walked out of the screening he attended in disgust. It’s also been bitterly denounced by Washington insiders because of its accusations of corruption.

With this in mind, it was banned in most of Europe’s fascist countries, because it “showed that democracy works”.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was Jean Arthur’s favorite film of her own.

Jimmy Stewart knew that the role of Jefferson Smith was the role of a lifetime. Therefore, he worked extremely hard, waking up at five o’clock and driving himself to the studio. According to costar Jean Arthur, “He was so terrified something was going to happen to him, he wouldn’t go faster.”

Jean Arthur did not get along with Jimmy Stewart very well during filming, because she wanted Gary Cooper (who costarred with her in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town) in the role of Jefferson Smith.

Something I just noticed: neither the Democratic nor the Republican parties are ever mentioned in the film.

Jean Arthur’s left side was considered her best side, so the sets had to be constructed in a way that whenever she entered, she would be photographed on that side. Just like Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca! For the record, I like Ingrid Bergman’s best side best.