Thursday, April 23, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Rear Window (1954) at Universal CityWalk

Having completed overviews of each day at the TCM Classic Film Festival, not to mention my coverage of the Noir City Film Festival, it's now time to turn attention to some of the individual TCMFF screenings I attended!

First, though, here's a look back at a very special day which kicked off the week of TCM Fest fun. On March 22nd, the Sunday before the festival started, my husband and I spent a wonderful day exploring L.A. with Aurora and Annmarie, who had arrived in town early. It's always so much fun to see Aurora, and this year I was glad to have time to also get to know Annmarie better. I hope they had as much fun as we did!

In a nice coincidence, we learned that morning via Twitter that March 22nd was the anniversary of James Stewart's 1941 induction into the U.S. Army, which can be read about in this L.A. Times article.

That anniversary was wonderful timing, as our day ended up becoming something of a tribute to an actor we all dearly love (and who doesn't?!). We paid our respects at his hillside gravesite, then later in the day we attended the TCM/Fathom Events screening of his Hitchcock classic REAR WINDOW (1954) at Universal CityWalk.

It had been at least a decade since I last saw REAR WINDOW, and I'd never seen it in a theater. While I have liked REAR WINDOW well enough in the past, it hasn't been a particular Hitchcock favorite of mine, as it is for so many people. However, the experience of seeing it on a big screen in a beautiful print was so terrific that the movie moved considerably higher in my estimation.

I was particularly delighted to realize that the John Michael Hayes script was based on a story by Cornell Woolrich, whose work has inspired so many wonderful film noir experiences of the last few years.

Many classic film fans know the story well: Photographer Jeff Jefferies (Stewart) is laid up by a broken leg one hot summer, and he spends considerable time observing neighbors from the rear window of his apartment; when he's not people watching he's trying to convince himself his glamorous girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly) isn't cut out for life as a globe-trotting photographer's wife. The monotony of his daily routine is also broken up by visits from Stella (Thelma Ritter), an insurance company nurse.

Then Jeff notices mysterious goings-on with a neighbor, Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr), across the it possible Thorwald murdered his wife? Lisa initially scoffs at the idea, then sees enough to convince her something strange is happening, and she goes to work with Jeff to investigate Mrs. Thorwald's disappearance. Jeff's police detective friend, Tom Doyle (Wendell Corey), remains a skeptic of Jeff's theory that Thorwald is a killer.

(Thanks to Aurora for the above photo with the movie's showtime, taken outside the theater!)

I had a really good experience with TCM's theatrical screening of another film from 1954, WHITE CHRISTMAS, and REAR WINDOW was another winner. The print was terrific, so crystal clear that every bead of sweat on Stewart's face could be clearly seen. The big screen also made the peeks in the various apartment windows much easier to appreciate.

It's a perfectly paced suspense film, as bit by bit over the course of 112 minutes the evidence builds against Thorwald, with the nerve-wracking moments leavened by humor, particularly from the wisecracking Stella. Lisa proves herself to be quite the nervy investigator -- some of her actions are even a bit foolhardy, but her enthusiastic assistance can't help winning Jeff's admiration.

And has there ever been a more unique method of fending off a bad guy than the wheelchair-bound Jeff uses in the climactic confrontation?!

The movie is aided by its fantastic set design, photographed in deep focus by Robert Burks. The score by Franz Waxman and Grace Kelly's fabulous gowns by Edith Head are also key factors in the movie's success.

I think the only thing I didn't like about the film, which perhaps also lessened my enthusiasm for the movie in the past, is Thorwald disposing of the neighbor's too-inquisitive dog. Of course, this sad incident makes any dog lover even happier at the prospect of Thorwald being caught.

REAR WINDOW is available on DVD in multiple editions, and it's also out on Blu-ray. I'm not usually moved to upgrade films I've bought on DVD to Blu-ray, being quite happy with DVD quality, but this is one I'm inclined to consider, the better to enjoy it all over again on our big screen TV.

Returning to thoughts on the very special man of the day -- thanks, Jimmy, for everything!


Blogger John G. said...


Maybe I need to see "Rear Window" on the big screen as well, because it hasn't bowled me over either time I've watched it. Most of all, I'm mystified by James Stewart's character's blasé attitude toward having Grace Kelly as his girlfriend. :-)

6:57 AM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

Yeah, but the blase attitude seems to work, John G!!

This is a favourite movie for me, Laura. A huge addict of the Hitchcock filmography, I think "REAR WINDOW" is one of his most original concepts and one that works stupendously well still. There's a lot of dry humour throughout the movie as well which makes it a very rounded entertainment IMHO.

Grace Kelly was staggeringly beautiful and sexy of course and James Stewart one of my all-time top Hollywood stars. What could be better?

9:29 AM  
Blogger Kristina Dijan said...

This is a favourite of mine too, a big one in kicking off my love of classics too. Perfect thriller in every way, and would love to see it on a big screen!

9:43 AM  
Blogger Terence Towles Canote said...

Rear Window is possibly my favourite Hitchcock film besides North by Northwest and Shadow of a Doubt. And it's one of those films one has to see on the big screen at least once!

10:05 AM  
Blogger Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

One of my favorites, and I can only imagine how wonderful it must look on the big screen, with so much detail to explore.

10:11 AM  
OpenID vienna said...

Oh to see Rear Window on the big screen. It's got everything for me and Thelma Ritter too!
It's difficult to look at Thorwald and see Perry Mason. That's some makeup job!
I am going to see one of my other favourites in a cinema in May - Only Angles Have Sings. Can't wait.It's a very rare treat.

11:01 PM  
Blogger Java Bean Rush said...

I loved Rear Window on the big screen! It's probably my favorite so far in the TCM classic series because the audience at the screening laughed heartily.

Since it is a film which makes all the apartments across the way seem like little doll houses, it was nice to see them larger to appreciate the details.

I did notice details, including, unfortunately, some body makeup smudged on Grace Kelly's white halter top as she leans done to talk to Stewart.

It's a beautiful film. Though they spend waaaaaaay too much time in Miss Torso's apartment. :)

I enjoyed it very much.

6:05 AM  
OpenID vienna said...

Laura, excuse my typing. ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS of course!

11:38 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I've loved seen all the love for REAR WINDOW here over the last couple of days!

John, Jimmy's attitude does seem a little mystifying. :)

Jerry, loved hearing how special this film is for you. I do love the humor, especially Thelma Ritter's wisecracks. While I still have a few Hitchcocks in line ahead of it as a favorite, I really saw the film in a new and more appreciative light this time.

Kristina, I hope you'll have a chance to see it on the big screen. Love hearing that it was a key film for you in developing love of classic films.

Terry, great to hear of your love for it too. You mentioned a great trio of Hitchcock titles. :)

Jacqueline, hope you'll have a big screen chance, too -- seeing movies in a theater if always special but I felt this one especially benefitted from the experience.

Java, that's exactly right, the "little doll houses" were so much easier to appreciate on a big screen. So glad you were able to enjoy it also.

Vienna, I've never seen ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS on a big screen and would love to be able to do that! I hope you'll share the experience on your blog. (PS I liked the way you accidentally renamed it!)

Thanks to you all for sharing your thoughts on a wonderful film!!

Best wishes,

12:21 PM  
Blogger dfordoom said...

There are so many great movies based on Cornell Woolrich stories - BLACK ANGEL, PHANTOM LADY, NO MAN OF HER OWN, are some of my favourites.

I saw REAR WINDOW on the big screen years ago - it does help!

12:33 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

DforDoom, I like all those too -- I found BLACK ANGEL just amazing (what a Duryea performance), and I adore NO MAN OF HER OWN.

Best wishes,

10:32 AM  

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