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!
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 courtyard...is 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!)
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!