Rear Window (1954): Paramount Centennial Blogathon

by Paul on September 27, 2012

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This is my contribution to the “Paramount Centennial Blogathon” hosted by The Hollywood Revue. Be sure to check out all the posts about the great movies and history that surround 100 years of Paramount.

After 100 years and thousands of movies, Paramount has left uncountable memories on everyone. They have continued to make high quality films year in and year out. Of all the movies filmed on the Paramount lot, my all time favorite is the Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece, Rear Window.

Rear Window is the story of photojournalist, L.B. Jefferies (Stewart). Five weeks ago he broke his leg and is confined to a wheelchair, in his apartment, for one more week. It is a small apartment that typically doesn’t get much use, but it does have large windows around the back (or should I say rear) that overlook the courtyard bellow, as well as into his neighbors’ homes. L.B., or Jeff as he is called, spends his days watching the mostly Rear Window Blogathonmundane events of the people he lives around.

Every day Jeff’s nurse, Stella (Thelma Ritter), comes in and rubs him down, takes his temperature, and insults his voyeuristic tendencies.  She doesn’t put up with his garbage and scolds him when she catches him eyeing the ballet dancer too much. She is in favor of Jeff settling down and getting married to his uptown girl, Lisa (Grace Kelly).

Lisa comes over every evening to check up on Jeff, and then she spends her time trying to convince him that she could give up her ways and spend the rest of her life with him, traveling the world, finding interesting and adventurous thing for him to photograph. She also spends just as much time trying toRear Window Blogathon look as beautiful as possible, to keep Jeff from breaking up with her.

As the movie opens, Jeff seems to be just an innocent snooping neighbor. He doesn’t interfere with anyone; in fact nobody knows that they are even being watched. He watches the apartments like a rotating soap opera that never ends. At the end of our first evening Jeff hears a loud, quick scream. For the rest of the night Jeff sees one of the neighbors leaving his apartment with his large suitcase and then returning again, multiple times. He begins to get suspicious, and the next morning the man’s invalid wife doesn’t appear to be in the apartment at all. Jeff tries to show Stella and Rear Window BlogathonLisa, but neither of them believe his crazy notions of foul play.

Slowly more details unfold, and Jeff is able to convince Lisa that a murder has taken place. He calls in a detective friend that he has, but once again it becomes hard to make him see things their way.

Eventually, Jeff gets Stella on his side as well, and the three of them camp out overnight in order to solve the case. It’s at this point that Jeff is no longer in control, and Lisa has taken over to follow through on what Jeff has started.

Filmed entirely on the Paramount backlot (mostly on stage 18), Rear Window was destined for greatness. In 1949, Cecil B. DeMille filmed Samson And Delilah on this stage, and then Billy Wilder used it in Sunset Boulevard (1950) for the scenes in which DeMille is filming, and again in 1953, this stage was used again for the Best Picture nominated film Shane. Then in October of 1953, construction began on stage 18 to create the brilliant set for Rear Window. It took just over a month to Rear Window Blogathoncreate this immense set that at the time was the largest set ever constructed on the Paramount lot. The building of the set included the excavation of the soundstage floor to include the basement in what would later become the courtyard in the final film.

The apartment building included 31 apartments, eight of which were fully furnished. These apartments included electricity and running water, and could be lived in full time. Because Hitchcock wanted Rear Window to be filmed from Jefferies point of view, he remained in the apartment with Jimmy Stewart and talked to the actors across the courtyard through earpieces. Between takes, Mrs. Torso (Georgine Darcy) would relax and enjoy herself as if she were at her own home. In order to simulate sunlight, Hitchcock used over 1,000 arc lights, which burned so hot that at one point Rear Window Blogathonthe heat caused the fire sprinklers to be set off.

Famed costume designer Edith Head had worked with Hitchcock previously in 1946 on Notorious, but now that he had begun his career at Paramount he developed a wonderful working relationship with her that would last for the rest of his career. Edith Head began her career at Paramount in 1924, and she quickly worked her way up the ladder until she became the greatest costume designer in Hollywood.  In her career she was nominated for an Academy Award 35 times and won six awards for Paramount movies between 1949 and 1955.

Alfred Hitchcock moved to Paramount in 1953, and chose Rear Window for his first project. He would go on to make fourRear Window Blogathon more films at Paramount, including his classics, To Catch A Thief (1955) and Vertigo (1958). Rear Window also acquired a Best Director Academy Award nomination for Hitchcock.

Although Hitchcock made several wonderful films in his career, I always think of Rear Window as his greatest achievement. Toward the beginning of the film the audience looks down on Jefferies for his voyeuristic tendencies. Much in the same way Stella judges Jefferies, we judge him as well. But as the movie progresses both Stella and the audience begin to see things the way Jefferies sees them. We all forget about “rear window ethics” and begin to look for mysteries and murders around every corner. It is a great accomplishment in this master director’s career, and a welcomed addition to Paramount’s brilliant movie collection.

This has been part of the Paramount Centennial Blogathon with portions of a previous Rear Window post.

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