For this month's edition of the rewind, I wanted to highlight a great film by Jimmy Stewart. this month would have marked his 100th birthday, and I found it fitting that we placed the spotlight on him. Stewart made many fantastic films, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It's a Wonderful Life, Destry Rides Again, The Naked Spur, The Flight of The Phoenix, Harvey, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (with John Wayne), Philadelphia Story (with Th esteemed Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn)as well as his team ups with directing great Alfred Hitchcock. The Man Who Knew Too Much, Rope, Vertigo and this month's choice, Rear Window.
Rear Window stars Stewart as a photographer with a broken leg who is stuck in his house and to pass the time he has taken to observing the lives of his neighbors out his rear window. As with all of Hitch's film, the movie is rife with suspense and mystery, and at the heart of it all a murder. But is the murder for real, or just the product of Stewart's over active imagination after being cooped up for so long. The entire movie takes place in Stewart's apartment, yet it never feels cramped or enclosing. Hitch worked well in this medium, after having used it with Stewart before in Rope.
Accompanying Stewart is his girlfriend, played by the incomparable Grace Kelly. Kelly starred in 5 movies in 1954, the year this picture was released, one directed by Hitch, Dial M for Murder, and Country Girl, the film for which she won an Oscar. Though not my favorite collaboration between Kelly and Hitch (I'd have to give that to To Catch a Thief with Cary Grant) this films stands as one of Kelly's best, and as my favorite Stewart film.
Stewart, in a wheel chair, has taken to observing the goings on of his neighbors from his window. An action photographer by trade, Stewart combats the boredom by using his binoculars and camera to spy on the neighborhood. When he and his high society model girlfriend (Kelly) and home care nurse (played by actress Thelma Ritter) observe some suspicious activity by one of the neighbors (played by a sinister looking Raymond Burr) they come to believe that Burr has murdered his sick wife. They resolve to catch the killer red handed, though the plan could place all 3 of them in danger.
The film is full of Hitch staples, it's funny and suspenseful, with witty dialog and great characters. Even the other neighbors that Stewart is spying on have great dimension and depth. You see the whole film as if you were Stewart, but you never feel confined by this limitation, it added to the mystery of the film. Hitch is truly the master of setting and location, whether the expanse of the French Riviera or the confines of a New York City apartment.
I know I recommend a lot of Hitch films, its tough not to look at a great actor or actress of 30's, 40's, 50's or 60's and find their best movie that wasn't directed by Hitch. When writing this article, I looked at some future choices, like Ingrid Bergman and Kelly herself and found that my favorite films of theirs also involve Hitch. At any rate next month will target some new fare. In the meantime, you cannot go wrong with Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly in Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window. Check it out!
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