Tuesday 2 August 2011

Rear Window

A house-bound man named L. B. Jeffries, played by Jimmy Stewart, sits in his apartment and watches his neighbours out his rear window as the mercury in the thermometer threatens to hit 100 Fahrenheit:  a couple sleeps on a balcony on a mattress; a young ballet dancer performs her routine; a composer writes a new tune on his grand piano; an old spinster is annoyed by the noise; and a middle aged salesman fights night and day with his beautiful young wife; an opera singer practises her scales; and newlyweds arrive home from their honeymoon.  All the while a little dog scurries through the gardens of the courtyard down below.  Between the apartment buildings, one sees through to the street where kids play hopscotch on the sidewalk. 

In the meantime, Mr. Jeffries (Jeff) sits in his apartment waiting for his broken leg to heal.  A motherly nurse named Stella comes each day to care for him, giving him sponge baths, massages, checking his temperature.  Jeff asks Stella for advice about his girlfriend, Lisa, played by Grace Kelly, whom he says is in love with him but he remains uncommitted.  She has two words of advice for him:  “Marry her.”  At this point, director Alfred Hitchcock makes his cameo appearance, this time winding the mantle clock of the piano player. 

The heat wave is broken by a heavy rain storm during which Jeff hears a scream ring out and his reporter mind goes into overdrive.  Then more strange occurrences happen.  The shades are drawn in the apartment as the mysterious salesman makes several trips in and out with his suitcase.  With binoculars in hand, Jeff watches the salesman from his window; his wife is nowhere to be seen.  All the while you hear the children playing on the street below.

Jeff gets his reporter friend involved after he sees the suspicious salesman have a large trunk carted away.  He also gets help from his girlfriend Lisa who identifies the salesman as Lars Thorwald.  In the meantime, the little dog starts digging in the salesman’s garden.  The reporter does a background check and finds out that Mrs. Thorwald is supposedly visiting her mother.

Even so, the incriminating evidence against the salesman adds up, especially when he rifles through his wife’s purse.  The reporter returns and declares Mr. Thorwald innocent, but Jeff still maintains his guilt. A scream interrupts a party going on at the composer’s apartment:  everyone comes to their window to see what’s happened.  The little dog is dead in the garden, strangled. 

Jeff gets brave and sends a note with Lisa to the salesman asking:  “Lars Thorwald:  What have you done with her?”  Then he gets really brave and phones him asking if he got his note.   Lisa and Stella try digging up the garden where the little dog had dug looking for evidence, but to no avail.  Lisa risks searching Lars’ apartment, and finds his wife’s wedding ring, but he catches her in the act. 

Mr. Thorwald phones Jeff who spills the beans by mistake, thinking someone else is on the line.  Then there is a long silence followed by heavy footsteps on the stairs; the door slowly creaks open; Jeff is sitting in the shadows in his wheelchair.  Thorwald asks:  “What do you want from me?”  Wheelchair-bound Jeff blinds Thorwald with the giant flashbulbs from his camera.  The police arrive in the nick of time to save Jeff from the salesman’s evil grasp, but not before he falls from his balcony.

The final scene shows the thermometer has dropped to a comfortable 70 Fahrenheit.  The balcony couple has a new dog; the ballet dancer has a new boyfriend, a soldier; the newlywed husband quits his job; Jeff has not one but two broken legs; and Lisa is reading Bazaar magazine.  Hitchcock works his magic once again.    

Photo courtesy http://i2.listal.com


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