Rear Window: Before there was Facebook stalking

Rear window poster
Rear Window may be famous, but does this quiet classic meet Jake The Movie Guy’s expectations? (Photo by fredpanassac used under Creative Commons license)

By Jake “The Movie Guy” O’Bannon

Life was different in 1954. That is the understatement of the century, but if you ever need to be reminded, watch Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 classic, Rear Window.

Starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly, Rear Window tells the story of a photographer named L.B. Jefferies (Stewart) who is locked in his third floor apartment for eight weeks after suffering an injury that leaves him in a cast that extends the entire length of his leg. During his medical vacation, Jefferies passes time by, for lack of a better word, spying on his neighbors.

Through his observations, he comes across a number of personalities. These characters include a lonely woman Jefferies names “Miss Lonelyhearts,” her antithesis “Miss Torso,” and a salesman and his bedridden wife. He has friends of his own as well, the most significant being his girlfriend Lisa (Kelly).

The previously mentioned couple (the salesman and his wife) becomes of particular interest when Jefferies spots some questionable behavior by the salesman in the late hours of the night. What begins as personal musings in the head of Jefferies actually turns out to become a serious murder mystery. As always, I will avoid giving away any spoilers. All you need to know is that the ending is brilliantly “Hitchcockian.”

I believe both Alfred Hitchcock and James Stewart are geniuses in directing and acting, respectively. The two teamed up a number of times over their careers, but they were never given a more positive rating by critics than for Rear Window (8.7 on IMDb, 100% on Rotten Tomatoes).

What is so special about this film is how it is able to take the audience on a ride that other films (AKA today’s films) are unable to do. There are two specific traits that I love about Rear Window: 1) it is okay to have silence, and 2) the writing is incredible. I feel like most films today are filled with noise. It’s as if every second has to be filled with something that keeps the attention of an apparent ADD crowd from fading off into their iPhones (or iTouches – I ride party lines when it comes to cell phone partisanship). Rear Window does not have to do that. In fact, the film is filled with many scenes that have no sound at all or only orchestral background music. This is more influential than most would imagine. These scenes not only help develop the plot, but they add suspense – a great characteristic for any mystery.

Along with that, the writing in this film is superb. It is true that people don’t talk the way they used to, but each time I watch a film most consider a “classic,” I always wish we still talked like Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly. At one point, Stewart’s character asks his maid to make him a sandwich (remember, it is 1954…), and she replies, “Yes I will. And I’ll spread a little common sense on the bread.” I know, I know – that line is unbelievably cheesy. But I submit that we need more cheesy in film today! Call me old fashioned; I don’t care!

In the end, this is a fantastic film. If you ever have the desire to watch a classic, or want to know where Facebook stalking began, I would suggest Rear Window. I feel confident saying that because, in truth, you can’t go wrong with Hitchcock and Stewart.