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Rear Window

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Rear Window

Starring: James Stuart, Grace Kelly
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Rated: PG
RunTime: 112 Minutes
Release Date: September 1954
Genres: Drama, Mystery, Suspense, Classic

*Also starring: Georgine Darcy, Judith Evelyn, Ross Bagdasarian, Frank Cady, Sara Berner, Irene Winston, Raymond Burr, Thelma Ritter

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Review by Steve Rhodes
4 stars out of 4

Alfred Hitchcock, James Stewart and Grace Kelly. Hitchcock was a king among directors, Stewart was an acting prince and Kelly would later become a real-life princess. Together in 1954's REAR WINDOW -- now being re-released theatrically in a beautifully restored print -- they made one of the world's most beloved movies. (The film is just a few notches away from the top 10 movies ever made according to readers around the globe, at least as currently recorded in the definitive authority on the world's movies, the Internet Movie Data Base.)

L.B. "Jeff" Jefferies (Stewart) is a magazine photographer who travels extensively, visiting the world's most dangerous, inhospitable and exciting areas. Because of a broken leg, he's now inconveniently cooped up with only a wheelchair to get him around his apartment. The saving grace of his locale is that his large rear window looks out onto a cross section of humanity. The windows of his dozens of New York City neighbors form a rich tapestry of bustling city life. All of the windows face a central courtyard, and few of the shades are closed, given the sweltering heat.

The circus in front of Jeff's eyes has many performers. There is Miss Lonelyheart (Judith Evelyn), who may commit suicide if she isn't successful in turning her pretend boyfriend in for a real one. Miss Torso (Georgine Darcy) dances the day away, while doing her household chores, and flirts the evening away, while playing queen bee to a flock of eager drones. There's a newlywed couple (Rand Harper and Havis Davenport), who are only seen briefly when they come up for air. In the center ring is a jewelry salesman (Raymond Burr), who may or may not have murdered his wife. Given that Jeff would love to find a mystery to vanquish his boredom, he's not always sure that the salesman is guilty of anything more than having a wife who has gone to the country for some fresh air.

Stewart's talents can best be seen in his small mannerisms. He has an itch that, because of his cast, he can only scratch through certain contortions. Eventually with the help of a backscratcher, he scratches the itch. The audience empathizes with him as his pained face turns to bliss. Trapped in his apartment, he brings out the peeping Tom in all of us as he struggles to find out what is going on without getting caught. John Michael Hayes's script, full of delicate sexual innuendo, is quite funny, and Hitchcock's staging is cute as well. For his spying Jeff uses a telephoto lens large enough to be worthy of a small observatory.

Kelly, in one of the best performances she ever gave, plays Lisa Carol Fremont, Jeff's high society girlfriend and would-be wife. She couldn't be more different from Jeff, but she's a gal who used to getting what she wants. Kelly is delightful as his self-described Girl Friday in his mission to find enough evidence to prove his neighbor a murderer. With a soft-spoken voice and an alluring presence, she is nothing less than a complete knock-out.

The rest of the supporting cast includes Thelma Ritter, as Jeff's smart-mouthed, witty nurse, Stella, and Wendell Corey, as Jeff's ex-service friend turned homicide detective, Lieutenant Thomas J. Doyle. The Lieutenant is not a particularly willing participant in Jeff's investigations.

Perhaps the best part of this most accessible movie is the sound. A cornucopia of city noises and music fill the air, reminding one of a Gershwin melody. Piano music flows out of the apartment of the songwriter (Ross Bagdasarian). A couple (Sara Berner and Frank Cady) talk on the balcony where they have gone to sleep to escape the heat. These and other sounds mix with those of cars, radios and other conversations to form a city symphony of sounds.

REAR WINDOW is a cinematic treasure. You don't want to miss your chance to see this classic on the big screen. If you've only seen the movie on a television screen, there is a lot of texture and activity that you've probably never noticed before. When the picture comes to your area, go immediately. It will probably have a highly limited run at one or two theaters, and, if you procrastinate, you'll miss your opportunity to see something wonderful.

REAR WINDOW runs 1:52. It is rated PG for mature themes and would be fine for kids around 10 and up.

Copyright 2000 Steve Rhodes

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