A wheelchair bound photographer spies on his neighbors from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder. After breaking his leg photographing a racetrack accident, professional photographer L.B. “Jeff” Jefferies (James Stewart) is confined in his Greenwich Village apartment, using a wheelchair while he recuperates. His rear window looks out onto a small courtyard and several other apartments.
During a summer heat wave, he passes the time by watching his neighbors, who keep their windows open to stay cool. The tenants he can see include a dancer he nicknames “Miss Torso”, a lonely woman he nicknames “Miss Lonelyheart”, a songwriter, several married couples, a middle-aged sculptor, and Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr), a wholesale jewelry salesman with a bedridden wife.
After Thorwald and his wife apparently have an argument, Thorwald makes repeated late-night trips carrying his sample case. Jeff notices that Thorwald’s wife is gone and sees Thorwald cleaning a large knife and handsaw. Later, Thorwald ties a large packing crate with heavy rope and has moving men haul it away.
Rear Window is considered by many Alfred Hitchcock’s best movie. The story suited him well. A man confined to a wheelchair, watching things that may be innocent or murderous, a beautiful woman out of her element, in danger, with gradually building suspense that takes a potentially fatal turn as we watch helplessly with our immobilized protagonist, and a cliffhanger climax.
The movie has been analyzed by very smart people looking for much more than that, deeper meanings and allusions, and some of their ideas are true, and some are fun. But it’s the basic story elements, sharp dialogue, fine acting and the direction of a master that make it a great movie.
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Year of Release: 1954
Character to watch: James Stewart as L.B. ‘Jeff’ Jefferies.
Journal your answers to the following questions after you watch the movie.
- How does this particular character’s journey compare with yours?
- Did the character develop certain characteristics during the movie that you have or that you would like to have? If so, what are those characteristics?
- What obstacles did this character face? What was his or her biggest challenge?
- What would you have done differently if you had been in the same position as the character?
- Is this character the type of person you would be friends with? Why or why not?