’s Rear Window
has become one of the most written about, studied, dissected, and analyzed films in cinematic history. It purports to be a simple story: a man (James Stewart
) is confined to a wheelchair and uses the time to witness the everyday life in his Greenwich Village apartment courtyard. Chief among his observations: the murder of one of his neighbors.
The film can be viewed from almost as many angles as Stewart’s courtyard. It is at once a comedy, a mystery, a psychological drama, a love story, social commentary – the list is long enough to have led to several in-depth studies of the classic film. But most of all, it is what it is supposed to be: entertainment, the kind only the master of the macabre could give us.
Hitchcock had a habit of reusing the same actors in his films. In addition to Rear Window
, Jimmy Stewart appeared in Hitch’s The Rope
(1948), and Vertigo
(1958); Stewart’s co-star, Grace Kelly
, was cast in two additional Hitchcock thrillers – Dial M for Murder
(1954) and To Catch a Thief
Most critics never thought of Grace Kelly as an acting powerhouse, although she won the 1954 Oscar for The Country Girl
. But Hitchcock was said to have used her for her sexual elegance, along with her humor, warmth, and serenity. (A few years later, Prince Rainier of Monaco agreed – he married her and made her his Princess Grace in the oft-told Hollywood fairy-tale-come-true.)
Also noteworthy in the cast is Raymond Burr
as the man who chops his wife up into cutlets. (Fortunately, this is never actually seen on screen.) Burr is familiar to television audiences for his portrayals of Perry Mason
, but in 1954, he was virtually unknown to the public. He had appeared in a few films as the heavy, but his name was not a household word. Only 37 years old when he was cast as the murderer in Rear Window
, he was too young-appearing for the part as it was written, so Hitchcock had his hair dyed gray.
sat on the shelf for 30 years after its initial release, finally reappearing on the big screen in 1984 and eventually on videocassette. When it was re-released, it opened a legal can of worms. In 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the re-release infringed on the copyright of the Woolrich short story, then owned by literary agent Sheldon Abend, who had bought the rights from the estate for a mere $650 in 1971.