In 1954, Grace Kelly had just finished shooting Dial M for Murder, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and it didn’t take long until the next film project followed, which was to make film history: Rear Window.
In the role of Lisa Fremont, Grace, together with her fiancé Jeff (James Stewart), sees things she is not supposed to see. Jeff is a professional photographer and injured his leg during a mission, which is why he is stuck in a wheelchair. Now he is forced to kill his time in an apartment with a window view of the apartment complex’s courtyard. As a photojournalist, Jeff is seeking for the adventure and with an unobstructed view of a dozen different apartments, it doesn’t take long for that to happen…
How it all started
The success story of Rear Window began in 1942, twelve years before its film adaptation: the short story It Had to Be Murder by William Irish was published in Dime Detective magazine. In 1945, the rights to the story were sold to B.G. De Sylva Productions for $9,250. Producer De Sylva died in 1950 and subsequently the rights went to producer Leland Hayward and playwright Joshua Logan. Logan wrote a draft of how to adapt the story to film and passed it on to James Stewart’s agent. Stewart’s agent was negotiating with Paramount Studios for a longer film collaboration between Hitchcock and Stewart. Rear Window soon advanced to become the dream project of both filmmakers Stewart and Hitchcock…
Jeff’s nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter) says early in the film, “Trouble. I can smell it.“
Stella boasts that she predicted the stock market crash back in 1929, when she was nursing the head of General Motors back to health. She was to be right about Jeff, too – trouble was not long in coming:
A little later, Jeff unpacks his camera and binoculars to investigate why the wife of neighbour Lars Thorwald has suddenly disappeared …
Hitchcock — Master of Suspense
The director Alfred Hitchcock, who was called the Master of Suspense, knows how to create suspense within 112 minutes of screen time without changing locations.
The film, like all Hitchcock films, is reminiscent of a play in which dialogue takes the lead role and high-profile action scenes have no place.
The most expensive part of the entire film was the construction of the film set, which amounted to a gigantic $192,087 by the standards of the time – the most expensive film set Paramount had put together up to that point: 31 apartments were built, eight of which were fully furnished. In addition, there were fire escapes, roof gardens, an alley, a street and the suggested New York skyline.
Grace Kelly as Lisa Fremont
At the beginning, the love affair between Jeff and Lisa dominates – Lisa wants to become Jeff’s wife, but the latter has reservations: “Lisa, you have a great talent for creating difficult situations,” as Jeff says. In his job you have to live out of a suitcase, he says – this doesn’t fit with Lisa’s occupation as a socialite in Manhattan, who frequents all the editorial offices of the big fashion magazines from Vogue to Harper’s Bazaar. As a reaction to this, Lisa spends the night at Jeff’s with a suitcase no bigger than a handbag, but in which she keeps the finest nightwear made of silk stowed away – she gives herself up for the jungle in which Jeff is so fond of traveling…
“I’m not much on Rear Window ethics”
— Grace Kelly as Lisa Carol Fremont
Picture: Publicity still for “Rear Window“, taken from Wikimedia Commons
The harmonious interaction between Grace Kelly and James Stewart is not only due to their acting experience, but also to their admiration for each other: it is said that James Stewart brought his film partner a bouquet of flowers every day before filming began.
Jimmy Stewart said:
“Grace, without any direction, she just went over [to Thorwald’s apartment], climbed up the fire escape, climbed in one of the windows and sneaked into the door and then looked over across the way to Hitchcock and said ‚Is that what you mean?‘ … She seemed to know the movements before Hitchcock had anything to say about it“
At the beginning of the film, everyone still doubts Jeff’s investigation methods, a police officer friend urges Jeff until the bitter end to finally stop looking through his window at the yard and making “confused guesses”. Lisa, on the other hand, agrees with Jeff’s assumptions early on and thus wins Jeff’s favour …
Simon von Ludwig | More on Grace Kelly
Cover picture: James Stewart and Grace Kelly in a scene from “Rear Window”, taken from Wikimedia Commons
Main sources: The movie “Rear Window”; Robyns, Gwen: Princess Grace 1929—1982, 1982 W.H. Allen &
Jorgensen, Jay: Grace Kelly — Hollywood Dream Girl, 2017 Harper Collins