Summertime and the suspicion comes easy
A NEW series of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic movies on Saturday nights is introduced by cinema stalwart and one of this newspaper’s film critics, David Stratton, who qualifies for classic status himself after 20 years on television talking about films.
First up is Rear Window. The softened, time- worn Technicolor adds another dimension to this 1954 mystery thriller set in New York. Photojournalist L. B. Jefferies ( James Stewart), known as Jeff, is laid up in his small apartment with a broken leg plastered from hip to toe.
Bored out of his skull, the usually adventurous war correspondent has been amusing himself by watching his neighbours through their apartment block windows and in their yards.
It’s high summer in the city, hotter than a match head, and the closely packed New Yorkers are sleeping on balconies, walking around in their underwear, just going about their business, unaware that Jeff keeps tabs on them all through his trusty binoculars and telephoto lens.
Outside his window he finds life’s rich tapestry: unhappy singleton Miss Lonelyheart, the semi- naked dancer Miss Torso, a bohemian songwriter, old married couples, and the Thorwalds, an invalid wife and her unhappy husband.
Jeff’s principal companions are his nurse, Stella, who gives him physical rubdowns and emotional pep talks, and his girlfriend, socialite Lisa Carol Fremont ( Grace Kelly). Lisa really wants to marry Jeff, although they are chalk and cheese, but she is one determined woman with steel under her chiffon dresses. She proves her bravery when Jeff becomes convinced that Thorwald has murdered his wife.
Initially sceptical, Stella and Lisa go over to the neighbouring apartment block to investigate, while Jeff keeps watch over them. This is classic Hitchcock: suspenseful, with wry humour overcoming sentiment, and a plot full of unexpected twists.
The cast, as always in a Hitchcock film, is perfect. The weird old English director adored his blonde stars: here the camera lingers on Kelly as Lisa, dressed in exquisite couture. Thelma Ritter is the heart- of- gold, face- like- abattleaxe nurse Stella. As Thorwald, Raymond Burr skulks in and out, bad tempered and suitably enigmatic.
Did he or didn’t he? Watch and find out.
Revisiting Rear Window is a fine way to spend a lazy Saturday night. For those too young to have seen it first, second or 20th time around, the recent Shia LaBeouf film Disturbia pays homage; in fact the producers are being sued in Manhattan for paying a little too much homage.
Coming up in the weeks ahead: Stratton introduces The Man Who Knew Too Much, Suspicion, Vertigo
James Stewart and Grace Kelly in