Saturday, May 23, 2009

Rear Window (Rhoades)

 Hitchcock Hi-Def Offers Audiences a New View

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

 Peggy Dow (mother of the Tropic Cinema’s new executive director Matthew Helmerich) likes to tell about her days as a Hollywood actress working with James Stewart in “Harvey.”

“Jimmy was just magical,” she recalls. “My heart didn’t stop racing until the movie was over. He was so generous with young actresses and actors. And he was so funny. He’d challenge us to kiss our elbow or touch our tongue to our nose – he could! He was a scream. He kept all of us upbeat.”

Jimmy Steward was a very versatile actor. He could be a befuddled guy who saw giant rabbits. A sharp lawyer defending a criminal in “Anatomy of a Murder.” A trombone-playing bandleader in “The Glenn Miller Story.” A buffoon in screwball comedies like “Pot o’ Gold.” A tough cowpoke in “The Naked Spur.” Or an honest man struggling with his faith in others in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

This is the same actor that Alfred Hitchcock cast in four of his suspense thrillers: “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” “Rope,” “Vertigo,” and “Rear Window.” Hitch knew that Stewart was an Everyman, an ordinary guy that audiences could identify with.

That empathy heightened the suspense, made the threats seem all the more real and personal.

You can see Jimmy Stewart in “Rear Window” next Saturday at the Tropic Cinema. However, this is a Hitchcock movie as you’ve never seen it before – shown for the first time on the big screen in high definition.

It’s one of 8 Hitchcock classics released under the rubric of “Hi-Def Hitch.” There are more coming to the Tropic on following Saturdays.

“Rear Window” (1954) was Hitch at his voyeuristic best. A photographer (Stewart) is laid up with a broken leg, and having nothing better to do watches the comings and goings of his neighbors across a courtyard. To the dismay of his socialite girlfriend (Grace Kelly) he witnesses what may have been a murder.

American Film Institute ranked “Rear Window” #3 of all-time great movies of the mystery genre.

The film was based on a short story by Cornell Woolrich titled “Murder from a Fixed Viewpoint.” The original had no love story and no additional neighbors for the photographer to spy on. These elements were created by Hitchcock and screenwriter John Michael Hayes.

Stewart and Kelly’s characters were said to be based on the real-life love affair of photographer Robert Capra and actress Ingrid Bergman. Others claim Hayes based Kelly’s character on his own wife who was a famous fashion model. Hitchcock said the character was based on Kelly herself.

Much has been written about Hitchcock’s dark psyche and his fetish attraction for “icy blondes.” Hitchcock said, “Blondes make the best victims. They’re like virgin snow that shows up the bloody footprints.”

Blonde Grace Kelly appeared in three Hitchcock films: “Rear Window,” “Dial M for Murder,” and “To Catch a Thief” (where she met her future husband, Prince Rainier of Monaco).

Hitchcock enjoyed pushing the boundaries of what the censors would allow on screen. He frequently used sexual innuendo and imagery in his films. In “Rear Window” we see the newly married woman wearing a flesh-colored bodice; and Hitchcock originally wanted Miss Torso to be topless in one of her scenes.

Another common Hitchcock theme was male impotence. We see that in “Rear Window” in terms of the photographer being confined to a wheelchair.

Hitchcock’s films starring Jimmy Stewart tended to go deeper into “the psyche of human inefficiencies.” The clash of these disturbing qualities with the expected image of Stewart is what makes these films among Hitchcock’s very best.

(from Solares Hill)








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