Day 308: ‘Rear Window Reveals its Stars’ 2018

Day 308
Friday 4 May 2018  0321
‘Rear Window Reveals its Stars’  2018

Top 100 Films Ever Made –
This film is #53 in the 2012 BFI Critics Poll and #48 in the Directors Poll.

Rear Window (1954) has been regarded as one of Hitchcock’s three or four finest films for as long as I’ve been alive. I’ve always enjoyed watching this film and I’ve always enjoyed watching James Stewart, my very favourite actor, from the golden years of Hollywood all the way through to the late sixties. I even loved him as he aged gracefully in the television show, Hawkins on Murder. From his earliest black and white films as a leading man there has been some quality that has attracted me to his movie persona. The same with Katharine Hepburn, my favourite female actor of the same era. I find I can watch their good films over and over and over. The same goes for Grace Kelly, in her three Hitchcock films, who is almost as stunningly attractive as the aging James Stewart and Cary Grant in Rear Window and To Catch a Thief (1955).

Cary Grant was born in 1904 and James Stewart in 1908. Grant was 51 when he made To Catch a Thief and Stewart 46 when he made Rear Window – both still look great, wearing their age lightly. Grace Kelly was 24 or 25 when she made both of these films and yet it doesn’t seem incongruous to me that there is twenty to twenty-five years difference between the beautiful actress and the aging leading men. Maybe that’s the fifty-five year old in me speaking. Or maybe Grace Kelly has a beauty which doesn’t say, “I’m 22, I’m 25, I’m 30.” There’s an agelessness in Grace Kelly in the three Hitchcock films where she seems far older than her years. Is it sophistication? Is it just that she knows how to act with a man 25-years her senior and make the difference irrelevant? With someone like Audrey Hepburn, the age difference didn’t seem so great with Gregory Peck, whereas it was apparent with Fred Astaire and Gary Cooper. For some reason – for me – it didn’t seem so great with Humphrey Bogart in Sabrina but maybe that’s because the plot made reference to the fact that she’s barely out of school and Bogart is a successful business man.

So, I wonder what it is with Rear Window, my fourth or fifth viewing, that doesn’t make me rank it amongst my favourite Hitchcock films. It’s first-rate, but it doesn’t bring me back to it as many times as The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, Suspicion, Rebecca, Notorious, Spellbound, Psycho, North by Northwest, Vertigo, To Catch a Thief, The Birds, Marnie, Strangers on a Train, Shadow of a Doubt and Dial M for Murder, all of which I would happily watch every couple of years. Even last night, Rear Window never engaged me like the afore-mentioned films. I don’t know why but I find myself curiously uninvolved, like I’m watching at arm’s-length; from a distance. How ironic, of course, given that the premise of the film is about someone (James Stewart) observing events rather than being emotionally engaged with the events. He does eventually get emotionally engaged – fear – at the end while I still remain an observer. It almost makes sense to me as I try to understand my lack of engagement, because when the film switches from Stewart watching the events to becoming caught up in the events, I’m still on the outside – as a viewer – watching everything unfold quite dispassionately.

Nonetheless, it is a film which I can acknowledge is masterfully made and well-paced and is the product of a very good script, very good acting and very good direction – but it’s not amongst my favourite Hitchcock films. But, hey, that’s me. Hitchcock’s my favourite director of all-time but Rear Window isn’t one of my favourite films of all-time. It’s cool and reserved and emotionally distant – in my experience – compared with some of Hitchcock’s more uneven, but more emotionally-involving films like The Birds and Marnie and Shadow of a Doubt.