Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Rear Window (1954)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Rear Window (1954)

In Alfred Hitchcock's superb nail-biting thriller about a mostly confined incapacitated photographer with a broken leg in his apartment, he kept occupied by his rear window view into other apartments across the building's courtyard - it was an intriguing, brilliant, macabre visual study of obsessive human curiosity and voyeurism:

  • in the opening voyeuristic sequence of efficient visual story-telling, the camera tracked out through the framed windows of a Greenwich Village apartment (surrounded by other Lower East Side apartment structures), and introduced the setting and entire complex - a lower courtyard and garden
  • the opening camera tracking was followed by a long panning camera movement to view the lives of some of the apartment neighbors, including an older dog-loving couple sleeping on an outside fire escape to avoid the heat, a blonde exerciser known as "Miss Torso" (Georgine Darcy), and a tour of the subject in the camera's apartment - a man immobilized in a wheelchair with his leg in a cast was identified as photographer L.B. "Jeff" Jefferies (James Stewart)
  • Jeff's sharp-tongued, visiting nurse-therapist Stella McCaffery (Thelma Ritter) disapproved of his spying on neighbors and denounced the practice: "Oh dear, we've become a race of Peeping Toms. What people oughta do is get outside their own house and look in for a change. Yes, sir. How's that for a bit of home-spun philosophy?"; the confined Jeff's "peeping tom" static camera point-of-view was from his Greenwich Village apartment's rear window where he was stuck in his wheelchair
  • Stella also cautioned Jeff about his lack of roots and commitment, his sidestepping of marriage and his lukewarm attitude toward Lisa Carol Fremont (Grace Kelly), his fashion-model girlfriend
  • Jeff's high-fashion model and girlfriend Lisa glamorously appeared in front of the stationary individual Jeff; she was a stylish vision of beauty - elegant, lovely, affluent, and blonde; she bent over, and then lovingly kissed him, roused and awakened him from his sleep; she suggestively whispered a number of questions to him: " Lisa: "How's your leg?" Jeff: "It hurts a little." Lisa: "And your stomach?" Jeff: "Empty as a football." (She kissed him again) Lisa: "And your love life?" Jeff: "Not too active." Lisa: (smiling) "Anything else bothering you?" Jeff: "Mm-hmm. Who are you?"; as she flicked on the apartment's lights one-by-one, she told him her name, disjointedly: "Lisa - Carol - Fremont."
Jeff's Girlfriend - Glamorous Model Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly)
  • later that evening, there was a suspicious female scream and the sound of breaking glass; the next day, Jeff told Stella about the mysterious and suspicious comings and goings on the part of his across-the-courtyard neighbor Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr) the previous stormy night; he viewed Thorwald making repeated late-night trips carrying a suitcase; not satisfied with the binoculars, Jeff reached for a huge, high-powered telephoto lens - not to take pictures but to observe
  • later that evening, Jeff and Lisa passionately hugged and kissed in his apartment, but she was mostly being romantically ignored and overlooked as Jeff became more and more obsessed by his neighbor's activities; Lisa became critical that he had become an obsessed Peeping Tom, as Stella had earlier warned
  • but then, as Jeff offered more morbid theories about Thorwald's suspicious activities and observations (he viewed the salesman wrapping a saw and a butcher knife in newspaper, and putting rope around a large trunk), Lisa concluded that Jeff's insane, sinister, and imaginative conclusions might be accurate; however, Jeff's continuing obsession with his neighbor was dissuaded by his NYC police detective friend Lt. Tom Doyle (Wendell Corey), and Stella, calling Jeff's exaggerated observations misinterpreted evidence
  • however, Lisa continued to speculate that Thorwald was involved in an adulterous relationship with a female accomplice in the murder of his wife; she became convinced of the truth of Thorwald's guilt
  • there were further concerns when an upstairs older couple's (Sara Berner and Frank Cady) dog (that was seen digging in the garden) was found dead in the courtyard from strangulation, punctuated by the distraught dog owner: ("Which one of you did it? Which one of you killed my dog?"); the dead dog laid on the concrete in front of Thorwald's garden - maliciously killed with its neck broken
  • Jeff noticed that the only person who didn't emerge from inside when the dog was discovered was Thorwald, seen smoking a glowing cigarette in his darkened apartment [later, it was theorized that the dog became "too inquisitive," so Thorwald had to dig up one of Mrs. Thorwald's body parts from the flower bed and move it elsewhere, and murder the snooping dog]
  • to confront the possible killer, Jeff had Lisa deliver an anonymous note asking, "What have you done with her?"; Jeff also daringly had Lisa and Stella dig in the garden for evidence (while Thorwald was lured away), but when they didn't find anything, Lisa decided to enter Thorwald's apartment to look for the wife's wedding ring
  • in the film's most suspenseful scene, Lisa tensely explored and searched in suspected wife-murderer Thorwald's apartment for incriminating evidence just before he returned - she was ecstatic when she found an alligator hand-bag, proof of Thorwald's guilt - he must have murdered her because, according to Lisa, no woman goes on a trip leaving behind her favorite jewelry (or handbag); Jeff nervously reacted as he watched powerlessly and helplessly from across the courtyard when Lisa was trapped and confronted face-to-face in the apartment by Thorwald. Caught, she was assaulted but rescued when the police arrived in the apartment's corridor just in time to prevent any serious injury
  • during questioning, to signal that she had found the ring, Lisa pointed to Thorwald's wife's wedding ring on her own finger that she waved behind her back; Lars noticed her signals and the wedding ring, and followed the sight-line of the signal sent by Lisa (behind her back) to Jeff in his apartment and triangulated the view - he spotted the mortal threat
Using Lisa to Infiltrate Into Thorwald's Apartment
  • Thorwald looked up and discovered that Jeff, his tormentor, was watching from the apartment window across the courtyard, looking directly into his telephoto lens; it was the first time he had noticed the voyeuristic spy in the apartment complex - it was a chilling moment in the film as he saw the threatening spectator and knew where he lived; Thorwald was alerted to the fact that he was being watched, and the tables were now turned
  • Jeff was left alone in his apartment, and he noticed that Lars' apartment was dark; when his phone rang (after an earlier call from Det. Lt. Thomas J. Doyle (Wendell Corey)), he didn't wait to hear who the caller was, assuming it was Tom; he blurted out: "Tom, I think Thorwald's left. I don't...Hello.."; the phone clicked off and disconnected - Jeff slowly realized his error - it was not Tom, his detective friend
  • in the tension-filled finale, Jeff was confronted by the killer in his own apartment - when Jeff heard heavy footsteps climbing the stairs outside his apartment, Jeff wheeled himself around to grab his flash equipment and a long box of flashbulbs to protect himself; then, he positioned himself in front of his rear window so that he was darkly silhouetted by it; eventually, the dark figure of Thorwald slowly opened the door and entered
  • at first, Jeff fended him off with bright flash-bulb flashes from his camera and its exploding flash mechanism - once, twice, three times, and then a fourth time; each whitish-blue flashbulb flash was followed by a red after-glow filling the entire frame, from Thorwald's dazed perspective; but then he became a victim of attempted strangulation
Suspenseful Finale
Jeff Using Flash-Bulbs to Ward Off Attacking Thorwald in His Apartment
  • Thorwald dumped Jeff out of the wheelchair and through the open window, where he dangled from the window ledge three floors above the courtyard as Thorwald tried to push him to his death; detectives grabbed Lars from behind at the last minute, but Jeff let go and fell backward to the ground below - his fall to the courtyard was partially broken by detectives; reunited, Jeff's head was cradled in Lisa's arms as she heard him congratulate her: "I'm proud of you"
  • Jeff was shortly later seen now with a cast on both of his broken legs, and congratulated that his suspicions were well-founded - Thorwald had confessed to the police that he had murdered his wife, dismembered her, and distributed his wife's body parts in the East River; earlier, because the dog had become "too inquisitive," Thorwald was forced to dig up Mrs. Thorwald's head from the flower garden bed and move it to a hat box in his apartment
  • the ending shot was of a pants-wearing Lisa reading an adventure tale - Beyond the High Himalayas, by William O. Douglas; after noticing that Jeff was asleep and not watching her, she switched off her male image by putting down her material and assertively substituting her own preferred Harper's Bazaar magazine
  • the deeply ironic final shot was of a window shade rolling down on the voyeuristic film audience before the ending Paramount Studios logo

Greenwich Village Apartment Courtyard

Jeff's Leg Cast

Jeff's Nurse-Therapist Stella (Thelma Ritter)

Jeff's Voyeurism With His Camera's Telephoto

Jeff Spying on Neighbor Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr)

Discovery of Their Strangled Dog: ("Which one of you did it? Which one of you killed my dog?")

Thorwald's Discovery of Jeff's Spying - The Sightline

Thorwald's Discovery - The Location of the Phone Call

Jeff Assaulted and Thrown Out His Window by Thorwald

After Jeff's Fall, Jeff told Lisa: "I'm proud of you"

Ending Sequence


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