Spy on the neighbors through a ‘Rear Window’

Whenever film buffs talk about Alfred Hitchcock or suspense films, “Rear Window” is sure to be a part of the discussion. “Rear Window” hosts a stellar cast including James Stewart, the beautiful Grace Kelly, the outstanding character actress Thelma Ritter, Wendal Corey and Raymond Burr (before playing Perry Mason on television). The film adds to the merits of Hitchcock’s title as Master of Suspense. Not only is the film suspenseful, it is full of Hitchcock’s trademark humor and cinematic beauty.

The movie centers around James Stewart’s character who, as a photojournalist, has broken his leg and is more or less trapped in his apartment. Stewart’s only pastime is watching out his “Rear Window,” which overlooks the apartment courtyard. Through the window Stewart inserts himself into his neighbors’ lives. Hitchcock had the entire apartment complex built on a sound stage so that he could control the lighting and the sound throughout the picture. All of the apartments in the complex had electricity and running water. It is believed that some of the actors actually lived in the apartments during the filming. The building of the set was a unique feat even in the days prior to computer graphics. Probably the most unique quality of the film is the way in which the set was used, almost like a character in itself. All the sound in the film is “live,” meaning that the music, speech and other sounds all come from within the world of the film with the exception of orchestral music heard in the first three shots of the film. This trait helps create the intimate quality of the film.

“Rear Window” was nominated for four Academy Awards. It was named as one of the greatest movies of all time by the American Film Institute; it was in the top ten in the “Mystery” genre.

The movie is blessed to have one of the most beautiful and classy actresses of the time starring with Jimmy Stewart. Grace Kelly was not only a movie star but eventually she became a princess when she married Prince Rainier of Monaco. Ironically, she was awarded an Academy Award for her work as a plain, abused wife in “The Country Girl.” She also starred in another Hitchcock film, “To Catch a Thief,” costarring with Cary Grant.

James “Jimmy” Stewart was one of Hitchcock’s favorite actors, along with Cary Grant. Stewart is one of America’s greatest actors. He received dozens of awards: two Academy Awards, a Lifetime Achievement award from The American Film Institute, a Golden Globe and a Golden Boot (as a western star), several Laurel Awards, two Critics Circle Awards, a Lifetime Achievement from the Screen Actors’ Guild and many more.

Be sure to see “Rear Window” this weekend at the Orpheum Center. “The most UNUSUAL and INTIMATE journey into human emotions ever filmed!”

Show times are 7 p.m. on Friday, 2 and 7 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Visit the theater for tours and check out all of the Iowa related memorabilia. Call the Orpheum Theater Center movie hotline at 641-844-5907 or visit www.orpheumcenter.com

Tom LaVille is a retired Marshalltown drama and literature teacher. LaVille’s Critic’s Corner column appears Friday in the Times-Republican.