Spring has finally sprung, with April showers hopefully giving way to May flowers eventually. And as the spring season sets in with violent gusts of wind and rain, there is a certain sadness in the air. 38 years ago on April 29th, Hollywood, no the world, lost one of its finest directors ever to live. A master of thrills who frightened and delighted audiences for years with his pictures. The Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock devoted years of his life to producing movies that truly gripped people. And now, to honor the man and his towering legacy, the month of April shall be a month of Hitchcock motion pictures. To start things off, it’s back to 1954 and the release of one his great works, Rear Window.
Alfred Hitchcock was a man who knew how to make movies that brought a range of emotions out from both actors and people. Especially through using suspense as a plot device to elicit a wide range of emotive reactions that would help carry the story to whatever its inevitable conclusion may have been. The Master himself often said of suspense (to illustrate a point), “There’s two people having breakfast and there’s a bomb under the table. If it explodes, that’s a surprise. But if it doesn’t…”.
Jimmy Stewart was a truly great actor. A man who was charming, affable, soft-spoken. But put him in front of a camera and give him the right motivation, and he could be a tiger if the need called for it. Or in the case of Rear Window, a man who decides to investigate after suspecting foul play from a fellow neighbor. His character of L.B. “Jeff” Jefferies is the furthest thing one would expect from a major hit hero figure. As quiet as his actor, but with an exciting background (news magazine photographer) who suddenly winds up stuck in his Greenwich Village apartment after breaking his leg to get a good shot for his editor. While passing the time until physical emancipation from the cast, Jeff solves the murder of a neighbor’s wife thanks to determination, and help from his girlfriend Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly).
Grace Kelly stole the show as Lisa. Taking all the elements that made up her public persona (graceful, fashionable, etc.), Grace also infused her own grit and determination into Lisa’s character so that even though Jimmy Stewart is on-camera for a good chunk of the time, whenever she steps into the scene all attention is drawn to her and what she will say next. Not only does Grace Kelly play a central role in helping prove Jimmy Stewart’s theory that the neighbor Thorwald (Raymond Burr), murdered his wife, but that it was done right under the noses of everyone in the apartment complex.
Any fan of Hitchcock’s work will know that the Master at times inserted himself into the story. Much in the vein of what Stan Lee does for every Marvel movie, Alfred would play a small part, there for only one scene. The only difference between these two great creators is that Stan hams it up to give people a laugh, while Alfred did it perhaps only to see if anyone could spot him.
When Rear Window was first released in 1954, it garnered a lot of attention from critics. Bosley Crowther of the New York Times wrote:
“Mr. Hitchcock’s film is not ‘significant.’ What it has to say about people and human nature is superficial and glib, but it does expose many facets of the loneliness of city life, and it tacitly demonstrates the impulse of morbid curiosity. The purpose of it is sensation, and that it generally provides in the colorfulness of its detail and in the flood of menace toward the end.”
Meanwhile, Time Magazine had something a touch nicer to say:
“Just possibly the second-most entertaining picture (after The 39 Steps) ever made by Alfred Hitchcock” and a film in which there is “never an instant… when Director Hitchcock is not in minute and masterly control of his material.”
Change is in the air, with cold turning to warm. The day are turning longer, and new growth will soon start to come up from the ground. As the seasons turn, take some time out this Easter to enjoy one’s self, or better yet, kick back and relax with loved ones and enjoy a prime example of why Alfred Hitchcock was and always shall be a great director and storyteller for all time.