Sunday, May 29, 2016

Don't Make a Scene: Rear Window

The Story: Don't hate Jimmy Stewart in this scene from Rear Window. It was the 50's, and America's everyman had been exploring the dark side of the human psyche in his films for Alfred Hitchcock and Otto Preminger, and the westerns of Anthony Mann. (While at the same time portraying the Corporate Man for Henry Hathaway and Billy Wilder) Perhaps it was atonement for winning a Best Actor Oscar for The Philadelphia Story where he was less than convincing as a jaded reporter. He would be his creepiest (and most vulnerable) in the future in Vertigo, but here, he's a complacent misogynist who thinks there are two kinds of people in the world, men and women, and women are fine as long as they don't move in. He's your basic "won't commit" male, and the man's dedicated to the proposition because the woman who wants to commit him is Grace Kelly!

Maybe he should be committed!

But his L.B. Jeffries is a photographer. He's an observer, not a "do-er." And what he observes outside his picture window reflects and confirms what he believes about relationships and men and women—the men are hen-pecked and bitter or absent (or murderous), the women are harpies or depressed or floozies. He sees every kind of bedroom from his perfect perch, and as much as he can't take his eyes off of it, he doesn't like the view.

But it's Grace Kelly! She's super-model beautiful, societally connected—she's a princess! (Well, not yet!) All that, and she's willing to wait on this slob hand and broken foot. And for that, she gets yelled at, and no respect. The film gives her a partial victory at the end, where she achieves a kind of compromise (and for a song in the bargain), but only by the breaking of Jeffries both psychically and physically. He has to endure the thought of losing her—not like portrayed here, REALLY losing her—and suffering the consequences. And, in a particularly sly Hitchcock manipulation, there's a part of us that actually wants to see Jeffries take a fall.

There is a slight script alteration to this scene, not in the words, but in attitude, and it's an improvement. In the script, Lisa, threatening to leave L.B. stands at the door and, trooper that she is (doormat that she is, more like it!) smiles and says she'll back tomorrow night. On set, it's better, and funnier, as Kelly plays it—she's not putting up with it and smiling, she's frustrated that she won't back up her threat and hates herself for it (and probably hates him for it, too)! Maybe just as neurotic, but a bit more sensible...and the words remain the same.

The Set-Up: "Jeff" (James Stewart) is one week away from being released from an immobilizing hip and leg-cast, from injuries sustained in a work-related accident. Anxious to return to work, he's prone to spying on his neighbors across the common area and stewing in his own juices. One thing bringing him to a froth is his girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly), who wants to make their passing relationship a bit more sedentary.

Action!




INT. JEFF'S APARTMENT - NIGHT - MEDIUM SHOT

Shooting over Jeff's shoulder we see beyond him the divan-bed upon which Lisa is stretched out. There is one light burning, behind Lisa's head. A fierce discussion is in progress. Lisa gesticulates with her hands, body and legs.

LISA: There can't be that much difference between people and the way they live! We all eat, talk, drink, laugh, sleep, wear clothes --

Jeff raises both his hands.

JEFF: Well now, look --

Lisa draws back one leg, and points a finger challengingly.

LISA: If you're saying all this just because you don't want to tell me the truth, because you're hiding something from me...

LISA: ...then maybe I can understand --

JEFF: There's nothing I'm hiding. It's just that --
LISA: (Won't let him break in) It doesn't make sense to me.

LISA: What's so different about it here from over there, or any place you go, that one person couldn't live in both places just as easily?

JEFF: Some people can. Now if you'll let me explain --

LISA: (Ignores him) What is it but traveling from one place to another, taking pictures? LISA: It's just like being a tourist on an endless vacation.
JEFF: Okay.

JEFF: All right. That's your opinion. You're entitled to it, but -- LISA: It's ridiculous for you to say that it can only be done by...

LISA: ...a special, private little group of anointed people.

INT. JEFF'S APARTMENT - NIGHT - SEMI-CLOSEUP

Jeff begin to get desperate.

JEFF: I made a simple, but true statement and I'll back it up, if you'll just shut up for a minute!

INT. JEFF'S APARTMENT - NIGHT - MEDIUM SHOT

Lisa, stretched out on the divan. She looks at him for a moment without speaking. Then:

LISA: If your opinion is as rude as your manner, I'm not sure I want to hear it.

We see Jeff's hand coming to the foreground with a restraining gesture.

JEFF: (Soothing her) Lisa, simmer down -- will you?
LISA: (Something starts her up again) You can't fit in here -- I can't fit in there.

LISA: According to you, people should be born, live...

LISA: ...and die on the same --
JEFF: (Loud, sharp) Lisa! Shut up!

Lisa turns on her side, and stares into the room, angrily.

INT. JEFF'S APARTMENT - NIGHT - SEMI-CLOSEUP

After a moment of silence, Jeff says earnestly:

JEFF: Did you ever eat fish heads and rice?

LISA: Of course not.
JEFF: You might have to, if you went with me. Ever try to keep warm in a C-54, at fifteen thousand feet, at twenty below zero?

INT. JEFF'S APARTMENT - NIGHT - SEMI-CLOSEUP

Lisa, still looking out into the room, and without turning, says:

LISA: Oh, I do that all the time. Whenever I have a few minutes after lunch.

JEFF: Ever get shot at, run over, sandbagged at night because people got unfavorable publicity from your camera?

She doesn't answer, obviously annoyed at the unnecessary questions.

JEFF: Those high heels would be a lot of use in the jungle -- and those nylons and six-ounce lingerie --
LISA: (Quickly) Three.

JEFF: Well, they'd be very stylish in Finland -- just before you froze to death. Begin to get the idea?

She turns at last, and looks across at him.

LISA: If there's one thing I know, it's how to wear the proper clothes.

INT. JEFF'S APARTMENT - NIGHT - MEDIUM SHOT

SHOOTING OVER LISA'S SHOULDER, and down her body, with Jeff in the chair beyond. Jeff says, as if remembering some old experience:

JEFF: Huh? Try and find a raincoat in Brazil. Even when it isn't raining (Squints at her) Lisa, on this job you carry one suitcase.

JEFF: Your home is the available transportation. You sleep rarely, bathe even less...

JEFF: ...and sometime the food you even look at when they were alive!
LISA: Jeff, you don't have to be deliberately repulsive just to impress me I'm wrong.

JEFF: If anything, I'm making it sound good.

JEFF: (A thoughtful pause) Let's face it, Lisa... you aren't made for that kind of a life. Few people are.

INT. JEFF'S APARTMENT - NIGHT - CLOSEUP

Lisa realizes she is getting nowhere.

LISA: You're too stubborn to argue with.

INT. JEFF'S APARTMENT - NIGHT - CLOSEUP

Jeff, getting angry.

JEFF: I'm not stubborn! I'm truthful!

INT. JEFF'S APARTMENT - NIGHT - CLOSEUP

Lisa, with sarcasm.

LISA: I know. A lesser man would have told me it was one long holiday -- and I would have awakened to a rude disillusionment.

INT. JEFF'S APARTMENT - NIGHT - CLOSEUP

Jeff is definitely angry.

JEFF: Now if you want to get vicious, I'd be very happy to accommodate you!

INT. JEFF'S APARTMENT - NIGHT - CLOSEUP

Lisa starts to rise from the divan, THE CAMERA PANNING UP. She moves away from THE CAMERA into the center of the room, as she says:

LISA: (Wearily) No. I don't particularly want that.

LISA: (She turns, faces him) So that's it. You won't stay here -- I can't go with you.

INT. JEFF'S APARTMENT - NIGHT - CLOSEUP

Jeff looks across at her with some concern.

JEFF: It would be the wrong thing.

INT. JEFF'S APARTMENT - NIGHT - MEDIUM SHOT

Lisa, from Jeff's viewpoint.

LISA: You don't think either one of us could ever change?

JEFF: Right now, it doesn't seem so.

Lisa begins to move around the room assembling her possessions preparatory to leaving. She puts a comb, and other effects, into a handbag. She gets her stole.

All this as she talks.

LISA: (Simply) I'm in love with you. I don't care what you do for a living. Somehow I would just like to be part of it.

INT. JEFF'S APARTMENT - NIGHT - SEMI-CLOSEUP

Jeff starts to say something then thinks better of it, and remains silent.

INT. JEFF'S APARTMENT - NIGHT - MEDIUM SHOT

Lisa pauses in the act of gathering her things together.

LISA: And it's deflating to find out that the only way I can be part of it -- is to take out a subscription to your magazine.

LISA: I guess I'm not the girl I thought I was.

JEFF: There's nothing wrong with you, Lisa. You have the town in the palm of your hand.

LISA: (Looks at Jeff) Not quite -- it seems. (Tosses a stole over her shoulder)

LISA: Goodbye, Jeff.

INT. JEFF'S APARTMENT - NIGHT - CLOSEUP

JEFF: You mean "goodnight."
LISA: I mean what I said.

Jeff's eyes follow her up the steps toward the door. He calls out to her, impulsively, as we HEAR the SOUND of the door opening.

JEFF: Lisa!

INT. JEFF'S APARTMENT - NIGHT - SEMI-LONG SHOT

Lisa turns in the half-opened door.

JEFF: Can't we just...

JEFF: ...sort of keep things status quo?

LISA: Without any future?

INT. JEFF'S APARTMENT - NIGHT - SEMI LONG SHOT

Jeff tries to be pleasant, and offhand.

JEFF: Well -- when'll I see you again?

INT. JEFF'S APARTMENT - NIGHT - CLOSEUP

Lisa, standing in the open doorway.

LISA: Not for a long time.

LISA: Not, at least until -- (She begins smiling) -- tomorrow night.

Continues smiling as she close the door softly behind her.

INT. JEFF'S APARTMENT - NIGHT - CLOSEUP

The pleasantness on Jeff's face slowly melts into baffled discouragement. He reaches for a nearby phone picks up the receiver, dials. It buzzes on filter.



Rear Window

Words by John Michael Hayes (after the story by Cornell Woolrich)

Pictures by Robert Burks and Alfred Hitchcock

Rear Window is available on DVD from Universal Home Video.







* Grace Kelly was the perfect Hitchcock blond: a high-toned fashionable Philadelphian society girl, who was secretly randy as hell. Hitchcock cast her in three movies...then she went off to get married, for god's sakes! Sure, it was to the Prince of Monaco, but hey, he had movies to make. He kept trying to lure her back to movies—Vertigo and Marnie, for two—but she was never tempted. Hitchcock then tried to recreate her, Vertigo-style, in the svelte form of "Tippi" Hedren, but it was never the same.

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