Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Stars: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey
Plot: A wheelchair-bound photographer spies on his neighbours from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder.
According to Georgine Darcy, the scene in which the man and woman on the fire escape struggle in their attempt to get in out of the rain can be attributed to a prank by Alfred Hitchcock. Each actor in the apartment complex facing Jeff's rear window wore an earpiece through which they could receive Hitchcock's directions. Hitchcock told the man to pull the mattress in one direction and told the woman to pull in the opposite direction. Unaware that they had received conflicting directions, the couple began to fight and struggle to get the mattress inside once the crew began filming the scene. The resulting mayhem in which one of the couple is tossed inside the window with the mattress provided humor and a sense of authenticity to the scene which Hitchcock liked. He was so pleased with the result that he did not order another take.
The entire picture was shot on one set, which required months of planning and construction. The apartment-courtyard set measured 98 feet wide, 185 feet long and 40 feet high, and consisted of 31 apartments, eight of which were completely furnished. The courtyard was set 20 to 30 feet below stage level, and some of the buildings were the equivalent of five or six stories high.
During the month-long shoot Georgine Darcy, who played "Miss Torso", "lived" in her apartment all day, relaxing between takes as if really at home.
While shooting, Alfred Hitchcock worked only in Jeff's "apartment." The actors in other apartments wore flesh-colored earpieces so that he could radio his directions to them.
One thousand arc lights were used to simulate sunlight. Thanks to extensive pre-lighting of the set, the crew could make the changeover from day to night in under forty-five minutes.
All the apartments in Thorwald's building had electricity and running water, and could be lived in.
By most accounts, everyone was crazy about Grace Kelly. According to James Stewart, "Everybody just sat around and waited for her to come in the morning, so we could just look at her/ She was kind to everybody, so considerate, just great, and so beautiful." Stewart also praised her instinctive acting ability and her "complete understanding of the way motion picture acting is carried out."
Alfred Hitchcock gave Georgine Darcy free range to choreograph her own dance moves for her character, Miss Torso. Darcy was to dance on her own volition during filming. Hitchcock's only restriction was that he forbade her to take professional dance lessons, as he wanted her to maintain the imprecision of an amateur dancer.
The film was unavailable for decades because its rights (together with four other pictures of the same period) were bought back by Alfred Hitchcock and left as part of his legacy to his daughter. They've been known for long as the infamous "Five Lost Hitchcocks" among film buffs, and were re-released in theatres around 1984 after a 30-year absence. The others are The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Rope (1948), The Trouble with Harry (1955), and Vertigo (1958)
To accommodate the enormous set, a higher ceiling was required. Alfred Hitchcock had the production company tear out the entire floor of the studio, revealing the basement. What the audience sees as the courtyard was originally the basement level of the studio.
Grace Kelly may have been a bit too beautiful and friendly, at least for the Paramount publicity department and James Stewart's wife. Known privately as a sexually free young woman, Kelly often had affairs with her leading men and she made everyone nervous by confessing to gossip columnists that she found Stewart one of the most masculinely attractive men she ever met.
According to Georgine Darcy, there were four separate lighting settings for the film, which were meant to replicate early morning, afternoon, late evening, and night. She also noted that for some of the settings, the heat from the lights was nearly unbearable for the actors on the top floor of the apartment building.
The love affair between war photographer Robert Capa and actress Ingrid Bergman is believed to be Alfred Hitchcock's inspiration for the film's romantic aspect.
In Cornell Woolrich's short story on which the film is based, it's not revealed until the last line that the hero has a broken leg.
Alfred Hitchcock deliberately shot most of the setups so they would appear voyeuristic.
The lens James Stewart uses on his camera to spy on his neighbors, is reportedly a 400mm prime telephoto, the magnification of which, would render it near impossible to use effectively without a tripod.
At the time the set was the largest indoor set built at Paramount Studios.
Alfred Hitchcock has a cameo about a half hour into the film, winding the clock in the songwriter's apartment.
In an interview with Peter Bogdanovich, Alfred Hitchcock claimed that he felt a bit of sympathy with all of the antagonists of his films. He said that he felt particularly sympathetic toward Thorwald, who was minding his own, albeit murderous, business before Jeff interfered. Hitchcock went on to say that he hoped the audience would share his sympathy during the confrontation between Thorwald and Jeff, when Thorwald asks him what he wanted and why he was doing this, while Jeff remains silent. Hitchcock concluded by saying "during that moment it makes one think, 'you know, he's really kind of a bastard.'"
To determine what special effect to employ for the scene in which Jeff fends off Thorwald with the camera flashes, several crew members waited in a dark room while another crew member repeatedly exposed them to bright camera flashes. The crew unanimously reported seeing bright and expanding orange circles, which temporarily disoriented them. These crew members objected to the first attempt to create the effect, which involved numerous small white circles bouncing around the shot. Their complaints were received, and John P. Fulton changed the effect to the expanding reddish-orange circle which can be seen in the film.