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Author Topic: The Window (1949)  (Read 3614 times)
cigar joe
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« on: June 09, 2013, 03:59:34 PM »

This film needs a proper thread. This is my 4th or 5th viewing, debt of thanks to dave jenkins.



Director: Ted Tetzlaff (Notorious (director of photography) Writers: Mel Dinelli (screenplay), Cornell Woolrich (based on his story "The Boy Cried Murder") Cinematography by Robert De Grasse & William O. Steiner. Stars: Bobby Driscoll, Ruth Roman, Barbara Hale, Arthur Kennedy, and Paul Stewart.  

A unique Noir Thriller. A Family Noir. A Kid's Noir.  But not just any kid, the kid who was a denizen of an decaying urban rat warren in a city that was constantly regenerating. A city before the Manhattan el's were torn down, before TV, before air-conditioning, where clothes were dried on clothes lines, where playgrounds were winding back alleys, tar beach roof tops, jungle jim fire escapes, and condemned buildings that became, clubhouses, forts or whatever you may imagine. The real habitats of urban man circa 1948, apartment - street, hall - alley, sidewalk - pavement, steel - earth, inside - outside, light - dark. I remember us kids grabbing trash can lids for shields and sticks for swords and battling it out in the backyard Colosseum, the clanging of the sticks against the lids sounded quite cinematic.

Third Avenue El


Back yard scape


Fire Escape



What really hits home with this film is its realistic telling of the tale from Tommy's POV (Bobby Driscoll). Any viewer with an urban background will find some touchstones to his own childhood or two the childhood stories of his parents. I still remember trying to sleep on hot, humid summer nights, in a second story apartment, where, thanks to a corner bedroom and two open windows any slight cross breeze brought relief. But it also provided the city lullabies of traffic, distant and near, the rattle of the Connecting RR, the faint roar of the sunken Grand Central. Nature provided the rustle of a tree from a breeze or the patter of rain on leaves. My best friend who lived in a bigger apartment house actually did sleep out on the fire escape to cool off with an el down the block.

The film begins brilliantly with one of Tommy's fantasies instantly drawing us in to his world.

We see a condemned building, we see black window, lying face down, we see Tommy. He awakens looking somewhat in pain, clutching his chest. A child in distress. Crawling forward he grabs a cap gun and we are brought to reality. Tommy is fantasizing, playing/acting out, a "shot" cowboy crawling in a hayloft to the hay-door from where he spots the "gang" playing cards. He shoots and his older buddies ignore him, a new game has replaced the one Tommy was still playing, and a fire truck siren from the street trumps even that.

As Tommy makes his way to his street urchin buddies we follow the relatively benign, maze like, cinematic urban landscape that duplicates in reverse a final reckoning that, taking place in the dead of night, turns it all very noir-ish and frightening, murderous silhouettes on window shades, illumination stabbed by slanting shadows.

tenement hall


chainlink fence NYC archetype


apartment in the dark


el stairway


The city, especially in this film, is given equal billing. William O. Steiner (cinematography) a native New Yorker along with two of the three assistant directors, informs the visual compositions with a loving and knowing familiarity. Interiors (studio probably) Art Direction by Italian born Sam Corso, native New Yorker Albert S. D'Agostino and Kansian Walter E. Keller looks flawless.

Ed & Tommy


All performances are top notch. Bobby Driscoll was incredibly talented. He's thoroughly believable as Tommy. All his interactions and reactions with his peers, with his parents especially his father Ed (Arthur Kennedy), with his neighbors, and with the police, as he tries to convince them that he's telling the truth ring clear.  Barbara Hale and Arthur Kennedy are excellent as Tommy's doubting parents ratcheting up the tension/horror level every time they attempt to reason with or placate Tommy's accusations with the kind of statements most parents faced with the same situation would make. They even make Tommy confront the upstairs neighbors the Kellerson's. Joe Kellerson and Jean Kellerson are one of the most despicable couples in noir. Their grift is for looker Jean (Ruth Roman) to lure single men to their apartment, probably for sex, where she slips them knockout drops, Joe (Paul Stewart) then rolls them for their doe and dumps them in an alley.   

 Joe and Jean Kellerson






On a hot & humid night Tommy can't sleep, he wakes his mother Mary Woodry, (Barbara Hale) and asks if he can sleep out on the fire escape where it would be cooler, she says sure but be careful. Laying out in the sweltering evening with his pillow Tommy sees the towels hanging from the Kellersons clothesline billow in a breeze, a breeze that doesn't reach down enough to give Tommy relief, so like any resourceful kid, Tommy grabs his pillow and climbs up to the Kellerson's landing to fall asleep there. He's awakened both by a shaft of light spilling across his face from the space between the bottom of a pull shade and the window sill, and the sounds of a grift going murderously wrong. Its a beautifully filmed sequence where the action is obscured, partially silhouetted by the shade and vividly focused through the slot.

Ruth Roman




Though I've never read the Cornell Woolrich short story I have read that the story is even gorier. Lots of great sequences, watch for the police station cat. The original music score by Roy Webb even includes a leitmotif for Tommy. Great New York Noir 10/10

« Last Edit: June 10, 2013, 06:07:32 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: June 09, 2013, 10:35:48 PM »

I give this movie a 4/10

the kid does a great job; the other four cast members are really good actors but these are shitty roles for them. Barbara Hale and Arthur Kennedy spend the movie telling a little kid "you have to stop lying," while Paul Stewart and Ruth Roman spend the movie chasing after a little kid.

p.s. the lovely Ruth Roman is probably the only girl ever on whom I prefer short hair. This is one movie I have seen of her in long hair and it ain't the Ruth I know and love   Sad   

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New York Times Review http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9C03E2DF1E3EE03BBC4053DFBE668382659EDE
 
Movie Review
The Window (1949)
'The Window,' Depicting Terror of Boy in Fear of His Life, Opens at the Victoria
T. M. P.
Published: August 8, 1949

The mounting terror of a young boy who lives in mortal fear of his life is projected with remarkable verisimilitude by 12-year-old Bobby Driscoll in "The Window," which opened on Saturday at the Victoria. The striking force and terrifying impact of this RKO melodrama is chiefly due to Bobby's brilliant acting, for the whole effect would have been lost were there any suspicion of doubt about the credibility of this pivotal character.

Occasionally, the director overdoes things a bit in striving for shock effects, such as when the half-conscious boy teeters on the rail of a fire-escape or is trapped on a high beam in an abandoned house on the verge of collapse. However, though you may be aware of contrivance in these instances, it is not likely that you will remain immune to the excitement. Indeed, there is such an acute expression of peril etched on the boy's face and reflected by his every movement as he flees death in the crumbling house that one experiences an overwhelming anxiety for his safety.

Like the shepherd boy who cried wolf so often, Tommy Woodry has such an expansive imagination that even his parents refuse to take him seriously when he tells how he he saw the couple upstairs kill a man. The police are a little more sympathetic, but having nothing to go on and, much against the persuasion of the lad's parents, make only a cursory investigation, which further discredits Tommy's story.

His mother insists that he apologize to the Kellersons, brushing aside the child's desperate plea that now they will kill him also. Thus the stage is set for a frightful game of hide and seek, with the boy not being able to summon any help from parents or others about him.

"The Window" starts out rather slowly while the author and the director carefully establish the fanciful workings of Tommy's mind in his associations with playmates, and the distressing concern that this causes his perturbed parents. Although Ted Tetzlaff's direction is not always as restrained as might be desired, there is no denying that his contribution looms large, for he has not permitted any of several increasingly harrowing incidents to spoil the full, crushing force of the picture's climax.

Barbara Hale and Arthur Kennedy are altogether natural as the parents and Paul Stewart and Ruth Roman play the Kellersons with just the right show of fear and desperation. But "The Window" is Bobby Driscoll's picture, make no mistake about that. "The Window" stands, too, as a splendid tribute to its producer, the late Frederic Ullman Jr., who had guided Pathé News for many years and made this picture as his first venture into regular theatrical production.

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« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2013, 05:15:50 AM »

I give this movie a 4/10

the kid does a great job; the other four cast members are really good actors but these are shitty roles for them. Barbara Hale and Arthur Kennedy spend the movie telling a little kid "you have to stop lying," while Paul Stewart and Ruth Roman spend the movie chasing after a little kid.

p.s. the lovely Ruth Roman is probably the only girl ever on whom I prefer short hair. This is one movie I have seen of her in long hair and it ain't the Ruth I know and love   Sad  

That was similar to my first impression, but I still rated it 7 or 8, find your inner child (you are not a parent, yet) and watch the film from Tommy's POV, it becomes a totally different animal especially if you can relate to both Tommy and his exasperated father .

« Last Edit: June 10, 2013, 05:59:22 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2013, 07:57:54 AM »

Thanks for posting those screencaps, Joe. They look marvelous, and they got me excited to see the film again--and so I watched it one more time last night. I enjoyed it immensely. I can't quite go a "10" on this, but I agree that it improves with repeated viewings. Man, could Paul Stewart play menacing creeps, or what?

SPOILERS I like the fact that Bobby Driscoll is credible as the kid, but he's also proactive. And talk about tough. He gets slugged unconscious by Stewart, and later returns the favor by pushing the beam on which he's walking so the guy will fall to his death. This is my kind of kid!END SPOILERS

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« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2013, 10:01:05 AM »

Where did you see this, cj? I saw it a while ago on TCM and the print was awful

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« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2013, 04:40:31 PM »

Where did you see this, cj? I saw it a while ago on TCM and the print was awful

Got the Warner DVD from DJ a while ago  Wink

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« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2017, 11:36:21 PM »

Eddie Muller's intro https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16gGYpSI4Xw

Eddie Muller's afterword https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grzicu8v86E

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« Reply #7 on: November 27, 2017, 01:27:13 AM »

Excellent noir. Very atmospheric. I love the staircase, the shadows, the creepy apartment building, the storyline....

Those crooks were idiotic. Couldn't they see that no one was taking the boy seriously? They shouldn't have been so paranoid about him!

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