Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1954: James Stewart in Rear Window

James Stewart did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying  L. B. "Jeff" Jeffries in Rear Window.

Rear Window is an excellent thriller about a photojournalist with a broken leg who spends his day looking out the window and finds that one of the people he is spying on might just have murdered his wife.

James Stewart again is the other leading actor for an Alfred Hitchcock film, and he shares some similarities with Ray Milland for Dial M For Murder. They both spend most of their time in their home, although Stewart's character is forced to be there, whereas Milland happens to be there just by the way the film is set up. They are also both romantically involved with Grace Kelly. The difference here is great though in that Ray Milland's character is already married to her, and plans to murder her, whereas James Stewart's Jeff is very reluctant to marry Kelly's Lisa who is a wealthy socialite.

Stewart is in every scene of this film even if it drifts from him it still is in Jeff's point of view as he glances out his window and witnesses the various events in the lives of the people outside his window. Stewart does something in the role that is important early on which is that he portrays Jeff's only real reason for doing what he does is boredom. Stewart never portrays there as any sinister quality in his voyeurism, he simply has nothing better to do with his time and his broken leg, and as well Stewart conveys the natural curiosity in the photojournalist Jeff.

As usual Stewart does indeed have his bountiful charm on display here as usual that is at least in some way able to make his relationship with Kelly believable. In the same way though Stewart though mutes his charisma just enough to really shows the way sitting around and doing nothing has taken a bit of a toll on Jeff. Jeff is a man who is always seeking something to do constantly, always looking for some sort of excitement, so it is fitting that Stewart so well portrays the fact that Jeff instantly hones in on the first thing outside that might rid himself of his boredom in some way.

Stewart is very effective as well in the personal scenes where Jeff argues with Kelly's Lisa over his lack of commitment which stems from the fact he believes she would not able to take the sort of lifestyle that he desires. Stewart is able to be convincing in his near rejection of her, by really conveying well that it is all part of his own weaknesses. Unlike in so many of Stewart's pre It's A Wonderful Life performances there is a distinct lacking in Jeff, and there is a great deal of hesitation Stewart pulls into Jeff that creates the insecurities that creates the rift that leave the two unfulfilled.

Although hesitant in his personal life Stewart does not show the same hesitation within Jeff when he is coming up with his theory about a murder across the courtyard. Stewart is interesting here in that there is not quite that same old Jimmy Stewart passion you might see in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, as this is a darkly comic piece by Alfred Hitchcock. There is the same clear insurance of the fact that he is right though that is always unshakable but Stewart here always manages to be actually more casual regarding the whole thing easily adding more comedic lines along with his theories about what happened to the man's wife.

Stewart is incredible as we follow him through as he subtly suggests in the slightest glance, or look that Jeff's internal workings has deciphered a part of the plot, and he is easy to go along with the whole way done his voyeuristic journey. He is always a man of reactions and Stewart nails everyone perfectly being a very real person in the situation that usually mirrors are own reactions to certain moments during the film. I would say his very very best moment in his performance though comes late in the picture when Lisa goes over to the supposed killer's place and he returns home while she is still inside.

Stewart simply is perfect in this pivotal and most suspenseful scene as he reflects are own reaction. All of the horror of the scene is made genuine through Stewart's heart wrenching as Jeff watches helplessly from the distance. Stewart's brings to life the moment as he squirms in fear over seeing the terrible event transpire in front of him. This great part of Stewart's portrayal pretty much sums up the whole of his performance. Stewart manages to provide a realistic portrait who we can easily go along through the sometimes quite seedy world of being a voyeur. He hones the film in and grounds it throughout.


Josh said...

I love this performance. Glad you did too.

By the way, I've just given you an award! If you want to accept it, stop by my blog. http://classicblanca.blogspot.com/2012/07/the-liebster-blog-award.html

dinasztie said...

I don't see how he wasn't nominated. He's indeed perfect.

Fritz said...

Great performance!

Anonymous said...

Amazing as always! This is why he's the best actor that ever lived!!! You HAVE to review his brilliant performance in Vertigo when you do 1958!!! Please!!

Michael Patison said...

What a fantastic performance in a fantastic movie. 1954 was certainly the year that Hitchcock finally succeeded magnificently in his efforts to make a great thriller that has its setting in one (or at least one main) location. He made two, both of which Louis has reviewed and both of which I would put in my top 10 Hitchcock movies. (Rear Window is definitely in my top 5, but I'm not sure about Dial M for Murder yet).

dshultz said...

He may very well be your winner. I know I would be down with that.

Nues20 said...

He was brilliant!