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Rear Window and It had to be Murder

1637 words (7 pages) Essay in Film Studies

18/05/20 Film Studies Reference this

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“It had to be Murder” is a short story written by Cornell Woolrich, and “Rear Window” is its adaptation film by Alfred Hitchcock.  Both the short story and the film are explaining the same story of a woman that her husband murdered, but each one of them has their own characters and style. They are both giving the audiences brief feedback of what really happened in that neighborhood. Some of the characters of the film are “James Stewart as L.B. Jefferies and Raymond Burr as Lars Thorwald” (Hitchcock). There are important symbols in both the short story and the film. L.B. Jefferies’s camera is one of the most important symbols in the film. Jefferies uses the camera for different objectives in the film. For example, he takes pictures that can help him to use as evidence because he cannot stand up and go to Thorwald’s apartment. He also uses it to see clearly what is going on his neighbor, not only Thorwald’s apartment. In the short story, the rear window of the building is also an important symbol because it’s the place that Jeff sees everything happening around his apartment, such as Thorwald’s apartment, the young married couple, and the other activities of his neighbor. Even though the film and the short story have similar premises, “Rear Window” character creates more morally or ethically complex than the short story such as entertaining the audience, giving a short feedback of how the character lives, and making more realistic how the character helped the police to find out the man who murdered his wife.

In the short story, “It Had to Be Murder” the main point of the story is figuring out the murderer and his apartment, but in the film, the character had a whole life to focus more than the case, and that’s his future. The indirect presentation that takes part in the story is the neighborhood families that aren’t even aware someone is watching their daily basis. As Jeff explained in the first paragraph of the story, he “doesn’t even know the names” of the people that he’s watching them on the mirror (Cornell). He is also aware that they won’t feel good if they see him watching while minding their business, but they are so important to the readers of the story. For example, Jeff didn’t want to watch a specific apartment, but he realizes that there is something wrong with Thorwals’s apartment while he was watching the activities of all his neighborhood (Cornell).

In the “Rear Window,” the main point is the same as short story because the bigger picture is the murder too, but there are a lot of things that are forcing the audience to watch such as the relationship between L.B. Jefferies (James) and his girlfriend Lisa (Corey), the injured leg of Jefferies is also another interesting point for the audience, being a photographer is also another indirect presentation that helped him to see the most important sense of the mystery. For example, when he’s looking for the evidence of the woman that her husband murdered, he takes pictures that can help him to find a clue (Hitchcock). The relationship between Jeff and Lisa is an interesting story that makes the film more morally complex than the short story because Jeff always pays attention to the window more than his girlfriend and that action frustrates her, but she realizes that what he’s watching is important. Lisa also asks him to marry her and leave his photography job but refuses her suggestion (Hitchcock). The leg injury of Jefferies is also another point that is giving the audience good feedback of the story, and also the film. For instance, it is not easy to watch the window of your apartment if you’re healthy and have something to do, but when you realize that Jeff is injured and he can’t get out of his apartment, you’ll understand why he’s watching his neighbors activity that helped him to discover the murder case.

In the short story of  “It Had to Be Murder” Jeff’s day houseman is a man called Sam, while in the film there’s a lady called Stella that plays the role of “insurance company nurse” as she called herself in the film. Both Sam and Stella are playing different characters at the same roll, but Stella plays a much central in the film more than Sam does in the short story. Sam is one of the names that Jeff mentioned in the story. And Sam is an important person for the story because he’s the houseman or the assistant of Jeff. He comes to him every morning and helps him to prepare food, drinks, and also, he helps him the main point of the story. Sam is the person who went to Thorwald’s apartment and he recognizes the name of the people who live there. On the other hand, Stella (Thelma) is playing the role of “insurance company nurse” and she’s doing the same job that Sam does in “the short story”, but the difference is she participate more than Sam does. For example, whenever Jeff ask Sam to do something for him, he tells him not to ask why he’s doing that thing in the story, but in the film, Stella knows everything that Jeff needs her to do. Jeff didn’t even tell Sam when he sends Thorwald’s apartment to disturb everything to look like that someone came to the house and looking for something. He only told him that it’s dangerous and he can get shot or broke his leg for helping him (Hitchcock). In the film, Stella didn’t go to Thorwald’s apartment Lisa did and he didn’t even ask her to go. She goes there if she can find any evidence which she did, but Thorwald came back while she was in the room, and she nearly got killed by Thorwald (Hitchcock).

In the short story of “It Had to Be Murder” Jeff’s conflict is watching other people’s activities because he feels it’s not the right thing to do. He complains that he can’t get out of his house and mind his job. He said and I quote: “sure, I suppose it was a little bit like prying, could even have been mistaken for the fevered concentration of a Peeping Tom. That wasn’t my fault, that was not the idea. My movements were strictly limited just around this time” (Cornell). He would like to go out and mind his business, but he couldn’t and that was what made him upset about watching his neighbors’ windows each and every time. He felt guilty about doing that and it was illegal to do so, but what he finally found out by watching the window was so fascinating.

In Rear Window film, the character has an empathy of the other characters in the movie with him because he regrets when he sends his girlfriend Lisa and his nurse Stella to the house of the Murder Lars Thorwald. When Thorwald comes back while Lisa is in his home looking for evidence, he could have killed her if the police didn’t show up that quickly. He was always thinking about what happened to his neighbor. For example, before he found out that Thorwald may murder his wife he was thinking about her health. He paid a lot of attention because he felt that she needs help, and he taught that her husband was awake the whole night to help her. While he was worried about the other people’s problems, he forgot that he is an injured person that needs help too. Jeff’s empathy is also another important point that makes the film more reliable than the short story. Jeff made the story of the film more entertained and emotional than the short story because of his personal experience and the help of his team.

Both the short story and the film are teaching us how a person that can’t get out of his room can solve a murder case. The story by itself teaches the readers, how every detail of the mystery is important to the case, no matter how the detail is small or big. On the other hand, the film is another psychological lesson that whoever watches will never forget how everything is connected. For example, When Lisa and Jeff are talking about his behavior of watching other people’s windows without their notice, we learned how the ethical conduct of the person is so important even if his intention is hurting another people’s feeling. It’s also important to keep in mind how Jeff didn’t call the police, but instead, he called his old friend detective to help him find the truth of the case that started what looked like theory. We also learned from both the story and the film that friendship is so important no matter if you are a police officer or not. In conclusion, both the story and the film have similarities and also differences, but they both are a good lesson for each and every person who read and watch the film that no matter how disability you are, you can make a difference.

 Work citation:

  • Woolrich, Cornell. “It Had to Be Murder.” Miettecast.com. Miette’s Bedtime Story Podcast, 20 Feb. 2006. Web. Mar. 2013.
  • Rear Window. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. Perf. James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey. Paramount, 1954. Film.
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