The Window (1949)

The Window (1949) is a modest voyeur murder witness classic film noir period child endagerment noir thriller set within the confines of a crummy New York apartment block, which stars child actor Bobby Driscoll as a kid who witnesses a murder one hot night.

Because of his tendency to make stories up however, this poor kid is not believed by his parents and then by the cops, when he does the right thing and reports the crime.

Soon the murderous couple, played by Ruth Roman and Paul Stewart are on to the kid and attempting to psychologically squeeze him, creating a beautifully urban noir aura of paranoia.

There is no doubt that young Bobby Driscoll is the star that holds this picture together, and without him, it might be a mess. This was felt too Howard Hughes.

By the time The Window was ready for release in 1948, the millionaire Hughes had taken over the studio and refused to release it, saying it wouldn't make any money and that Bobby Driscoll wasn't so great an actor. 

Documentary Style Noir in The Window (1949)

However, in 1949, he was persuaded to release it, and it became a critical and financial success, earning many times its production costs.

Bobby Driscoll, voyeurism, witness in The Window (1949)

The Window  was directed by Ted Tetzlaff, who worked as a cinematographer on over 100 films, including another successful suspense film, Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious (1946). For his performances in this film and in So Dear to My Heart, Bobby Driscoll was presented with a miniature Oscar statuette as the outstanding juvenile actor of 1949 at the 1950 Academy Awards ceremony.

Bobby Driscoll and Arthur Kennedy -- dad doubts his son in The Window (1949)

The cops never believe the kids trope in The Window (1949)

The success of The Window, outwith the performance of young Bobby Driscoll is in the contained nature of the mis en scene which brilliantly captures derelict and poorer areas of New York, while at the same time capturing the summer heat and the small family units at the heart of the action.

Ever distrustful and shady -- the Bronx family noir in The Window (1949)

Bad poppa Paul Stewart in The Window (1953)

Ruth Roman in The Window (1949)

Ruth Roman and Paul Stewart combine to present a lousy noir marriage, where at least both are pulling in the same direction -- murder and theft. They are the bad film noir family. They live off strife and doubt, paranoia and petty crime, threat and alcohol are their suppers and hard distrust is their nightly bed.

Arthur Kennedy plays Bobby's father, and Barbara Hale his mother. They are a sound and sensible couple, trying to make their way, and convincingly frustrated by their son's stories. From these simple and unpretentious presentations, comes a convincing story. As a couple they are offset by the film noir marriage of Paul Stewart and Ruth Roman.

Docu-style noir street-life in The Window (1949)

In fact the entire cast do well in the close quarters confine feel of this voyeur film noir, one of the few to feature a child so prominently. 

Darkened hallways and corners contrast the sun-baked city streets shot for real in The Window (1949). The stairs and corridors are not the suburban dream but a place of open threat, not just a prison but a maze, and not just a maze but a terror show, with murder lurking at every corner in every hallway.

To bring fear to the home was a certain thrilling aspect of the film noir enterprise, and in the evil neighbours and destroyed buildings, creaking and collapsing properties and rugged rooftops, there are threats at every turn.

Bobby Driscoll in The Window (1949)

Barbara Hale as Mrs. Mary Woodry and Arthur Kennedy as Mr. Ed Woodry are the city soaked and somewhat struggling city dwellers, dealing with poverty, although their son's imagination is anything but poor, in their eyes.

But they have jobs which does not allow them the time for crime or even for the protection of their minor charge. And Booby can't tell when this adult peril is going to materialise, although when it does he is incredibly resourceful in dealing with it, making this an exciting and even existential battle of one against all the evil forces of the inner city combined at once.

Paul Stewart in The Window (1949)

Paul Stewart as Joe Kellerson and Ruth Roman as Mrs. Jean Kellerson are great as a classic film noir couple, locked in hard with each other and bonds of violence, petty crime and alcohol.

Bobby Driscoll as Tommy Woodry  was so good that for his performances in this film and in So Dear to My Heart, Bobby Driscoll was presented with a miniature Oscar statuette as the outstanding juvenile actor of 1949 at the 1950 Academy Awards ceremony -- something of a first.

Anthony Ross as Detective Ross fills the cracks and cracks the crime, almost. It isn't the cracking of the crime that gives The Window its good name, but the close breath of the killer who seems near as hell to the poor kid, who is not paranoid even though the nature of the assault would be paranoiac for any grown up.

On top of that there is some great stunt action in the large-scale ruins constructed to portray the breaking prison heart of New York City, which is a shambolic and perilous mess of old world buildings, no place for any human habitation but a decayed place of the dead and dying.

The heat of the sweltering summer nights is well evoked by the ensemble, and as much as Bobby Driscoll is the success story in The Window, the mis en scene of the summer in the city is pretty well executed, largely through the exhausted puffing and clear trials of the adult actors. 

That documentary style film noir view does not only express the grime and grinding power of poverty and decay, but it also frames the lot in a way that can be grasped on a level perhaps too deep to express in a script. The rows of slums, an entire landscape of hellish misery, crime and discomfort is evoked in a sun-rising image of the city coming to life.

Although it's two cities: the prison city and the corporate city of success, balanced Oz-like at the far reaches of the working class prison properties which lead to it across miles like an anicent termite mound.

Because of this and the compact scenery, the idea of city as prison is strong in this one. Working class New York is for certain a place of entrapment, an effect highlighted by the documentary street style film making so familiar to the film noir style -- an achievement best stated by the classic The Naked City by Jules Dassin, which used the same street style to high social and cinematic effect, creating something that was entirely separate from the 1930s -- a commentary that arose from a thing called docu-drama, in which half of what you are saying is solidly 100% film noir true -- and the other half are fated characters acting out conclusions amid these powerfully drawn environments.

This movie was actually finished two months before The Naked City (1948) was completed but for reasons mentioned around Howard Hughes, it didn't see release until a year after the Jules Dassin classic.

The notion is getting the camera out on the streets and forking film noir away from fantastical movie sets and into a real world of a backdrop, where the streets are real and the actors are not. It is a stunning effect, the entirety of documentary style noir, whichever angle it takes. 

The true new angle on all this paranoia is the fact that the adult world does not take the worked of children seriously, and the results are here terrible. 

Economical and deliberately lensed in deep focus, The Window roughs up the film noir style in its own way by brandishing new forms of doubt, somehow managing to evoke a prison feel which grabs the city, and plays out its morality counterpointing the bad family and the good family, with the innocence and wits of a child making the difference.

Look through The Window (1949) at Wikipedia

Films based on the works of Cornell Woolrich

THE WINDOW (1949) on

No comments:

Post a Comment