'The Window' | Spring 2019
March 31, 2019
The Katharina Otto-Bernstein Screening Room
Lenfest Center for the Arts
615 W. 129 St.
New York, NY 10027
March 31st, 2019 1:00 pm -
Followed by free screening of "Four O'Clock"
The Window (1:00 pm)
1949 / 73 min / b/w
Dir. Ted Tetzlaff / Scr. Mel Dinelli
Cast: Bobby Driscoll, Arthur Kennedy, Paul Stewart
Adapted from the short story “The Boy Cried Murder,” Mystery Book Magazine, March 1947
35mm print courtesy of the Film Noir Foundation Collection at the UCLA Film & Television Archive
Introduced by James Schamus, Columbia University
This screening was part of The Second Annual Dr. Saul and Dorothy Kit Film Noir Festival
Into the Night: Cornell Woolrich and Film Noir
Five years after writing the story that would become Rear Window (1954), Cornell Woolrich penned another tale of murder as seen from an apartment window in New York City on a hot summer night.
NYC was a favorite setting for Woolrich. Indeed, nearly half the films in this retrospective are set there. With this story, Woolrich finds a riff on Aesop’s “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” fable. Picture Jimmy Stewart’s character in Rear Window as a chronically lying nine-year-old boy and you have a decent idea of where The Window takes its viewers. Connections to Hitchcock abound: In addition to the Rear Window parallels, The Window was also directed by Ted Tetzlaff, the cinematographer on Notorious (1946).
The Window is a taut coming-of-age thriller in its own right, though it remains of special interest for how it differs from Hitchcock’s masterpiece. The film retains Woolrich’s noir instincts far more than Rear Window; its final act in particular sends its protagonist hurtling through dark, labyrinthine city streets. In terms of storytelling, The Window offers another key variation: Its lead (and we the viewers) have no doubt that a murder took place. Where Rear Window is propelled by uncertainty, The Window builds suspense without the layers of ambiguity. This faithful adaptation would be remade in 1966 as The Boy Cried Murder, an international co-production set in the Balkans.
"Four O'Clock" (2:30 pm)
(premiere episode of the NBC series Suspicion)
1957 / 51 min / b/w
Dir. Alfred Hitchcock / Scr. Francis M. Cockrell
Cast: E. G. Marshall, Nancy Kelly, Harry Dean Stanton
Adapted from the short story “Three O’Clock,” Detective Fiction Weekly, October 1, 1938
Digital copy courtesy of Universal Pictures
Introduced by Nico Baumbach, Columbia University
Few writers inspired the work of Alfred Hitchcock more than Cornell Woolrich. In addition to writing the source material for Rear Window, Woolrich had four of his works adapted for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including two episodes in the first season (1955-1956). “Four O’Clock” ran as the pilot episode of Suspicion, a short-lived NBC series executive-produced by Hitchcock. Of all the Woolrich adaptations under Hitchcock’s television empire, it was the only one directed by Hitch himself.
“Four O’Clock” aired eight months prior to the premiere of Vertigo (1958), and it shares that film’s affinity for long stretches of dialogue-free, slow-burn suspense. The plot is a distillation of pure Hitchcock and pure Woolrich: A watch repairman, consumed by fears of infidelity, builds a time bomb to murder his wife and her lover. But of course things don’t go nearly as planned.
Hitchcock paid homage to Woolrich during one of his trademark intros to Hitchcock Presents. “This is a mouse trap, as any fool can plainly see,” he said dryly. “It’s an amazingly effective tool. Cornell Woolrich, the author of tonight’s story, does not make mouse traps. Mr. Woolrich goes in for bigger game. He makes people traps, and very good ones, too.” There was perhaps no filmmaker, before or since, better equipped to bring these people traps to the screen than Hitchcock.
About the Dr. Saul and Dorothy Kit Film Noir Festival
Short story maestro, former Columbia student, muse of suspense filmmakers: Cornell Woolrich (1903–1968) lived all of these lives. The Second Annual Dr. Saul and Dorothy Kit Film Noir Festival presents 12 adaptations of Woolrich’s fiction: from the canonized masterworks of Alfred Hitchcock and François Truffaut to lesser known “B” films and Monogram potboilers. Many films will be screened in 35mm.
This festival is the second in a ten-year series devoted to the legacy of film noir. It was funded by a generous gift from alumnus Gordon Kit (Columbia College ’76), in honor of his parents.
For more information, contact [email protected]