Where is Mrs. Thorwald?… (And Other Intimate Partner Details)
“Good Evvvaning…This is Alfred Hitchcock speaking…
Welcome to a trip down memory lane. Tonight I will discuss one of my favorite films for the youngsters in the audience (i.e. those born after the 1960’s).
You missed some awfully good work, you know…”
“However, before I begin, I should like to enlighten you with some little known facts about myself… If you think them strange, well, so be it. I have always been thought of as an odd duck. In the meantime, should you wish to read my most recent biography and photo collection, with a forward by my daughter, Patricia Hitchcock O’Connell,
Hitchcock, Piece by Piece, I would be most pleased… even from the grave… “
“First of all, I was born one day before my wife, Alma on August 13, 1899, just before the turn of the Century, I suppose that means we were meant for each other.”
“I have always had a preference for the fair haired blonde women as actors for my films. Grace, Kelly, Ingrid Bergman, Janet Leigh, Eva Marie Saint, and Tippi Hedren, to name but a few. Perhaps I am partial to the California sunshine versus the drizzle of England.”
“How did I come to this fascination with murder mysteries? Well, it’s about storytelling…just as it is with Ladyjustice. As a boy, each day I was required to stand at the foot of my mother’s bed and tell her what happened to me… to give a daily report.”
“My father once wrote a letter to the local police station, asking the officer to lock me in jail for ten minutes. The officer complied and then he told me, “This is what happens to people who do bad things.
I’ve been frightened of the police ever since.”
So, I decided to put my story of reporting to my mother in the movie “Psycho” played by Tony Perkins.
In fact, I wanted the inscription, “This is what we do to bad little boys” on my tombstone.” If you’ll take a peek, I obviously didn’t get my wish.”
“I chose to make a cameo appearance in each of my films. Perhaps it was my way of being part of the story…of being immortal. My daughter , Patricia was in several of my films as well.”
“As far as never being awarded an Oscar for my works of art, I’ll say that Hollywood is contemptuous! All I need is my audience!
REAR WINDOW and MRS. THORWALD:
Now, if you will excuse me, I will get back to the discussion of one of my favorite films, Rear Window.
Rear Window was made in 1954 (the birth year of Ladyjustice). Adapting a short story into a film is tricky… but we accomplished it. There is nothing more mundane than being laid up with broken bones and watching the world go by, correct? I beg to differ… we were able to capture the everyday lives of everyday people through the lenses of a photographer’s camera… and we discovered something out of the ordinary – a murder!
As Thelma Ritter’s character so aptly tells us, “We’ve become a race of peeping Toms.” I suppose that in 2011, voyeurism could now be considered a form of stalking.
[According to the Vermont Victim Assistance Academy, Chapter 15: Stalking:
Voyeuristic behavior, a form of which is commonly known as “peeping tom” behavior, can be a component or a precursor to stalking or acts of sexual violence. In 2005, Vermont created the crime of voyeurism. Under 13 V. S. A. 2605, people are prohibited from intentionally hiding, waiting, or loitering in a place for the purpose of viewing another person’s nude or partially clothed body without the person’s consent when the person being viewed has a reasonable expectation of privacy. It also prohibits viewing or recording a person’s intimate areas under circumstances where the person should have reasonable expectation of privacy. There are increased penalties if the person records the image of the other person’s nude or partially clothed body, and further penalties if they distribute these images.]
If not for the idea of murder, Jeffries (Jimmy Stewart) might well have died of boredom rather than at the hands of Thorwald (Raymond Burr).
We have the interesting relationship of Jeffries and Lisa Freemont, a debutant, prima donna, and unwilling sleuth. Her character is all about image, superficiality …and then the murder becomes a reality…and a life changing experience.
We have a rich cast of characters:
1) Jeff Jefferies– a veteran action photographer whose professional life has been spent in the jungles and deserts of the world;
2) Lisa Freemont – the socialite who secretly dreams of trading in her glitter and glamor for a wedding band;
3) Lt. Thomas Doyle – a police detective who was an Army Air Corp pilot with Jefferies who saved Jeffries life during World War II;
4) Stella ___ “an insurance company nurse” whose rightful profession in 2011 would be a cross between a companion and a home care nurse. She dispenses wisecracks, sage advice and becomes a co-conspirator-sleuth in the solving of the murder of Mrs. Thorwald;
5) Miss Lonely hearts – a single “middle aged spinster” who plays out her sad romantic fantasies for all to see;
6) Miss Torso – a neighbor who is a professional dancer, practicing in her underwear;
7) Mr. Songwriter – who can’t quite finish his latest composition;
8) The “Yong Marrieds” – this couple lives above Lars Thorwald. They own a dog that is “mysteriously killed;”
9) The “Newlywed Couple”- They play out their relationship from silhouettes on the shade through their nagging period;
10) Lars Thorwald – a salesman; an unhappy man who believed he planned the perfect murder “hidden in plain sight;”
11) Anna Thorwald– Lar’s victimized and ultimately murdered wife;
So the story goes… In the beginning, Jeff Jeffries “innocently spies on all of his neighbors for amusement and to pass the time away” while healing from a broken leg. And then… Jeffries notices Lars Thorwald, jewelry salesman, making repeated late night trips carrying a metal case. Previously, Anna Thorwald was bed-ridden and is “suddenly gone” leaving behind her purse and jewelry.” Thorwald is seen cleaning a knife and hand saw and is in possession of a large trunk tied with a rope. Is this where Mrs. Thorwald is?
A pivotal point in the story is the occurrence of a neighbor’s dog with his neck broken. As the neighbor wails and “scolds her neighbors” in frustration, everyone rushes to their window or terrace to view the scene, except Thorwald. His apartment remains dark with only a lit cigar seen.
Such behaviors would appear to indicate a suspicious pattern of conduct. Lt. Doyle does a cursory investigation earlier and discovers that the trunk was supposedly delivered to Anna Thorwald’s sister with a bogus postcard sent (by Thorwald) to himself. And… as a preventative measure, it seems that the little dog “could become too curious” about possible evidence.
A daring Lisa nearly becomes the next murder victim by home invasion and locates a key piece of evidence…. just like our modern day sleuths like Diane Fanning and Susan Murphy Milano!
An Excerpt from the Movie as Jeff Jefferies Plays Detective: (www.filmsite.org)
“Later in the day, Tom reports back to Jeff with witness accounts that rebuff all of Jeff’s speculations. The building superintendent and two tenants saw Thorwald leave the apartment with his wife the previous morning at about 6 am (while Jeff was sleeping) to go to the railroad station. Thorwald allegedly put her on a train to the country. Jeff doesn’t believe that anyone actually saw her get on the train: “Well, what good’s his information? It’s a second-hand version of an unsupported story by the murderer himself, Thorwald.” To counter Jeff’s persistence, Tom replies: “Now, did anyone, including you, actually see her murdered?”
“Solving the case” rather than appearing “foolish,” Jeff demands that Tom go over to Thorwald’s apartment for a search before the evidence disappears: “It must be knee-deep in evidence.” Tom refuses capitulating to his “amateur sleuth” friend, citing proper judicial procedures and the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. He must follow the legal requirements for a judge-issued search warrant (based upon substantial evidence). Jeff becomes passionately sarcastic and critical of his cool and professional detective/friend:
Jeff: What do you need? ‘Bloody footsteps leading up to the door?
Tom: One thing I don’t need is heckling.
As Tom prepares to leave, he matter-of-factly informs Jeff of one further finding – the retrieval of a postcard in Thorwald’s mailbox from his wife Anna (mailed the previous day at 3:30 in the afternoon). It says that she arrived safely in Meritsville, 80 miles to the north. The postcard’s message: “Arrived OK. ‘Already feeling better. Love, Anna.” Once he is left alone, Jeff seems disappointed by the news. He extends his reach with the back scratcher to relieve the itch on his big toe.
That night, Jeff observes more activities of his neighbors with the aid of his camera’s telephoto lens. Thorwald’s actions raise further suspicions in his mind:
- The dog is lowered in the basket to the salesman’s garden.
- ‘Miss Lonelyhearts’ primps in front of her dressing room mirror, takes a few stiff drinks and then goes out, apparently looking for male company.
- The composer entertains well-dressed female guests in his studio.
- ‘Miss Torso’ rehearses a dance with a male partner and a female choreographer.
- ‘Miss Lonelyhearts’ enters a restaurant across the street and is seated alone at a table. The view is accompanied by a song with appropriate lyrics: “Many dreams ago, I dreamed many dreams waiting for my true love to appear though each night..” – she also briefly speaks to a passing Thorwald.
- Thorwald arrives home carrying a “EAGLE HEAD” laundry box from the cleaner’s, enters his apartment, takes the shirts out of the laundry box and begins packing a suitcase. (Worried that Thorwald is leaving, Jeff frantically calls Tom to come over, and then leaves a message for him.)
- Thorwald talks on the phone in the living room while sifting and rummaging through the contents of his wife’s alligator handbag – he handles her rings and jewelry. He lingers on a gold-banded (wedding?) ring. [The woman’s purse and jewelry is a Freudian reference to female sexuality.]
- More guests arrive – Village intellectuals – at a noisy party in progress in the musician’s studio.
Lisa, wearing a new hat and outfit, enters Jeff’s darkened apartment finding him peering out the window. After being briefed by Jeff on Thorwald’s latest behaviors (“He’s getting ready to pull out for good…”), Lisa explains how she has had a difficult time keeping focused on her work, because her mind has been focused on the mystery. She questions why Mrs. Thorwald would unpredictably leave behind her “favorite handbag” (with jewelry) hanging from her bedpost:
Lisa: It doesn’t make sense to me…Women aren’t that unpredictable…A woman has a favorite handbag and it always hangs on her bedpost where she can get at it easily. And then all of a sudden, she goes away on a trip and leaves it behind. Why?
Jeff: Because she didn’t know she was going on a trip. And where she’s going she wouldn’t need the handbag.
Lisa: Yes, but only her husband would know that. And that jewelry. Women don’t keep their jewelry in a purse, getting all twisted and scratched and tangled up.
Jeff: Well, do they hide it in their husbands’ clothes?
Lisa: They do not. And they don’t leave it behind either. Why, a woman going anywhere but the hospital would always take makeup, perfume, and jewelry…That’s basic equipment. And you don’t leave it behind in your husband’s drawer in your favorite handbag.
Then, she speculates that Thorwald is involved in an adulterous relationship with a female accomplice in the murder of his wife. Jeff is pleased with her deductive reasoning and hypothesis, and for once erotically attracted to her now that she has begun to take his views seriously:
Lisa:…That couldn’t have been Mrs. Thorwald…or I don’t know women.
Jeff: Well, what about the witnesses?
Lisa: We’ll agree they saw a woman but she was not Mrs. Thorwald, that is, not yet.”
Lisa’s questioning that a woman is seen by neighbors, but that it “was not Mrs. Thorwald,” raises the question of prior bad acts and the chances that Lars Thorwald, the “Willy Lowman of jewelry sales,” could have had a woman in every major city. Although credit cards were not in use at the time, couldn’t his steps have been traced via taxi, hotel and restaurant receipts, train station logs and accounting records?
Why didn’t Lt Doyle question telephone operators? And… Anna Thorwald was bed-ridden. What about previous medical records determining what her true state of health was? What was the MD recommendations? Was there an insurance policy on her life? What was the relationship of Thorwald and his employer? Was he in good standing, or was he trying to make a career change with a new woman by his side?
Who was the woman seen leaving with Thorwald as Jeff Jeffries slept? If she was a co-worker, of Thorwald’s sales company, would she have been questioned?
Suffice it to say, had Susan Murphy Milano been older than a little bambino,…. and had her “Time’s Up” book been written, Anna Thorwald could have… hired a lawyer; secured her personal records including medical and insurance company records, found alternate living arrangements, perhaps made a recording of her abuse and kept 10 steps ahead of Lars, her abuser. Such a pity!
Not even Hitch himself could have been “the master planner” for survivors of crime.
And finally, to “finish off the story, treat yourself to a couple of film clips: