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Hitchcock's Rear Window: Narrative Structure

Marriage and Murder: The Double Plot

Underline = Camera Narrator.

Italics = Dialogue scenes in the apartment.
Bold = POV shots + Reaction shots.
(C. 1-17) = DVD Chapters
( Key moments.)
( Phone: Dialogue and Suspense.)

1. Blinds rolling up to reveal a view of apartments. (C. 1)

2. Camera Narrator introduces the world outside the window and J.B.
Jefferies. (C. 2)
3. Jeffries looking out the window and talking to Gunnison on
phone. (Phone #1)
o Women sunbathing.
o Miss Torso.
o The Artist.
o Composer.
o The Thorwalds.
4. Jeff scratches leg and looks out the window.
o Thorwald, the dog and the Artist.
5. Stella and Jeff. (C. 3)
6. Jeff looking out the window.
o Thorwald.
o The Artist.
o Miss Torso.
o Newlyweds.


7. Camera Narrator repeats the movement of #2 around the courtyard into

Jeff sleeping. (C. 4)
8. Jeff awakened by a Dream Girl.
9. Lisa and Jeff. The conflict.
10. Jeff looking out the window. (C. 5)
o Mrs. Thorwald.
o Miss Lonelyhearts having dinner alone.
11. Lisa and Jeff looking out the window.
o Miss Torso.
12. Jeff looking out the window.
o The Newlyweds
o Thorwalds fighting.
o Composer writing "Lisa."
13. Lisa and Jeff. The song and the dinner.
14. Lisa and Jeff. "You don't think either of us can ever change? (C. 6)
15. Jeff looking out the window. A scream and glass breaking. (Murder
Mystery Plot begins.)
16. Jeff looking out the window. (C. 7)
o Fire escape couple goes inside.
o Thorwald leaves with suitcase.
o Jeff checks watch:1:55 am.
o Jeff checks watch 2:35 am.
o Thorwald returns.
o Composer comes in drunk.
o Thorwald leaves again.


17. Jeff looking out the window.

o Miss Torso comes home.
o Thorwald returns.
18. Jeff falls asleep. Camera Narrator shows:
o Torso's apartment.
o Thorwalds' apartment.


19. Jeff asleep. Camera Narrator shows :

o Thorwald and woman leaving.
o Back to Jeff asleep.

20. Camera Narrator shows: (C. 8)
o The Artist: "Hunger"
o Miss Torso dancing.
o The dog being lowered in the basket.
o Moves inside the apartment to Stella massaging Jeff.
21. Stella and Jeff. Jeff's suspicions.
22. Jeff and Stella looking out the window.
o Thorwald looking out his window.
o Dog digging in the flowers.
o Thorwald cleaning a suitcase.
23. Jeff looking out the window with binoculars and Telephoto lens.
o Thorwald packing a suitcase.
o Thorwald wraps knife in newspaper.
o Thorwald sleeping on couch.


24. Camera Narrator repeats the movement of #2 and #7 into Jeff and
Lisa. (C.9)
25. Lisa and Jeff.
26. Jeff looking out the window and talking to Lisa.
o Miss Torso.
27. Lisa and Jeff looking out window and arguing.
o Thorwald.
28. Lisa looking out window. "Tell me everything you saw and what you
think it means." (Marriage and Murder Plots merge.)
o Thorwald tying up truck.


29. Jeff looking out the window. Lisa phones him about Thorwald's
name. (Phone #2)
o Thorwald in his living room.
o Cigarette glowing.


30. Jeff on phone with Detective Doyle. Stella serves witty repartee. (Phone
31. Stella joins Jeff in looking out the window.
o Thorwald smoking in living room.
32. Jeff looking out the window.
o Miss Torso dances.
o Newlyweds.
33. Jeff and Stella looking out the window.
o Delivery men pick up the trunk.
34. Jeff looking out the window.
o Thorwald phoning.
o Stella in street.


35. Doyle and Jeff. (C. 10)

36. Jeff looking out the window.
o Dog digging. Thorwald pushes him away.
o Detective goes to check out manager.


37. Doyle and Jeff.

38. Doyle looking out the window.
o Miss Torso.
39. Doyle and Jeff.
40. Jeff scratching in his cast.
41. Jeff looking out the window with camera lens. (C. 11)
o Dog lowered.
o Lonelyhearts leaves and crosses to bar.
o Composer's party.
o Miss Torso's dance lesson.
o Thorwald returns with laundry box.
42. Jeff calls Doyle's house while looking out the window. (Phone #4)
o Thorwald emptying his wife's purse and phoning.
o Composer's party.
o Thorwald packing.
43. Lisa joins Jeff in looking out the window.
o Thorwald in his living room.
o Thorwald leaves.
44. Lisa and Jeff. Lisa the detective.
45. Lisa looking out the window. "That song again."
o Composer plays "Lisa."
46. Jeff and Lisa.
47. Jeff looking out the window.
o Newlyweds.
48. Doyle and Jeff. (C.12)
49. Doyle looking out the window.
o Composer's party.
o Thorwald's apartment.
50. Doyle, Jeff and Lisa. All the "evidence" refuted. (Phone #5)
51. Jeff and Lisa looking out the window. C. 13)
o Composer party.
o Miss Torso exercising.
o Lonelyhearts almost raped.
52. Jeff and Lisa. Rear Window Ethics. The curtains fall on the mystery.
53. Lisa in her night gown. Scream.
54. Lisa and Jeff looking out the window.
o Dog is dead.
o Reactions of the people in the apartments.
55. Jeff and Lisa looking out the window. (The dog who knew too
o Thorwald's cigarette.
o Cigarette glowing.


56. Stella, Lisa and Jeff looking out the window. (C. 14) (The three
o Thorwald scrubbing bathroom walls.
o The flower bed.
57. Stella, Lisa and Jeff. Slides of the flowers and looking out the
window at the flowers.
o Thorwald packing.
58. Stella, Lisa and Jeff. Jeff writes note to Thorwald.
59. Jeff looking out the window.
o Lisa delivering the note.
o Thorwald packing.
60. Stella looking out the window.
o Lonelyhearts and her pills.
o Composer playing "Lisa."
61. Lisa returns from her mission: Jeff's reaction. (Jeff's reaction-shot.)
62. The three looking out the window.
o Thorwald and the handbag.
63. The three detectives: the ring is in the flower bed. Plan to phone
64. Camera Narrator gives shot of Lonelyhearts closing blinds.
65. Jeff phones Thorwald.
66. Jeff looking out the window and talking to Thorwald. (Phone #6)
67. Lisa and Stella leave to dig up the flowers. Jeff to prepare the flash
68. Jeff looking out the window.
o Thorwald on the street.
69. Jeff preparing flash bulbs.
70. Jeff looking out the window and calling Doyle's house. (Phone #7)
o Lisa and Stella digging up the flowers.
o Thorwald's apartment.
o Lisa and Stella digging.
o Composer playing "Lisa."
o Lisa waving to Jeff.
o Lonelyhearts writing.
o Stella digging. No ring.
71. Jeff looking out the window. C. 15)
o Lisa entering T's apartment. Finds purse. No ring.
72. Stella joins Jeff looking out the window. Jeff calls the police. (Phone
o Lisa searching.
o Lonelyhearts about to take pills.
o Composer playing "Lisa."
o Lonelyhearts hears the song and stops.
o Lisa hears the song; shows jewelry.
o Thorwald returns and catches Lisa.
o The police arrive.
o Lisa shows the ring.
o Thorwald sees the ring and Jeff.
73. Jeff and Stella getting bail for Lisa.
74. Camera Narrator shows Thorwald looking at Jeff's window and leaving.
75. Doyle phones Jeff. (Phone #9) ("You should have seen her.")
76. Jeff looking out the window.
o Thorwald's apartment is empty.
77. The phone rings. The Detective meets the Killer. (C. 16) (Phone #10)
78. Jeff, Lisa, Doyle and Stella. (Marriage and Murder plots
resolved.) (Gee, I'm proud of you.)
79. Camera Narrator repeats the movement of #2, #7 and #24 around the
apartments into Jeff and Lisa. (C. 17)
o Lonelyhearts and the Composer.
o Painting Thorwald's apartment.
o The new puppy in the basket.
o Miss Torso's man comes home.
o The Artist is sleeping.
o The Newlyweds bickering.
80. Jeff sleeping. Lisa reading Beyond the High Himalayas and Bazaar.
81. Blinds roll down.


Marriage and Murder: The Double Plot

Hitchcock's Rear Window: Narrative Structure

Rear Window has a double plot: the romantic comedy and the murder mystery. The
murder mystery is adapted from Woolrich's short story, "It Had to Be Murder," but the
romantic comedy, which is the main plot, is completely new material.

I want to lay out schematically the relationship between the two plot lines, which will
reveal how the mystery is the subordinate plot that serves the development and
resolution of the romantic comedy. The #'s refer to the Rear Window: Narrative

The romantic comedy plot is the conflict between Jeff and Lisa about marriage.
 The major theme of the problems of love and marriage is tangentally
introduced in #3 in which Jeff is looking out his window while talking
on the phone to Gunnison, his editor. Jeff suggests he's so bored he
might even consider doing something as foolish as getting married. But
what is a comic allusion to the central issue, soon takes a darker turn
when Jeff observes the Thorwalds' fighting. A red flag about marriage.
 The theme is made explicit in #5: a dialogue scene between Jeff and
 I think you're right. There is going
 to be some trouble around here.

 Stella takes a handful of oil, slaps it on his back. He
 winces.

 I knew it!

 Don't you ever heat that stuff up.

 Gives your circulation something to
 fight.
 (Begins massaging his
 back)
 What kind of trouble?

 Lisa Fremont.

 You must be kidding. A beautiful
 young woman, and you a reasonably
 healthy specimen of manhood.

 She expects me to marry her.

 That's normal.

 I don't want to.

 (Slaps cold oils on
 him)
 That's abnormal.

 (Wincing)
 I'm not ready for marriage.

In the course of their discussion the specific conflict between Jeff and
Lisa emerges. It's the conflict of social class. Lisa is rich and Jeff is just a
working-class guy.
She's just not the girl for me.

She's only perfect.

Too perfect. Too beautiful, too
talented, too sophisticated, too
everything -- but what I want.

Is what you want something you can

Jeff gives an exasperated look.

It's very simple. She belongs in
that rarefied atmosphere of Park
Avenue, expensive restaurants, and
literary cocktail parties.

People with sense can belong wherever
they're put.

Can you see her tramping around the
world with a camera bum who never
has more than a week's salary in the
(Almost to himself)
If only she was ordinary.

Stella sprinkles powder on his back, spreads it


THE CAMERA PULLS BACK as she helps Jeff to a

sitting position.
He buttons on his shirt.

You're never going to marry?

Probably. But when I do, it'll be to
someone who thinks of life as more
than a new dress, a lobster dinner,
and the latest scandal. I need a
woman who'll go anywhere, do anything,
and love it.

The key line in terms of the plot is the last one because it is setting
up the function of the murder mystery plot, which is to provide Lisa
the opportunity to prove to Jeff that she is exactly the kind of
woman "who'll go anywhere, do anything and love it."

 In 8 &9 the "dream girl"enters with a kiss. We see immediately that Lisa
is from a different social world--one that makes Jeff uncomfortable. The
two begin immediately to argue over the central issue. Lisa wants Jeff to
change and he doesn't want to.
 In #13 & 14 they engage in witty repartee about their conflict. Jeff seems
convinced that Lisa is not capable of living in his world although she
continually suggests that she could. The scene ends in a stalemate. They
can't agree and it looks like Lisa is going to end the relationship.
However, she exits the scene with a witty reprieve. To Jeff's anxious
question: "when'll I see you again?," she replies as she walks out through
the door:
 Not for a long time. Not, at least
 until --
 (She begins smiling)
 -- tomorrow night.
 In #15 immediately after their relationship has reached an impasse, Jeff
is looking out the window when he hears a scream and glass
breaking. The murder mystery begins.
 In #16 through #24, Jeff becomes the detective, gradually convinced
that Thorwald has killed his wife. He tells Stella his suspicions and she
joins in him in his detective work.
 The romantic comedy theme returns to center stage when Lisa reappears
in #25. The scene is comic because Lisa is trying to make love and Jeff
is preoccupied with the murder mystery. Lisa is horrified by Jeff's
suspicions. They carry on a lively dialogue in #25-27 in which Lisa
refutes his every suspicion. She can't undertstand his avoidance of her
and his crazy theories about a murder. Once again, they seem caught in
irreconcilable conflict. Their relationship looks to be about over.
 But then in #28 the scene ends with the big change. Lisa looks out the
window and finally sees what Jeff has seen: "Tell me everything you
saw and what you think it means."

This is a key moment because the two plot lines merge and become
one. Lisa now joins with Jeff as his co-detective. They are no longer
in conflict, but working together to solve the murder mystery. They
are joined by Stella who becomes the third member of the detective
team. Together they will solve the mystery and in the course of their
working together the conflict between Jeff and Lisa will also be

 In #35, Doyle is introduced in order to complicate solving the mystery.

He fulfills the standard cop role in detective fiction: to provide obstacles
to the easy solution of the crime. He questions their so-called evidence
that there has been a murder.
 While Doyle is doing his checking, Jeff keeps a close eye on Thorwald's
 #44 is a key dialogue scene because Lisa takes on an active role as a
 THE CAMERA CLOSES IN, Lisa stops, faces him. Her eyes sparkle,
 and her body is tense with concentration.

 A woman has a favorite handbag -- it
 always hangs on her bedpost where
 she can get at it. Then she takes a
 trip and leaves it behind. Why?

 Because she didn't know she was going
 on a trip -- and where she was going
 she wouldn't need a handbag.

 THE CAMERA eases back.

 But only her husband would know that.
 (Starts to pace again)
 And the jewelry! Women don't keep
 all their jewelry in a purse, all
 tangled, getting scratched and twisted
 up.

 Do they hide it in their husband's
 clothes?

 They do not! And they don't leave it
 behind them. A woman going anywhere
 but the hospital would always take
 makeup, perfume and jewelry.

 Inside stuff?

 Basic equipment. You don't leave it
 behind in your husband's drawer in
 your favorite handbag.

 I'm with you, sweetie, but Detective
 Thomas J. Doyle has a pat answer for
 that.

 That Mrs. Thorwald left at six ayem
 yesterday with her husband?

 That's what the witnesses told him.

 Well, I have a pat rebuttal for Mr.
 Doyle -- that couldn't be Mrs.
 Thorwald -- or I don't know women.

 Still -- those witnesses.

 We'll agree they saw a woman -- but
 she wasn't Mrs. Thorwald. -- That
 is, yet.

 She comes over to Jeff. He reaches up, takes her

 Come here.

 He pulls her into his lap. She puts her arms
around him. She
 is very happy, and kisses Jeff's cheek.

 I'd like to see your friend's face
 when we tell him. He doesn't sound
 like much of a detective.

 Don't be too hard on him. He's a
 steady worker. I wish he'd get there,
 though.

 (Nuzzling Jeff)
 Don't rush me. We have all night.

 There's a pause. Then Jeff moves back a little to
look her
 straight in the eye.

 We have all -- what?

 Night. I'm going to stay with you.

 You'll have to clear that through my
 landlord --

 She cuts him off with a kiss. When she pulls back

 I have the whole weekend off.

 Well that's fine, but I only have
 one bed, and --

 Lisa smothers him with another kiss. She lets up.

 Say anything else, and I'll stay
 tomorrow night too.

 Lisa, I won't be able to give you
 any --

 She smothers him with still another kiss. Then
moves back.

 -- pajamas.

Notice Jeff's reaction to Lisa. He's surprised at her cleverness and

responds to her with desire and a kiss. She follow his response with
another surprise. She's going to spend the night. Lisa is turning out to be
different than he had imagined.

 #45 &46 complicate the romantic comedy by maintaining the

uncertainty of their relationship. Hearing the song "Lisa" initiates
repartee about the possiblities of getting together, which are not resolved
because Doyle enters to shift the focus back to the murder mystery.
 #50 is the moment in which Doyle refutes their arguments and
demonstrates that their "evidence" had simple explanations.
 #51 & 52 are the low-point for the would-be detectives. Lisa expresses
their sense of guilt and shame with her "rear window ethics" speech. She
lowers the curtains which signals the end of the murder mystery.
 #53-55. A sudden scream. The dog is dead. Lisa and Jeff see Thorwald's
cigarette glowing in the dark. Jeff has his final proof. The murder
mystery resumes.
 #56. Stella, Lisa and Jeff looking out the window. From this point on the
three detectives are committed to getting the evidence they need to
convict Thorwald. They each become active participants in exposing
 #56-78. Although the three are involved in outwitting Thorwald, the
major significance of the action is to provide Lisa with the
opportunity to demonstrate to Jeff her flair for adventure. She is
courageous, daring and clever.
 #61. Lisa risks herself by delivering the note to Thorwald. She waves to
Jeff as she does it. When she returns, Jeff's reaction-shot is the telling
moment in the film. As she comes in the room, the camera cuts to his
face--his eyes are sparkling with admiration and desire. This is the
turning point in their relationship. This one look communicates the
change that has taken place in Jeff.
 #70--72. Lisa is only getting started. She goes with Stella to dig up the
flowers looking for the ring. In the middle of the adventure, she happily
waves to Jeff who waves back at her with a gleam in his eyes.
There is no ring. But then Lisa does the unthinkable. She decides on her
own to climb into Thorwald's apartment to find the ring. She risks her
life, she's caught by Thorwald, but outwits him and finds the ring. In this
dramatic scene of cutting between Jeff's pov of Lisa and her daring-do
and his reaction shots, Lisa reveals her fearless character. Jeff is
completely enthralled. She really is the perfect woman.

 #75. Doyle phones Jeff who puts him onto Thorwald. The key line is
what Jeff says to Doyle: " You should have seen her."
 The murder mystery plot is completed with the suspenseful
confrontation between Jeff and Thorwald.
 The romantic comedy plot is resolved when Lisa, Doyle and Stella rush
to the injured Jeff and he beams up at Lisa and says: "Gee, I'm so proud
of you."
 The Camera Narrator ties up happy and humorous endings to all the
mini-stories in the rear window apartments. Then with a nice comic
flourish repeats the opening scene showing Jeff sleeping, with two
broken legs. However, this time he is not alone, but with the
woman "who'll go anywhere, do anything"--who reads both Beyond the
High Himalayas and Bazaar.