I adore TCM.
Thanks to Ted Turner‘s genius, thousands of tasty morsels from the wonderful world of classic cinema are merely a couple of remote clicks away. Despite the abundance of good that TCM provides to the starving film fan, there is a downside to having only a handful of movies stored in their archive. Usually, this means that the network has the tendency to replay a lot of movies.
This would irritate me, normally, but there’s always an actor (or director in this case) that’s an exception to this phenomenon.
In this case, it’s Alfred Hitchcock.
A couple of months ago, I was on my way to visit some family members in the northern part of the United States.
I’m an anxious flyer so, naturally, to calm my pre-flight jitters, I turned on TCM just a few hours before my flight left the following morning. Fortunately, all throughout that month, the network decided to sporadically play Hitchcock‘s voyeuristic masterpiece Rear Window in celebration of what would have been Grace Kelly‘s 88th birthday.
I’ve seen Rear Window about a dozen times on several different occasions (I even own it on Blu-ray) but, for some reason, this viewing felt very unusual.
Instead of enjoying the cheeky humor, incredible sets, and the brilliant screenwriting, I took an active effort at trying to understand the intricate fusion between the character of Lisa Carol Fremont and Grace Kelly – the actress.
As you may know, it has often been said that Grace Kelly had a ‘dual persona.’
This is in reference to the “ice queen” image that plagued her throughout her career. There’s no denying that Kelly was a pretty reserved person in her personal life – depending on which biography you read, but what about her movies?
This is where my re-viewing of Rear Window helped me to understand that this dichotomy that followed her career (and to a lesser extent her private life) wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Lisa Carol Fremont as a character was at times rather selfish, stubborn, and oftentimes just plain rude. That’s understandable, of course, when you realize she’s dealing with a man with a proclivity for adventure and a fear of commitment (played to perfection by James Stewart), yet as I was re-watching Grace as Lisa with a different set of eyes, I quickly recognized, “well, of course, she would act this way.”
Alfred Hitchcock specifically picked Grace for this role due to this persona. Lisa was a fashionista, she loves clothing and even would forgo going on a trip with her boyfriend because she didn’t have the “proper attire” for the environment she’d be traveling in.
Who in their right mind would do something like that?
Right! An “ice queen” who gives off an air of entitlement and impenetrability.
There are some moments in the film where Lisa could be extraordinarily cold and distant, but it only ever happened when she was in crisis or when Jeff wasn’t conforming to her standards of what their relationship should look like.
Grace’s “ice queen persona” helps a lot in this aspect; she was the only actress that could’ve taken this role. Hitchcock deliberately crafted the role of Lisa Carol Fremont for Grace, he knew that if any other woman stepped into that role, the entire tone of the film could have been something that he didn’t intend to mean.
‘Hitch’ has always carefully crafted his pictures this way, it doesn’t surprise me that he chose Grace for this role. This same sentiment could be applied to her role in 1955’s To Catch a Thief as well.
If it wasn’t for Hitchcock‘s cinema IQ and Grace’s typecast, I don’t believe Rear Window would’ve been as good as it is.
It’s funny, all it took for me to understand this was my fear of flying and my love for overanalyzing movies.