The Woman in the Window

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The Woman in the Window
WomanintheWindow.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Fritz Lang
Produced by Nunnally Johnson
Screenplay by Nunnally Johnson
Based on the novel Once Off Guard 
by J. H. Wallis
Starring Edward G. Robinson
Joan Bennett
Raymond Massey
Dan Duryea
Music by Arthur Lange
Cinematography Milton R. Krasner
Edited by Gene Fowler Jr.
Marjorie Johnson
Production
  company
International Pictures
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release date(s)
  • November 3, 1944 (1944-11-03) (United States)[1]
Running time 99 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Woman in the Window is a 1944 film noir directed by Fritz Lang that tells the story of psychology professor Richard Wanley (Edward G. Robinson) who meets and becomes enamored of a young femme fatale.[2]

Based on J. H. Wallis' novel Once Off Guard, the story features two surprise twists at the end. Scriptwriter Nunnally Johnson founded International Pictures (his own independent production company) after writing successful films such as The Grapes of Wrath (1940) and other John Ford films, and chose The Woman in the Window as its premiere project. Director Fritz Lang substituted the film's dream ending in place of the originally scripted suicide ending, to conform with the moralistic Production Code of the time.

The term "film noir" originated as a genre description, in part, because of this movie. The term first was applied to American films in French film magazines in 1946, the year when The Maltese Falcon (1941), Double Indemnity (1944), Laura (1944), Murder, My Sweet (1944), and The Woman in the Window were released in France.[3]

Plot[edit]

After criminology professor[4] Richard Wanley sends his wife and two children off on vacation, he goes to his club to meet friends. Next door, Wanley sees a striking oil portrait of Alice Reed (Joan Bennett) in a storefront window. He and his friends talk about the beautiful painting and its subject. Wanley stays at the club and reads Song of Songs. When he leaves, Wanley stops at the portrait and meets Reed, who is standing near the painting watching people watch it. Reed convinces Wanley to join her for drinks.

Later, they go to Reed's home, but an unexpected visit from her rich lover Claude Mazard (Arthur Loft) leads to a fight in which Wanley kills Mazard. Wanley and Reed conspire to cover up the murder, and Wanley disposes Mazard's body in the country. However, Wanley leaves many clues, and there are a number of witnesses. One of Wanley's friends from the club, district attorney Frank Lalor (Raymond Massey) has knowledge of the investigation, and Wanley is invited back to the crime scene, as Lalor's friend, but not as a suspect. As the police gather more evidence, Reed is blackmailed by Heidt (Dan Duryea), a crooked ex-cop who was Mazard's bodyguard. Reed attempts to poison Heidt with a prescription overdose when he returns the next day, but Heidt is suspicious and takes the money without drinking the drugs. Reed tells Wanley, who overdoses on the remaining prescription medicine.

Heidt is killed in a shootout immediately after leaving Reed's home, and police believe Heidt is Mazard's murderer. Reed races to her home to call Wanley, who is slumped over in his chair. In an impossible match on action, Wanley awakens in his chair at his club, and he realizes the entire adventure was a dream in which employees from the club were main characters in the dream. As he steps out on the street in front of the painting, a woman asks Wanley for a light. He adamantly refuses and runs down the street.

Cast[edit]

Background[edit]

As in Lang's Scarlet Street, released a year later, Edward G. Robinson plays the lonely middle-aged man and Duryea and Bennett co-star as the criminal elements. The Woman in the Window also features Raymond Massey as the District Attorney, a friend of Wanley.

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Joan Bennett as Alice Reed

When the film was released, the staff at Variety magazine lauded the film and wrote, "Nunnally Johnson whips up a strong and decidedly suspenseful murder melodrama in Woman in the Window. Producer, who also prepared the screenplay (from the novel Once off Guard by J.H. Wallis) continually punches across the suspense for constant and maximum audience reaction. Added are especially fine timing in the direction by Fritz Lang and outstanding performances by Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Raymond Massey and Dan Duryea."[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Woman in the Window: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved April 27, 2014. 
  2. ^ The Woman in the Window at the American Film Institute Catalog.
  3. ^ Silver, Alain, and Elizabeth Ward, eds. Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style, page 1, 3rd edition, 1992. Woodstock, New York: The Overlook Press. ISBN 0-87951-479-5.
  4. ^ Biesen, Sheri Chinen (2005). Blackout: World War II and the origins of film noir. Johns Hopkins University Press, ISBN 978-0-8018-8218-0
  5. ^ Variety. Staff film review, 1945. Accessed: August 14, 2013.

External links[edit]

Streaming audio[edit]