The Window

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For the Arthur Sullivan song cycle, see The Window (song cycle). For the How I Met Your Mother episode, see The Window (How I Met Your Mother).
The Window
The window 1949.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Ted Tetzlaff
Fred Fleck (assistant)
Produced by Frederic Ullman, Jr.
Dore Schary
Screenplay by Mel Dinelli
Story by Cornell Woolrich
Starring Barbara Hale
Arthur Kennedy
Paul Stewart
Ruth Roman
Bobby Driscoll
Music by Roy Webb
Cinematography Robert De Grasse
William O. Steiner
Edited by Frederic Knudtson
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release dates
  • May 17, 1949 (1949-05-17) (Premiere-Los Angeles)[1]
  • August 6, 1949 (1949-08-06) (US)[1]
Running time
73 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $210,000[2]

The Window is a 1949 American black-and-white suspense film noir, based on the short story "The Boy Cried Murder" (reprinted as "Fire Escape")[3] by Cornell Woolrich.[4] The film, which was a critical success, was produced by Frederic Ullman, Jr. for $210,000 but earned much more, making it a box office hit for RKO Pictures. The film was directed by Ted Tetzlaff, who worked as a cinematographer on over 100 films, including another successful suspense film, Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious (1946).


Set and filmed on location in the tenement section of New York's Lower East Side, the film tells the story of a young boy, Tommy Woodry (Driscoll), who has a habit of crying wolf. Late one night, he climbs up the building fire escape and sees his two seemingly normal neighbors, Mr and Mrs Kellerson, murder a drunken sailor in their apartment. No one, neither the boy's parents nor the police, believes young Tommy when he tells them what he has seen, since they all assume that this is just another of the boy's tall tales.

When Mrs. Woodry takes Tommy to apologize to the Kellersons, he refuses and they become suspicious of him. When Mrs. Woodry leaves to care for a sick relative and Mr. Woodry is away at his night job, the murderous neighbors plan to kill Tommy who has been locked in his room by his father to prevent further escapades. Under the pretense of going to the police, the Kellersons take Tommy to a dark alley, where they try to kill him. Tommy escapes, but the pair recapture him, taking him back to their apartment in a taxi. Tommy screams at a policeman for help, but the officer remembers Tommy as the boy who came to the station earlier and failed to convince the police. The Kellersons fool the cab driver by posing as Tommy's parents. Mr. Woodry returns to find Tommy missing. Mr. Woodry asks a police officer for help.

Meanwhile, the Kellersons have Tommy secured in their apartment. Tommy escapes and climbs on the roof pursued by Mr. Kellerson, but Mrs. Kellerson has a change of heart about killing Tommy. The police officer suggests Tommy went to see his mother, and he and Mr. Woodry leave the tenement. Tommy sees his father leave in his car and yells for him, which causes Mr. Kellerson to locate Tommy. The chase resumes with Tommy finding the body of the dead sailor. The upper building starts to collapse. As Mr. Kellerson is about to grab Tommy, a rafter collapses and Kellerson falls to his death. Tommy screams loud enough for neighbors to hear and call the police. The boy is rescued and his parents are proud of him.



Critical response[edit]

When the film was first released, The New York Times lauded the film and wrote, "The striking force and terrifying impact of this RKO melodrama is chiefly due to Bobby's brilliant acting, for the whole effect would have been lost were there any suspicion of doubt about the credibility of this pivotal character. Occasionally, the director overdoes things a bit in striving for shock effects, such as when the half-conscious boy teeters on the rail of a fire-escape or is trapped on a high beam in an abandoned house on the verge of collapse. However, though you may be aware of contrivance in these instances, it is not likely that you will remain immune to the excitement. Indeed, there is such an acute expression of peril etched on the boy's face and reflected by his every movement as he flees death in the crumbling house that one experiences an overwhelming anxiety for his safety."[5]

Film critic Dennis Schwartz discussed the noir aspects of the film and wrote, "The city slum is pictured as not an easy place to raise a child, as there appears no safe place to play. Though the times have changed, this taut tale nevertheless remains gripping and realistic. The modern city is not any less dangerous than the postwar years of the 1940s (undoubtedly even more dangerous). This film noir thriller exploits the meaning of the American dream to work hard for all the material things that were becoming available and ultimately find a utopia in the suburbs, as it cries out for the children left to their own devices to survive in such harsh surroundings as their parents have become too busy to raise them properly."[6]

TV Guide praised the film and wrote in a review of the film, "...this incredibly tense nail-biter stars Driscoll as a young boy who has a habit of crying wolf...The Window presents a frightening vision of helplessness, vividly conveying childish frustration at being dismissed or ignored by one's parents. Director and onetime cameraman Tetzlaff adroitly injects a maximum of suspense into the film, enabling the audience to identify with Driscoll's predicament and, interestingly, to view his parents as evil, almost as evil as the murderers themselves. Having photographed Hitchcock's Notorious just three years before, Tetzlaff had, without a shadow of a doubt, learned something of his suspense-building craft from the master of that art (as did just about every working director)...An exceptional film."[7]





The film has been remade three times:


  1. ^ a b "The Little Foxes: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved May 13, 2014. 
  2. ^ Richard Jewell & Vernon Harbin, The RKO Story. New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House, 1982. p237
  3. ^ Nevins, Francis M. (1988). Cornell Woolrich: First You Dream, Then You Die (New York, London, Tokyo: The Mysterious Press), pp. 332-333.
  4. ^ The Window at the Internet Movie Database.
  5. ^ The New Your Times. Film review, "'The Window, Depicting Terror of Boy in Fear of His Life," August 8, 1949. Last accessed: April 5, 2008.
  6. ^ Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, December 29, 2003. Last accessed: April 5, 2008.
  7. ^ TV Guide Film review, 2008. Last accessed: April 5, 2008.

External links[edit]