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  • kenjha19 August 2007
    Following a chance meeting with a beautiful young woman, a forty-something professor unwittingly becomes involved in murder and blackmail while his family is away on vacation. Robinson is wonderful as always as the professor who is in over his head because of a moment's indiscretion. Bennett looks stunningly beautiful as the kind of woman who can lead any man astray. Duryea is appropriately slimy as a blackmailer. Lang is at the top of his form in this atmospheric and efficiently made film noir. Some feel cheated by the ending but it is actually quite clever. Interestingly enough, Lang reunited with Robinson, Bennett, and Duryea in his next film, "Scarlet Street."
  • This wonderfully entertaining "film noir" by master director Fritz Lang is a curiosity, defying all of our expectations as a viewer and basically subverting the "noir" genre barely before it had gotten started. The dark shadows, the femme fatale, the harboiled detectives, the murder... all the elements are in place for a typical outing, but when all is said and done, look back at the motivations, the events, even the "femme", and what we have is not a world of evil (the typical "noir" stance) but a world of innocence darkened by a few petty thugs. Like the more obviously subversive (and equally wonderful) "Kiss Me Deadly" fifteen years later, "The Woman in the Window" seems to say that evil only lives when people look hard enough for it - practically a "film noir" rebuttal. As in "M" and "Fury," Lang (a refugee from the Nazi regime) once again examines issues of social evil in ways more complex than any of his contemporaries. Enjoy "The Woman in the Window." The cast is impeccable, the writing a delight, the direction peerless, the music score years ahead of its time. A small feast.
  • It's hard to tell which element of "The Woman in the Window" (1944) contributes most to its excellence: script, direction, casting, performances, lighting, cinematography, scoring. So, it's probably safe to say, "All of the above!" "TWITW" introduces us to Assoc. Prof. Richard Wanley (Edward G. Robinson) of Gotham College, who has just seen his wife and two kids (young Robert Blake is "Dickie" Wanley) off for a two week summer vacation. Just prior to entering his men's club, he is captivated by the portrait of a beautiful woman in the display window of a neighboring storefront. His club member friends, District Attorney Frank Lalor (Raymond Massey) and surgeon Dr. Barkstane (Edmond Breon) notice him staring at the portrait and indulge the temporary "bachelor professor" in some good-natured ribbing before the three enter the club for drinks and conversation. As the evenings winds down, the doctor having subscribed some medication for Prof. Wanley who has complained of fatigue, the colleagues leave. Prof. Wanley asks for a 10:30 PM call in the event that he dozes off while reading in his club chair. Upon leaving the club, Wanley again stops at the portrait; and standing behind him is the model, Alice Reed (Joan Bennett), who posed for the artist. She admits that she frequently comes to the spot to check out people's rections to the painting. The small talk leads the two to an innocent drink at a club followed by a visit to her sumptuous apartment, where she shows Wanley other sketches by the artist.

    The intrusion of an insanely jealous lover leads to struggle, murder (in self-defense) and a quandary: How do two non-merderous strangers go about covering up a murder, disposing of a body (a large one), and manage to trust eachother in the process? The body turns out to be the type of man who warrants headlines. Wanley's friendship with the D.A. gets him invited on a "field trip" to the spot where the body was found. Here we meet the Chief Inspector, beautifully portrayed by Thomas E. Jackson). Through a series of delightfully handled mishaps, the gentle professor manages to exhibit elements about himself which would conspire to make him a prime suspect had the very prospect not been so ludicrous. A sleazy, but extremely clever blackmailer (Dan Duryea) is introduced. How he becomes involved, we'll leave unsaid, so as not to spoil some of the film's outstanding storytelling. The characters are three dimensional. Massey, as the D.A. is both a condescending stuffed-shirt and a caring friend. Jackson, as the Inspector is superbly understated, an affable exterior housing a brilliant mind for detection. Bennett and Duryea are both fine, although some of the dialog between them could easily have been cut to the improvement of the film overall. Robinson is excellent as the unassuming, bright but vulnerable professor. The Nunnally Johnson-Arthur Lange script is right-on, with the noted exceptions. Director Fritz Lang has created a taut, superb suspense tale. "The Woman in the Window" could easily have had either of two endings, one tragically ironic, one concocted to satisfy audiences in search of more delectably amusing resolution. I'll never tell. This film deserves any healthy debate about its ending every bit as much now, in the year 2000, as it did during its first release in 1944.
  • This film puts forward the theory that all middle-aged men are destined to "play-the-sap" for young women, and since it must come to pass, it is prudent to do so in ones fantasies, not in reality. It's a blast listening to Prof. Wanley, (Edward G. Robinson), District Attorney Frank Loler, (Raymond Massey), and Dr. Barkstane, (Edmund Breon), all in their late 40's to late 50's, talking about young women as though they were living bomb-shells. Why, if a middle-aged man gets within 30 feet of a pretty young woman, she could mesmerize him with a glance, make him give her all his possessions for a single kiss, and of course, eventually destroy him completely...with one hand tied behind her back. Indeed, Edmund Breon, who played a middle-aged music box collector in the excellent Rathbone/Sherlock Holmes film, "Dressed To Kill", fell under the thrall of beautiful villainess Patricia Morison in that film, and paid with his life. What got our brave trio talking about young women in the first place is the compelling painting of a beautiful young woman in an art gallery window, which is next store to their club. They all fell in love with her at first sight, with Robinson the last to see it, and the last to have his heart pierced. Massey and Breon are watching him, and start giving Robinson the needle. "We saw her first, so you stay out of it."

    It is Robinson's destiny to meet the woman in the portrait, Alice Reed, played wonderfully by Joan Bennett. Of course he's wary, and full of reservations at this chance meeting. To his credit, he doesn't make a fool out of himself, and Bennett genuinely seems to like him. What Robinson does so effectively in this film is convey very subtly, that he can never really quite accept even the possibility that he could hold this beautiful woman's attention, no matter how charming or interesting he really is. It's never stated but implied, that he thinks she's doing him a favor by making friends with him.

    Of course, this encounter leads to trouble, very serious trouble, and the "Woman In The Window" ventures into the dark waters of blackmail and murder. District Attorney Lalor (Massey) is in charge of the case, making things even more intriguing. It is a compelling film, and Robinson & Bennett are superb in their scenes together. I'll leave you to discover just what kind of woman the mysterious Alice Reed turns out to be. This is a very interesting and enjoyable film.
  • There's no doubting that Fritz Lang made his best films in his native Germany - the masterpieces 'M' and 'Metropolis' ensure that without the need to mention the likes of Doctor Mabuse; but even so, his American films have some gems - and this quality film noir thriller is certainly one of them. Made with the same cast as Fritz Lang's later 'Scarlet Street', The Woman in the Window is a tale of lust and money, wrapped up in the idea of how life becomes less exciting as you approach middle age. Professor Richard Wanley is a middle-aged man bored with how life is treating him. This boredom is soon to dissipate, however, when he and his friends become obsessed with the portrait of a woman in a shop window. On his way home one night, Richard meets this woman purely by chance and ends up going back to her apartment to look at more artist impressions of her. This ends in tragedy, when her boyfriend comes knocking, and ends up discovering our hero in his girl's apartment! A struggle ensues and the boyfriend ends up dead...Richard agrees to hide the body in order to keep the pair of them from spending time behind bars.

    Many of the ideas later used in Scarlet Street are present here too, and in that respect; The Woman in the Window serves as an interesting prelude to the later film. The film analyses a murder from the moral point of view, rather than being purely for profit. This idea was better realised by Lang later the same year in the aforementioned noir classic, but through it's inspired plotting and unpredictable atmosphere; The Woman in the Window analyses the same idea in a slightly different way. The cast is put to good use, with the great Edward G. Robinson doing a fine job with the lead role. He portrays his character admirably, and the scenes where the finger of suspicion drifts over him sees Robinson at his best. Joan Bennett plays his female counterpart. This beautiful woman is great as the heroine, and it's her performance that gives the film that golden Hollywood feel. The ending is one that could easily have gone wrong, but Lang makes good of it, and it actually makes sense of little nuisances, such as the fact that Robinson is allowed to accompany his policeman friend to a murder scene early on in the film. I would rate Scarlet Street as the must see film of the pair; but if you enjoyed that one, there's no reason why this one shouldn't go down well also.
  • This one was a true nail biter. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. Mr. Robinson's performance was believable and Ms. Bennet was beautiful and just as realistic as two people desperate to cover up a crime. This is a film that I highly recommend. It's suspenseful and dramatic. I felt as though I was on a roller coaster ride and couldn't get off. In short, I was a nervous wreck wondering how this film would play out. I highly recommend this one. I almost passed it by but I am eternally grateful that I didn't. Rent it, buy it, but by all means, watch it!!
  • "Woman in the Window" is one of my favourite Hollywood films of the forties and is in fact included in my "Top Ten" movies of all time. Expertly directed by Fritz Lang and starring Edward G. Robinson, the delectable Joan Bennett in a wonderfully seductive performance, and the sinister Dan Duryea it has a fascinating storyline, some outstanding acting and a "twist in the tale". Robinson is respectable Professor Richard Wanley (married with children) whose family are away on holiday. Admiring the painting of a woman in the window of an art gallery near his club he is surprised (and pleased) to see the attractive model (Joan Bennett) standing right next to him. She explains that she often comes along to the gallery to "watch people's faces" when they look at her painting and see how they react. After a few minutes conversation Robinson reluctantly escorts Bennett back to her apartment and the events which ensue lead to murder, blackmail, hardship and deep torment for Robinson whose neat well organised life is thrown into turmoil and disarray. Robinson's friend Frank Lalor (Raymond Massey) is the District Attorney investigating the murder which ironically for Robinson causes him even further complications and gets him unwittingly drawn deeper and deeper into the murder inquiry. Just when it seems that things could not get any worse for Robinson there is a magnificent twist at the end of the movie which comes as a total surprise!!

    Some favourite lines from the film:

    Joan Bennett (to Robinson): "I'm not married. I have no designs on you and one drink is all I care for".

    Robinson (to Bennett): "I should never have stopped to talk with you - I should never never have come here to drink with you". Bennett (to Robinson): "Never?".

    Raymond Massey (to Robinson): "It's all right Richard - don't get excited. We rarely arrest people just for knowing where the body was".

    Bennett (to Dan Duryea): "Are you nuts? I haven't got $5,000 and there isn't any guy to get it from so you may as well go right along to the police and tell them whatever you wish!".

    Although Edward G. Robinson was not the typical leading man type he could always be relied upon to give a good performance and in "Woman in the Window" he was at his very best!! 10 out of 10 for acting, direction, screenplay and photography. The only Oscar nomination this film received was for "best score" which was in my opinion an oversight as I believe in retrospect that both Robinson and Bennett clearly desrved to be nominated for their acting. If you enjoy this film be sure to see "Scarlet Street" (1945) which is another classic "film noir" thriller featuring the same three leading players and with Fritz Lang once again as director. Clive Roberts.
  • The Woman in the Window is directed by Fritz Lang and adapted by Nunnally Johnson from the novel "Once off Guard" written by J.H. Wallis. It stars Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Raymond Massey & Dan Duryea. Music is by Arthur Lange and Milton R. Krasner is the cinematographer.

    After admiring a portrait of Alice Reed (Bennett) in the storefront window of the shop next to his Gentleman's Club, Professor Richard Wanley (Robinson) is shocked to actually meet her in person on the street. It's a meeting that leads to a killing, recrimination and blackmail.

    Time has shown The Woman in the Window to be one of the most significant movies in the film noir cycle. It was part of the original group identified by Cahiers du Cinéma that formed the cornerstone of film noir (the others were The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity, Laura and Murder My Sweet). Its reputation set in stone, it's a film that boasts many of the key noir ingredients: man meets woman and finds his life flipped upside down, shifty characters, a killing, shadows and low lights, and of course an atmosphere thick with suspense. Yet the ending to this day is divisive and, depending what side of the camp you side with, it makes the film either a high rank classic noir or a nearly high rank classic noir. Personally it bothers me does the finale, it comes off as something that Rod Serling could have used on The Twilight Zone but decided to discard. No doubt to my mind that had Lang put in the ending from the source, this would be a 10/10 movie, for everything else in it is top draw stuff.

    At its core the film is about the dangers of stepping out of the normal, a peril of wish fulfilment in middle age, with Lang gleefully smothering the themes with the onset of a devilish fate and the stark warning that being caught just "once off guard" can doom you to the unthinkable. There's even the odd Freudian interpretation to sample. All of which is aided by the excellent work of Krasner, who along with his director paints a shadowy world consisting of mirrors, clocks and Venetian blinds. The cast are very strong, strong enough in fact for Robinson, Bennett and Duryea to re-team with Lang the following year for the similar, but better, Scarlet Street, while Lang's direction doesn't miss a beat.

    A great film regardless of the Production Code appeasing ending, with its importance in the pantheon of film noir well deserved. But you sense that watching it as a companion piece to Scarlet Street, that Lang finally made the film that this sort of story deserved. The Woman in the Window: essential but not essentially the best of its type. 8/10
  • Woman in the Window (1944)

    A methodical movie about a methodical cover-up. Edgar G. Robinson is the perfect actor for a steady, rational man having to face the crisis of a murder, and Fritz Lang, who has directed murderousness before, knows also about darkness and fear. There are no flaws in the reasoning, and if there is a flaw to the movie, it is it's very methodical perfection. Even the flaws are perfect, the mistakes made and how they are shown.

    We all at one time or another get away with something, large or small. And this law-abiding man finds himself trapped. He has to succeed, and you think he might. Part of me kept saying, I wouldn't do that, or don't be a fool. But part of me said, it's inevitable, he'll fail, we all would fail. So the movie moves with a steady thoughtful pace. It talks a lot for an American crime film, but it also has the best of night scenes--rainy streets with gleaming dark streets, hallways with glass windows and harsh light, and dark woods (for the body, of course). But there are dull moments, some odd qualities like streets with no parked cars at all, and a leading woman who is a restrained femme fatale, which isn't the best. And then there are twists and suspicions, dodges and subterfuges. And of course Dan Duryea, who makes a great small-time chiseler.
  • This gripping suspense thriller involves a man (Edward G. Robinson) and woman (Joan Bennett) who barely know each other conspiring to cover up a murder which threatens to destroy their lives. Robinson is an aging college professor of criminal justice who thinks there is no adventure left in his life anymore; Bennett is a mysterious and beautiful model. Fritz Lang's brilliant direction and a stunning musical score build the suspense incredibly. However, this superb film is spoiled by a trivializing happy ending, probably imposed on Lang by studio hacks. In all other respects, it is a triumph of film making.
  • Herr Lang has another winner here with the same cast that he used in "Scarlet Street" in 1946.....wonderful portrayals from all concerned. In both films, Edward G. is caught up in a situation that traps him and forces him to make decisions that go against his sense of morality. Joan Bennett is gorgeous as the beautiful woman who ensnares Robinson in her troubles. Dan Duryea again proves that he was one hell of an actor.....he was stereotyped throughout his career in roles in which he was a coward, a weakling and a thoroughly unlikeable guy and nobody played it better. The story line is gripping and you feel as trapped as Edward G. BUT, it is that ending!!!!! Lang never was one for the easy out but here he must have been desperate to tie up all the loose ends and come up with a believable he tacks on the worst ending since the Bobby Ewing/Dallas explanation! I was disappointed that he would stoop to something so pat (and he is one of my favorite directors). This film could go down as a true classic and should have except for the ending....that knocked it right off the list. Still, it is very much worth watching and I would recommend it to all who love film noir.
  • robfollower1 December 2018
    Edward G. Robinson stars as a happily married psychology professor whose wife and child are away on summer vacation. After discussing with his friends the likelihood that any man can be driven to murder, Robinson strolls by a shop window, where stands a full-length portrait of a beautiful woman. He turns to find the selfsame woman (Joan Bennett) standing beside him...and before the night is over, he has killed the woman's lover in self-defense. Thus begins weaving an increasing tangled web involving Robinson, the woman, and a seedy blackmailer (Dan Duryea). Based on J.H. Wallis' novel Once Off Guard, The Woman in the Window gives us our money's worth with not one but two logical and satisfying surprise twists at the end.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I would have rated this higher except I don't like endings where the whole story turns out to be nothing but a dream. That is unfair to any viewer and it also discouraged me from ever watching this again.

    Until then, it was quite good, almost like a Columbo television episode where you know the person who committed the crime early and and then see how the police unravel the mystery, much to the disdain and paranoia of the guilty culprit. In this case, it was two culprits: played by Edward G. Robinson and Joan Bennett. The story gets better as it goes on with some realistic characters.

    Dan Duryea adds a lot of spark to the story, as the blackmailing bodyguard. He's fun to watch, which is not a surprise if you've seen him other films.
  • This is a wonderful film noire, a real late night treat, the story may seem a little run of the mill, but there are many twists, turns and red herrings to throw you off, and keep your interest.

    The acting is great, Joan Bennett as always is terrific, Edward G Robinson was prolific, and never disappointed.

    It moves along quickly, and is never boring at any point. The obvious love or hate moment comes at the end, personally I don't love it, but you must realise it was 1944, the world was at war, people wanted to leave the cinema with a smile on their face, it did make me smile, of course it would never be a tool used nowadays, but things were so different in 1944.

    Thoroughly enjoyed it. 9/10.
  • ctomvelu110 June 2013
    Edward G. and Joan Bennett star in a noirish crime drama that feels almost surreal (with god reason, as the ending makes plain). Robinson is a staid professor whose family is off on a weekend jaunt. He meets an alluring woman who invites him to he apartment for "drinks and." When her psycho boyfriend unexpectedly shows up, the prof ends up killing him during a scuffle. To protect himself and the gal, he gets rid of the body. Then the fun really starts. Edward G. is at the top of his form here, and Bennett is sexy and ever so slightly tawdry, even fully clothed. The ending, which has been used or misused in many movies before and since, here works beautifully. I am surprised I had never seen this particular melodrama until now. I am no spring chicken, and used to be a film critic, to boot.
  • THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW, coupled with SCARLET STREET, form a formidable duo in Lang's mature American style. The director who may have singlehandedly developed the style that would come to be known as "noir" never relented. Even his latest Indian films are forceful and dense with Lang's characteristic fatalism. He may be more recalled for his work in erecting German cinema, but his cross-pollination with American studio mandate produced a series, from FURY to BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT, containing some of the most influential and memorable films from the 30's, 40's, and 50's.

    Underneath an ideal surface example of the "noir" construct, Lang interjects a deft psychological evaluation of the increasing voyeurism in American culture -- perhaps encouraged by cinema? Robinson's plunge into fate's grip is all suggested by his fixation on a portrait. Here, Lang smartly plays on the same construct on which Hollywood operates -- the relationship between image and audience. Most potently, he understands that this relationship is a sexual one. A connection between idealized and unreachable models cinema has taught us to build. The kind of kernel that has been gnawing away self-image for a century. However, instead of glorifying and capitalizing on this relationship, Lang inverts it and demonstrates how it can hijack common sense. HOUSE BY THE RIVER shows the same obsession with the human connection with ideals and sex. Furthermore, it introduces a concept key to Lang's greater ideology -- sex and death are forever entwined as basic necessities.

    We must immediately forgive the ending, like we must do for countless other pictures of this era. It is remarkable that Lang even managed to cultivate such an unforgiving portrait of Americana. In fact the ending only serves to further his evaluation of the viewer's fatal, sexual relationship with art.

    Like they would repeat in SCARLET STREET, Robinson and Bennett turn in a fine chemistry. Robinson is not an attractive man. But he rejects our need for such a character by inspiring the bumbling, nervous moments of idiocy that we all know in ourselves. There is something about the way Bennett lights her cigarettes that signal danger. WOMAN IN THE WINDOW does not present her as the appalling bitch that she would be in SCARLET STREET, but the smoke hovers around her like an evaporating halo. And her youthful power complex is just right for dragging Robinson into the abyss.

    Lang managed to be so damning and so hateful while simultaneously constructing a new American style. So many of these films demand a viewing and so few of them get one. A renaissance of this formidable cycle is needed.

  • The lead character, Richard Wanley (Edward G. Robinson), is a middle-age absent-minded professor who teaches a course in crime. For relaxation he meets with two other middle-age men for drinks and academic conversation. Surrounded by books and dim light, the three men talk about how stodgy their lives are, how averse they are to adventure, and how alluring the woman is whose portrait they see in a nearby shop's window.

    Says Richard to his two friends: "you know, even if the spirit of adventure should rise up before me and beckon, even in the form of that alluring young woman in the window next door, I'm afraid all I'd do is clutch my coat a little tighter, mutter something idiotic, and run like the devil."

    This story setup, with quiet, reflective, sedentary characters, gives the film's surprise ending credibility. With a different setup, with different characters, the film's ending, as is, would be an act of creative malfeasance. But here, it works.

    And Richard's excellent adventure is spellbinding. Tension is maximized because we, as viewers, are put directly in the point of view of Richard and his predicament. What would we do in such a situation? How would we react?

    I wouldn't have cast Edward G. Robinson in the lead role. But he certainly does a nice job. So does Joan Bennett, as the woman in the window. The film's plot is tight, except in the second half, in a couple of sequences involving a blackmailer.

    "The Woman In The Window" is a clever, well-written, character driven story about a man whose infatuation with a beautiful woman's portrait drives him into a dangerous adventure. Once the viewer has seen the ending, the power of the plot vanishes. But even then, that ending is still thought-provoking.
  • This is a movie that does a superb job of building suspense. It has wonderful actors such as E. G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Raymond Massey, Dan Duryea and other fine supporting actors who work hard at telling a great story. The brilliant musical score helps tell the story and convey the suspense. BUT, after about 95 minutes of brilliance, the movie is ruined by a cop-out, cliche type of ending. Very disappointing. The fine actors who were in this film and the audiences both in the theatres and on TV deserved much more than this "dumb" finale.......
  • I just finished watching this film, and quite thoroughly enjoyed it. I won't reiterate what's already been said by many about its strengths. I just want to offer a different opinion on the ending (without actually divulging any of the content of the ending).

    I liked the ending. It took my by surprise, and I think, all in all, fit very very well with the way the movie laid itself out. But I can understand why some people might not like it. But to such people I would point out: the ending is almost optional. Because of the way it's structured, you can, if you choose and prefer, basically just ignore the ending, and treat the movie as finished at the point you believe it ought to have been. Rather the way one watches an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and then rather ignores Hitchcock's final explanation of how the killer eventually got caught.

    I don't want to say too much more because I really don't want to spoil the film for anyone who hasn't seen it. I thought it was excellent.
  • claudio_carvalho3 December 2007
    Warning: Spoilers
    When the family of Gotham College Professor Richard Wanley (Edward G. Robinson) travels, he meets with his close friends Dr. Michael Barkstane (Edmund Breon) and District Attorney Frank Lalor (Raymond Massey) in a club for talking. Wanley is fascinated with the portrait of a young woman in the next door window, and they discuss about affairs and middle-age crisis while drinking. When Wanley leaves the club, he walks to the window to admire the picture once more and he meets Alice Reed (Joan Bennett), who was the model of the painting. She invites him for a drink and they end the night in her apartment for seeing sketches of Alice made by the same artist. While drinking champagne, her temperable lover arrives and misunderstands the presence of Richard, hitting and suffocating him. In self-defense, Richard stabs the man with a pair of scissors on the back and kills him. They decide to get rid off the body, dumping the body in the woods and destroying the evidences, but when they are blackmailed by the scum Heidt (Dan Duryea), Professor Wanley tells Alice that there are only three ways to deal with a blackmailer, all of them with a high price.

    "The Woman in the Window" is another fantastic film-noir of the awesome director Fritz Lang. The engaging and original story has a magnificent and unexpected plot point in the very end. This is one of the best performances of Edward G. Robinson that I have seen and the leading trio - Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett and Dan Duryea – worked on the next year with Fritz Lang in the masterpiece "Scarlet Street". This is the first time that I see this outstanding movie, following the recommendation of a friend of mine that I would like to thank. My vote is nine.

    Title (Brazil): "Retrato de Mulher" ("Picture of a Woman")
  • Warning: Spoilers
    SPOILERS** Fritz Lang had a reputation for stalking around the set barking orders through a megaphone, wearing breeches and riding boots and a monacle, the last of the great cartoons. At least he got the job done. "Woman in the Window" is pretty good noirish stuff. I say "noir-ish" because it's missing one of the principal icons of the genre -- the black snub-nosed .38 revolver. In it's conventional place we have some of Fritz Lang's ideosyncratic icons -- straw hats, mirrors, and scissors.

    Robinson leads a rather stodgy life as an assistant professor at Gotham College. (Who is promoted to department head during the film. How do you do that?) He periodically gets together with two friends for dinner at his club, a doctor and the district attorney, Raymond Massey. One night after leaving the club he runs into Joan Bennett and accepts an invitation to her apartment. An enraged man rushes in and begins strangling Robinson who must stab him repeatedly with a pair of scissors in order to save his own life. Robinson and Bennett then weave the proverbial tangled web. Robinson disposes of the body in some woods north of New York. I should say "a densely wooded area" because that's where all dead bodies are found, including this one, by a Boy Scout who promises that if he gets the reward he will use the money to send his kid brother to Harvard and he himself will go to a GOOD college. (The script by Nunnally Johnson is intelligent and witty, one of the movie's better features.) The story is a big improvement over that of its companion piece, "Scarlet Street," if only because in the latter Robinson had to be an undiscovered genius in painting still lifes. And the paintings we see are sidesplittingly absurd. The acting and the ending in "Woman in the Window" also deserve a comment.

    Robinson had more range than he's usually given credit for. One watches him in "Little Caesar," chewing the scenery, snarling, strutting, grinning idiotically, and the image is stamped on one's brain. But he could do other things as well, and sometimes quite nicely too. His last performance, in "Soylent Green," was one of his best. Joan Bennett was a competent actress, no more than that. She's not much of a femme fatale here, just ordinarily pretty. She lacks the kind of glandular ooze that someone like Gloria Grahame might have brought to the part. Raymond Massey is likewise professional. It's interesting to watch his expression change from scene to scene as he grows more suspicious of Robinson. Each time Robinson takes a step or opens his mouth he seems to drip more clues, and Massey picks up on each one, so that if his friendship with Robinson begins with a smile, it ends with a thoughtful frown. Dan Duryea is a slimier, venomous version of Bob Fosse in both appearance and movement, reed slender and sinister all the way.

    The ending. It seems contrived and tacked on. It's as if someone had tapped the producers on the shoulder half-way through shooting and said you've only got ten minutes left to finish the film. So a minute after leaving Bennett's apartment, with his financial future fixed up and no charges against him, Duryea the blackmailer is told to stop by a policeman, pulls out a gun and starts shooting. The clock must have been ticking because this is completely unmotivated. It does serve the broader purpose of the story however in introducing irony. Duryea seems to have brought ruin to Robinson's life. And by the time of the shootout Robinson has already taken an overdose of something or other and is dozing off into the big sleep without knowing that his suicide is now unnecessary. (It's kind of complicated, I know, but I don't want to take up too much space except to explain that the murder committed by Robinson has now been pinned on the dead Duryea.)

    But -- wait! There is a high-key closeup of Robinson's face going slack and slumping to the side. Is he dead? No -- he's asleep! A hand enters the frame and touches him on the shoulder, and someone says, "Professor, it's ten thirty." He'd fallen asleep in his chair at the club! Perhaps borrowing from "The Wizard of Oz," a shaken Robinson retrieves his coat from the man he murdered and says good-night to Duryea, the hotel doorman, before walking down the late-night street. He peers at the portrait in the window that started the whole business and a tarty woman's face appears in the reflection. She asks him for a light and he runs off, protesting, "Not on your life. Not for a million dollars!"

    It's easy to make fun of a movie like this but it's actually kind of neat. Robinson is no crafty villain, and Joan Bennett appears to be an honest whore, less innocent than he but not at all evil. Everything they do is out of desperation. One feels sorry for both of them, especially Robinson who seems never to have had an impure thought. I didn't even mind the it-was-only-a-dream ending. Sure it's been done before, but it permits the film to end on a comic note, which comes as a relief after all the drama and suspense that has preceded it. Well worth watching.
  • I don't hold Lang in particularly high esteem, he has a bit of a rough hand for my taste. But he's one of few who can claim they invented noir as far back as the silent era, or laid all the groundwork for others to decorate with shadows and dames, so I will watch anything he does in this field with some interest.

    This is a very taut thing to say the least, a thriller par excellance. It has all the hallmarks; concentrated space, unfolds in real time, simple but smart setups of the bomb ticking beneath the table, to quote from Hitchcock.

    So it's not just that the noir schmuck has to sneak out of town with a corpse on his backseat, across empty streets at night, while omens abound everywhere he looks. He's also the most unlikely guy to ever find himself in this situation, a quaint college professor who had one drink too much with the wrong woman. And this explains perhaps why it's no more well known, say on par with Hitchcock. Edward Robinson is short, stocky, mousy, just perfect for the occasion but really far from the ideal leading man, Joan Bennett on the other hand is beautiful and fragile but is neither as radiant as a Gene Tierney.

    The main idea is twofold tension; on one hand the culprit is kept up to date every step of the investigation leading back to him, because his friend is the DA, on the other hand police are looking for who's in plain sight of them all this time. It works, even as a few of the slip-ups come across as forced and because we need the noose to tighten fast.

    But there is something else here that deserves mention. Oh, the final twist spells it out for us, but an observant viewer will have noted what goes on as soon as the professor is asleep and meets the woman in the picture.

    Between sleeps, we have a deliciously moral anxiety; a nightmare that vividly steers a middle-aged man away from desire that his friends openly indulge in, and no doubt he would as well, and back into social order.

    Oh, the message is stridently cautionary as was customary in Hollywood, even if a bit humorous. Watch Jacques Rivette's Celine and Julie for the same motif - the mind asleep - improvised with more breath and soul.
  • Never have I seen such a throughly good movie so completely destroyed by the ending. It's hard to think of a worse cop out ending than this.

    Up until then this one really had me intrigued. Edward G. Robinson was a pleasure to watch, the cinematography great, it is classic film noir. A rating of 9 without that ending, down to a 4 with. Too bad.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The Woman in the Window has an ending almost guaranteed to infuriate you the first time you see the movie, and, the second time, to leave you with an immensely satisfied smile.

    "The man who kills in self defense, for instance, must not be judged by the same standards applied to a man who kills for gain." So says middle-aged and happily married Richard Wanley (Edward G. Robinson), professor of criminal psychology, to his class at Gotham College. Wanley is about to put his dictum to the test. When his wife and their two young children leave for a brief vacation, he dines at his club with two old friends, one a doctor and the other, Frank Lalor (Raymond Massey), the district attorney. Wanley bemoans his increasingly middle-aged life. "I hate this solidity," he says with a rueful smile, "this stodginess I'm beginning to feel. To me, it's the end of the brightness of life, the end of spirit and adventure." His two friends leave and he settles in, before returning to his empty home, with one last brandy and The Song of Songs. When he leaves the club late in the evening he stops, as he often has, and gazes at the portrait in the window of the gallery next door. The woman is lovely...beautiful, with a challenge in her eyes and a gaze that looks right at you. When a voice asks him for a light for her cigarette, the professor turns and is stunned to see that the voice belongs to the woman who posed for the portrait. Alice Reed (Joan Bennett) sometimes stops by the gallery to see the reaction of men when they look at her portrait. The two somehow wind up at a quiet bar, talk and then the professor escorts her to her apartment in a taxi. She invites him up and shows him sketches the artist made of her before painting her portrait. She seems genuinely friendly and honest and the professor apparently has no intention of becoming an adulterer. But when an angry man breaks into her apartment, slaps Alice Reed and attacks Professor Wanley, it's only a matter of seconds before the man is dead, stabbed by Wanley in the back with a pair of scissors handed him by Alice. Professor Wanley's life now begins to spin out of his control.

    He decides to say nothing to the police. He leaves Alice and returns with his car. With her help he gets the body into the back seat and drives it to a deserted parkway, where he disposes of it in the underbrush. The man turns out to be a powerful businessman who had been seeing Alice regularly two or three times a week. The Professor's friend Lalor takes charge of the investigation and invites Wanley to accompany him, thinking the professor of criminology will be interested in how the case is slowly being built up to identify the murderer. Wanley keeps making little errors and mistakes...a ripped coat, a scratched wrist, a tire track in the mud, a slip of the tongue that seems to say Wanley knows more than he should. Lalor begins to look curiously at his old friend. And then the bodyguard (Dan Duryea) of the dead man turns up. He blackmails Alice, who must ask Wanley for help. This time Wanley reluctantly begins to think of murder.

    The Woman in the Window is a fine noir. Some may think it's just the opening act for Fritz Lang's Scarlet Street, filmed the following year with the same three stars, Robinson, Bennett and Duryea. Scarlet Street is a classic, drenched in casual cruelty, loneliness and sadness. The Woman in the Window starts out as a classic noir. Professor Wanley is a man of good intentions whom we like and who finds himself moving in situations well beyond his capability. Joan Bennett's Alice Reed, however, is no Kitty March. Alice may be a kept woman, but she wants to do the right thing as long as she doesn't get in trouble. And she seems genuinely to like and even respect the Professor. Dan Duryea, of course, is a rotter, but he's at least straight forward here. He wants money; he doesn't seem to delight in hitting women. It makes for a movie which puts a premium on the skill of the actors to bring us along with them as events conspire against them. Few were better at this than Edward G. Robinson and, in my opinion, the under-appreciated Joan Bennett.

    So we have a first class noir...and then Fritz Lang pulls the rug out from under us. To fully appreciate The Woman in the Window -- trust me -- you'll need to see it a second time. How about making that second time a double feature? Have some friends over and play Scarlet Street first, then The Woman in the Window. Keep them in that order. You'll have a great main course, and then a great desert.
  • The war years saw Hollywood's leading men unavailable - Clark Gable, James Stewart, and many others, were otherwise occupied. At this point, some of the better character actors stepped up to starring roles they might not otherwise have gotten. The darkness of the war years also did a bit to loosen the grip of the production code by allowing darker plots than would otherwise pass inspection, but the evildoers still had to be punished in the end. This began the trend of "film noir" - related to their predecessors, the precodes, by examining the seedy side of life, but emphasizing the duality of man's nature rather than the sexual angles and the evolving roles of women and men in society as the films of the early 30's tended to do.

    "The Woman in the Window" is a great film noir starring the great Edward G. Robinson as a mild mannered New York City professor. He packs his wife and kids off to the country at the beginning of the summer as was the custom back before the days of air conditioning, and he begins his three month bachelorhood by joining two friends at his private club, one of which is D.A. Frank Lalor (Raymond Massey). Before entering his club, though, he appreciates a painting of a beautiful woman, "the woman in the window". His two friends see him staring, kid him about it, and they proceed to have a conversation in which the D.A. talks about how many cases he sees in which a small wrong step by an ordinarily law-abiding citizen leads to major crime.

    The rest of the film is basically a demonstration of what the D.A. spoke about when you mix Robinson's mild professor with the actual flirtatious woman in the window (Joan Bennett), add a case of homicide in self-defense under seemingly scandalous circumstances where there is no way to prove self-defense, and finally introduce a seedy blackmailing P.I. (Dan Duryea) into the mix. The film has many twists and turns and you can feel your guts wrenching along with Robinson's as he watches the police come closer and closer to his door with every update he gets from his friend the D.A. who thinks he is just sharing an interesting case with a professor of criminology.

    The end then takes a sharp turn and totally surprises you.

    This film was so good that Fritz Lang followed it up the following year with an even better effort - Scarlet Street - with Robinson, Duryea, and Bennett playing similar parts as they did in this film. There's even a painting as a central plot point in this second film as well.
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