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Hitchcock and the Censors$
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John Billheimer

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780813177427

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813177427.001.0001

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Rear Window (1954)

Rear Window (1954)

(p.194) 25 Rear Window (1954)
Hitchcock and the Censors

John Billheimer

University Press of Kentucky

Rear Window was the first of six pictures Alfred Hitchcock would direct for Paramount under the contract negotiated by Lew Wasserman. On its first script review, the Production Code office found fault with nearly every aspect of the film, from the salty dialogue of the young screenwriter John Michael Hayes to most of the courtyard residents, including the scantily clad Miss Torso and the newly married couple whose activities represented an ‘unacceptable play on the sexual aspects of a honeymoon.’ But Breen’s reviewers reserved their strongest criticism for the suggestion of a sexual relationship between the lead characters, played by James Stewart and Grace Kelly. Hitchcock stilled many of the censors’ worries by inviting them to visit the elaborate indoor set of the courtyard, pointing out that everything happening in the apartments across the courtyard would be filmed from the viewpoint of a man in a wheelchair looking out of his apartment window, not with salacious close-ups. The censors still found fault with three major elements: the dancing of Miss Torso, the honeymooning couple’s sexual appetites, and Grace Kelly’s negligee, which was ‘too suggestive and too boldly unconventional.’ Hitchcock assuaged these fears by swapping off topless views of Miss Torso with protective footage already filmed for trade-off purposes, drawing the shades on the honeymooners, and limiting scenes with Grace Kelly’s negligee to those essential to the plot. Code officials accepted these trade-offs, and the film was a critical and commercial success.

Keywords:   Alfred Hitchcock, James Stewart, Grace Kelly, John Michael Hayes, Production Code Administration, Miss Torso, honeymooners, Paramount, protective footage, Rear Window

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