The Woman in the Window

Joan Bennett's reflection and a painting of Joan Bennett in The Woman in the Window (dir. Fritz Lang, 1944).

Dan Duryea and Joan Bennett.

Edward G. Robinson.

Fritz Lang made The Woman in the Window the year before Scarlet Street, which also featured Robinson, Bennett, and Duryea. Their stories are similar: in both, Robinson plays a sensitive soul drawn by a romantic obsession with a woman in a painting into a dark and sordid world of prostitution and murder. Window is even more harrowing than Street for most of its running time. Anne actually had to stop watching about halfway through, as the tension was just too much. She says that Lang was insane and had a sick soul. Well, yeah. She stopped watching just before Duryea came on and did his reptilian blackmailer bit. "You have to watch, it's Dan Duryea!" I said, but to no avail.

There is a plot turn in Window that is bound to infuriate anyone who loves noir, or just self-respecting screenwriting. I'm trying to convince myself that this particular turn is actually a wry bit of intentional self-subversion (as Spencer Selby argues here), but it's hard.

Watch for a young Robert Blake as the Professor's son, and George "Spanky" McFarland as an intrepid boy scout (in an inspired comic scene).

1 comment:

girish said...

*SPOILER ahead for those who haven't seen the film*

Lang wrote an article for the Penguin Film Review in 1948 called “Happily Ever After”:

“I was chided by critics for ending it as a dream. I was not always objective about my own work, but in this case my choice was conscious. If I had continued the story to its logical conclusion, a man would have been caught and executed for committing murder because he was one moment off guard. Even were he not convicted of the crime his life would have been ruined. I rejected this logical ending because it seemed to me a defeatist ending, a tragedy for nothing, brought about by an implacable Fate – a negative ending to a problem which is not universal, a futile dreariness which an audience would reject.”

A bit of a far cry from the image we often have of Lang’s work as the ultimate cinematic embodiment of the ‘Destiny-Machine’!

Also interesting are the undeniable parallels with the similar ‘bracketing frame’ and ending Lang created for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari 25 years prior (much to the chagrin of the two main screenwriters Carl Mayer and Hans Janowitz).