There is going to be a screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 classic Rear Window next Friday, June 29 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The movie has long been one of my favorites. Correction. Rear Window is my favorite movie of all time.
I first saw it as a child when my father, who was a film buff, showed it to me. I have watched it countless times since and each viewing I swear I see something new. The plot revolves around a murder, but it’s also very much about relationships of all kinds. The layered quality of what is observed outside a rear window in a New York City apartment in Greenwich Village and, of course, what takes place inside is what makes the movie so rich. What makes it just right for this column is the jewelry. It is a key element of Grace Kelly’s style and provides the clues to solve a murder.
The great James Stewart is L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries, a photojournalist who broke his leg while taking pictures of a car race. He is confined to a wheelchair in his Village apartment and passes time watching his neighbors through a window that opens on to a courtyard and has views into several apartments. His girlfriend is Lisa Fremont played by Grace Kelly who is at the height of her beauty and acting career. She is a fashion editor and eager to marry Jeff. He is not so sure about taking the relationship to the next step, because he thinks she is perhaps too refined for his “camera bum” lifestyle. Kelly does indeed look uptown gorgeous throughout the movie in dresses made by the legendary costume designer Edith Head. In the film, Lisa reveals the price of one couture gown she wears after a day of appointments is $1,100. It’s an astonishing figure for a dress in 1954.
Lisa wears pearls exclusively with the couture. A pearl choker, a three-strand pearl necklace and pearl earrings are among her pieces. Some are clearly costume, a few could be real. The statement item in her collection is a multi-strand pearl bracelet with gold ball elements and a large charm suspended from each strand.
If you Google Grace Kelly charm bracelet Rear Window, you will see the public is still fixated on this jewel. What you won’t find anywhere is an astute observation about the piece made by my friend, jewelry wunderkind and Christie’s specialist, Claiborne Poindexter. “I noticed that the jewels in the movie appear to be similar to bracelets she was photographed wearing frequently in her personal life, including on her famous 1956 voyage to Monaco aboard the USS Constitution when she was sailing to marry Prince Rainier,” he explains. “My sense is that in her true style, her jewels before she was married were of a lady who grew up on the Main Line and are perfectly wearable and may have inspired or in fact been the actual jewels she wore on screen in Rear Window.”
The polish Grace showed in the movie versus the rugged style of James Stewart’s character was summed up early on when she tells him that she is replacing a beat-up cigarette case he got in Shanghai with a “plain flat silver one with just your initials engraved.” After a bit of tension between the two, they being to work in sync to solve the murder that Jeff believes has been committed in the apartment across the courtyard. Knives, rope, a trunk, a missing wife and odd behavior by the resident, Mr. Thorwald (Raymond Burr), are the clues that lead Jeff to his suspicions. Lisa isn’t convinced until Jeff tells her how Thorwald rummaged through his absent wife’s handbag and pulled out her necklace and rings.
Lisa declares, “Women don’t keep their jewelry in a purse, getting all twisted and scratched and tangled up,” and “Why a woman going anywhere but the hospital would always take makeup, perfume and jewelry.” A theory to which Jeff asks, “That’s inside stuff?” And she explains, “It’s basic equipment. And you don’t leave it behind in your husband’s drawer in your favorite handbag.” Once she bravely goes after the jewels as the evidence they need to prove the neighbors guilt, well, it kind of goes without saying, Jeff falls deeply in love with heroic behavior.
If you have never seen the movie and even if you have try to take it in at the MoMA or stream it on Amazon to review the jewelry action.