Gotham College professor Wanley and his friends become obsessed with the portrait of a woman in the window next to the men\'s club. Wanley happens to meet the woman while admiring her portrait, and ends up in her apartment for talk and a bit of champagne. Her boyfriend bursts in and misinterprets Wanley\'s presence, whereupon a scuffle ensues and the boyfriend gets killed. In order to protect his reputation, the professor agrees to dump the body and help cover up the killing, but becomes increasingly suspect as the police uncover more and more clues and a blackmailer begins leaning on the woman.
Edward G. Robinson ... Professor Richard Wanley
Joan Bennett ... Alice Reed
Raymond Massey ... Dist. Atty. Frank Lalor
Edmund Breon ... Dr. Michael Barkstane
Dan Duryea ... Heidt / Tim, the Doorman
Thomas E. Jackson ... Inspector Jackson, Homicide Bureau
Dorothy Peterson ... Mrs. Wanley
Arthur Loft ... Claude Mazard / Frank Howard / Charlie the Hatcheck Man
Frank Dawson ... Collins, the Steward
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.
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.
Fritz Lang\'s sturdy ensemble - Joan Bennett, Edward G. Robinson, and Dan Duryea - which would deliver again in 1945\'s \"Scarlet Street\" - comes together for \"The Woman in the Window,\" a 1944 film noir. The two stories have some similarities, with Robinson in over his head, Duryea a slime bucket, and Bennett a beauty, though this time, not corrupt like her character in \"Scarlet Street;\" however, as in that film, she manages to get Robinson in it up to his neck.
Robinson here is an assistant professor, Richard Wanley, enjoying a bachelor summer as his family gets out of the city as he hangs out at his club with two friends, the DA (Raymond Massey) and a doctor (Edmund Breon). One night, on arriving at the club, he notices an arresting painting of a woman in the gallery next door and becomes mesmerized by the woman\'s seductive beauty. Inside the club, the conversation is rather depressing - he and his friends are middle-aged, and their adventurous years seem over even if the spirit is still willing. On leaving the club that evening, Wanley can\'t help looking at the portrait again - and in the window\'s reflection, he sees the artist\'s model, Alice Reed, standing behind him. He takes her out for a drink, and she invites him to her place to see some of the artist\'s other sketches of her. It\'s all fairly innocent, Wanley being happily married but just enjoying some extra freedom and a little of that adventure. It turns out to be more than a little. Unfortunately, Reed\'s boyfriend enters and on seeing Wanley, becomes jealous and attacks him. A terrible fight ensues, and Wanley is about to be strangled when he is able to repeatedly stab the man in the back with scissors which Alice hands him. He\'s about to call the police but hesitates for fear it will ruin his career. He decides instead to cover up the murder and dump the body with Alice\'s help. Then he has to sit by while his friend the DA comes up with clues to solve the case, and Alice becomes the victim of a blackmailer.
This is really an excellent film, very compelling and tense, and I for one didn\'t mind the twist ending one bit, which the viewer will find somewhat reminiscent of a famous film done a few years earlier. Perhaps by now the device has been overdone; I don\'t think it was back in 1944, and it\'s certainly a surprise.
Lang\'s stylish direction makes each moment count in this atmospheric film set in and around New York City. Robinson hands in yet another fine performance as an innocent in Babylon; Bennett does a great job as a man magnet who didn\'t mean to get Wanley in trouble; and Dan Duryea, as a nasty bodyguard, is very good with some fabulous line deliveries. \"What an amateur!\" he sneers at Alice as he finds what he\'s looking for in her apartment. Duryea was by reputation a very nice guy, but you\'d never know it from the scores of blackmailers, sadists, and killers he played during his long career.
It\'s a shame that Lang was so difficult to work with, which caused his career in the U.S. to hit the skids in the \'50s. Nevertheless, he was one of the great directors, and in the noir genre, he was a hard guy to beat. If you love film noir, don\'t miss the master\'s \"The Woman in the Window.\"
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.