The Woman in the Window

I expected “The Woman in the Window,” the 1944 thriller directed by Fritz Lang, to be almost the same as “Scarlet Street,” Lang’s 1944 movie with the same cast. But I found Scarlet Street to be much darker because Joan Bennett, who stars in both movies, is much more evil. In The Woman in the Window, she proves to be a problem for the Edward G. Robinson character because she complicates his life. However, Robinson’s character is not married (as his character is in Scarlet Street) and only needs to worry about a scandal in relation to his prestigious job as a college professor.

Joan Bennett in "The Woman in the Window."

Joan Bennett in “The Woman in the Window.”

In The Woman in the Window, Robinson plays Professor Richard Wanley, a law professor who lectures on the definition of homicide in the first scene. He cautions that “The man who kills in self-defense should not be judged by the same standards as the man who kills for gain.” Later, as he’s going the a fancy gentleman’s club, he spots a picture in an art gallery window of a beautiful woman. In the club dining room, he jokes about having a relationship with such a beautiful young woman to his 2 friends, one of whom happens to be the district attorney. Later, he runs into the woman depicted in the painting, has a drink with her and goes to her apartment.

The woman, of course, turns out to be the enchanting, lovely and thoroughly convincing Joan Bennett as Alice Reed, an artists model. As the two proceed with their perfectly innocent date, a jealous man rushes in and shortly ends up dead. Now, the Professor and Alice must trust each other as they get rid of the body and stay ahead of the police investigation. The Professor takes elaborate measures to dump the body, but then continually makes embarrassing gaffes when discussing the case with the district attorney back at the gentlemen’s club.

It appears the movie offers a war of wills pitting the Professor against the District Attorney, played by Raymond Massey. But then the screenwriter Nunnally Johnson throws in a character to occupy Alice, a blackmailer named Heidt (Dan Duryea), who’s been tailing the dead man and knows about Alice’s affair with him. He decides to blackmail Alice and the Professor, who think up a murder plot to get rid of him. At that point, the District Attorney’s theories about the killing seem way off the mark and the new dangers prove much more compelling. Unlike Scarlet Street, Lang gives this movie a much happier ending. In the end, he gives the audience one last view of the woman in the window.

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