The Window (1949 film)

The Window is a 1949 American black-and-white suspense film noir, based on the short story "The Boy Cried Murder" (reprinted as "Fire Escape")[4] by Cornell Woolrich about a lying boy who suspects that his neighbors are killers. The film, which was a critical success, was produced by Frederic Ullman Jr. for $210,000 but earned much more, making it a box office hit for RKO Pictures. The film was directed by Ted Tetzlaff, who worked as a cinematographer on over 100 films, including another successful suspense film, Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious (1946). For his performance in this film, Bobby Driscoll was presented with a miniature Oscar statuette as the outstanding juvenile actor of 1949 at the 1950 Academy Awards ceremony.

The Window
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTed Tetzlaff
Fred Fleck (assistant)
Produced byFrederic Ullman Jr.
in charge of productions
Dore Schary
Screenplay byMel Dinelli
Story byCornell Woolrich
Based on"The Boy Cried Murder"
1947 story
by Cornell Woolrich
StarringBarbara Hale
Arthur Kennedy
Paul Stewart
Ruth Roman
Bobby Driscoll
Music byRoy Webb
CinematographyRobert De Grasse
William O. Steiner
Edited byFrederic Knudtson
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • May 17, 1949 (1949-05-17) (Premiere-Los Angeles)[1]
  • August 6, 1949 (1949-08-06) (US)[1]
Running time
73 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$210,000[2] or $500,000[3]


Set and filmed on location in the tenement section of New York's Lower East Side, the film tells the story of a young boy, Tommy Woodry (Bobby Driscoll), who has a habit of crying wolf. Late one night, he climbs up the building fire escape and sees his two seemingly normal neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Kellerson (Paul Stewart and Ruth Roman), murder a drunken sailor in their apartment. No one – neither the boy's parents nor the police – believes young Tommy when he tells them what he has seen, since they all assume that this is just another of the boy's tall tales.

When Mrs. Woodry (Barbara Hale) takes Tommy to apologize to the Kellersons, he refuses and they become suspicious of him. When Mrs. Woodry leaves to care for a sick relative and Mr. Woodry is away at his night job, the murderous neighbors plan to kill Tommy, who has been locked in his room by his father to prevent further escapades. Under the pretense of going to the police, the Kellersons take Tommy to a dark alley, where they try to kill him. Tommy escapes, but the pair quickly recaptures him, taking him back to their apartment in a taxi. Tommy screams at a policeman for help, but the officer remembers Tommy as the boy who came to the station earlier and failed to convince the police. The Kellersons fool the cab driver by posing as Tommy's parents. Mr. Woodry returns from work to find Tommy missing. Mr. Woodry then asks a police officer for help.

Meanwhile, the Kellersons have Tommy secured in their apartment. Tommy escapes, climbs onto the roof and is pursued by Mr. Kellerson, but Mrs. Kellerson has a change of heart about killing Tommy. The police officer suggests that Tommy went to see his mother, and he and Mr. Woodry leave the tenement. Tommy sees his father leave in his car and shouts for him, the sound of which alerts Mr. Kellerson to Tommy's location. The chase resumes with Tommy finding the body of the dead sailor. The upper building starts to collapse. As Mr. Kellerson is about to grab Tommy, Tommy pushes a rafter aside and Kellerson falls before the rafter collapses and kills him. This time, Tommy screams loud enough for neighbors to hear and they call the police. The boy is rescued and his parents are proud of him.



The story "The Boy Cried Murder" was published in 1947 and optioned by RKO who assigned Fredrick Ullman to produce. Ullman had been head of RKO's documentary and shorts department. Dickie Tyler, who had been in The Bells of St Marys and Christopher Blake was mentioned as a possible star.[5] The film was to be made at RKO's Pathe Studio in New York.[6]

Mel Dinelli, who had written The Spiral Staircase for RKO production chief Dore Schary, adapted the story for the screen and the movie was given the title of The Window.[7] Ted Tetzlaff was given the job of directing.[8]

Ullman wanted to use a semi-documentary style as he came from that background.[9] RKO executives decided to film in Hollywood then changed their mind and went back to New York. Filming started 10 November 1947. It was the first movie RKO shot in that city in a long time.[10] By the time that the film was ready for release in 1948, the millionaire Howard Hughes had taken over the studio and refused to release it, saying it wouldn't make any money and that Bobby Driscoll wasn't much of an actor. However, in 1949, he was persuaded to release it and it became a critical and financial success, earning many times its production costs, with Bobby Driscoll being awarded a juvenile Oscar for his outstanding performance in it.

Bobby Driscoll was borrowed from Walt Disney to play the lead role.


Critical response

When the film was first released, The New York Times lauded the film and wrote, "The striking force and terrifying impact of this RKO melodrama is chiefly due to Bobby's brilliant acting, for the whole effect would have been lost were there any suspicion of doubt about the credibility of this pivotal character. Occasionally, the director overdoes things a bit in striving for shock effects, such as when the half-conscious boy teeters on the rail of a fire-escape or is trapped on a high beam in an abandoned house on the verge of collapse. However, though you may be aware of contrivance in these instances, it is not likely that you will remain immune to the excitement. Indeed, there is such an acute expression of peril etched on the boy's face and reflected by his every movement as he flees death in the crumbling house that one experiences an overwhelming anxiety for his safety."[11]

Film critic Dennis Schwartz discussed the noir aspects of the film and wrote, "The city slum is pictured as not an easy place to raise a child, as there appears no safe place to play. Though the times have changed, this taut tale nevertheless remains gripping and realistic. The modern city is not any less dangerous than the postwar years of the 1940s (undoubtedly even more dangerous). This film noir thriller exploits the meaning of the American dream to work hard for all the material things that were becoming available and ultimately find a utopia in the suburbs, as it cries out for the children left to their own devices to survive in such harsh surroundings as their parents have become too busy to raise them properly."[12]

TV Guide praised the film and wrote in a review of the film, "...this incredibly tense nail-biter stars Driscoll as a young boy who has a habit of crying wolf...The Window presents a frightening vision of helplessness, vividly conveying childish frustration at being dismissed or ignored by one's parents. Director and onetime cameraman Tetzlaff adroitly injects a maximum of suspense into the film, enabling the audience to identify with Driscoll's predicament and to view his parents as evil, almost as evil as the murderers themselves. Having photographed Hitchcock's Notorious just three years before, Tetzlaff had, without a shadow of a doubt, learned something of his suspense-building craft from the master of that art (as did just about every working director)...An exceptional film."[13]





The film has been remade three times:[14][15]


  1. "The Window: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  2. Richard Jewell & Vernon Harbin, The RKO Story. New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House, 1982. p237
  3. Variety (14 October 2017). "Variety (November 1947)". New York, NY: Variety Publishing Company. Retrieved 14 October 2017 via Internet Archive.
  4. Nevins, Francis M. (1988). Cornell Woolrich: First You Dream, Then You Die (New York, London, Tokyo: The Mysterious Press), pp. 332–333.
  5. Schallert, E. (1947, Mar 13). DRAMA AND FILM. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  6. Special to The New York Times. (1947, Mar 13). NEWS OF THE SCREEN. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  7. Of local origin. (1947, Aug 01). New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  8. Schallert, E. (1947, Oct 01). Cabot story promoter; 'winter theater' next. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  9. By A.H. WEILER. (1947, Oct 26). NOTES ABOUT PICTURES AND PEOPLE. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  10. By THOMAS F BRADY Special to The New York Times. (1947, Oct 28). RKO WILL PRODUCE 'THE WINDOW' HERE. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  11. The New Your Times. Film review, "'The Window, Depicting Terror of Boy in Fear of His Life," August 8, 1949. Last accessed: April 5, 2008.
  12. Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, December 29, 2003. Last accessed: April 5, 2008.
  13. TV Guide Film review, 2008. Last accessed: April 5, 2008.
  14. Mayer, Geoff (September 13, 2012). Historical Dictionary of Crime Films. Scarecrow Press. p. 405. ISBN 9780810879003. Retrieved 26 September 2017.
  15. DeGiglio-Bellemare, Mario; Ellbé, Charlie; Woofter, Kristopher (December 11, 2014). Recovering 1940s Horror Cinema: Traces of a Lost Decade. Lexington Books. p. 123. ISBN 9781498503808. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
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