THE WINDOW is a thrilling example American film noir in the late 1940s. This post-WW2 period saw the rise of McCarthyism, HUAC, and the publication of the first part of the sensational and controversial Kinsey Report. Issues of hidden secrets and sex dominate American drama at this time – and are very present in The Window. Directed by Ted Tetziaff it is a taunt exciting story about a young boy, living with his parents in a New York Lower East Side tenement apartment, who one night witnesses his neighbours murdering a man. The trouble is, the young boy is notorious for telling tales and no one believes him – ‘the boy who cried wolf’. The drama escalates when the killers realize he knows and go after him, climaxing with a chase through an old tenement building. Shades of Hitchcock’s Rear Window? Absolutely; but The Window pre-dates Rear Window by 6 years. Mind you, Tetziaff was Hitchcock’s cinematographer on Notorious (1946), and there are certainly touches of Hitchcock in The Window. Was Hitchcock in turn inspired by Tetziaff? I don’t know; but the interconnection between the two films is there.
Part of the enjoyment of The Window lays with not only the creepy decedent atmosphere and setting of the film, but also with the exceptional cast. This includes Barbara Hale, Arthur Kennedy, Paul Stewart, Ruth Roman, and above all Bobby Driscoll as the young boy, Tommy. Bobby Driscoll (1937-68) was an exceptional and highly talented child ‘star’. His films include Song of the South (1946), So Dear to my Heart (1948), The Window (1949), and Treasure Island (1950). In 1950 he received a special Academy ‘Juvenile’ Award for his performances in So Dear to My Heart and The Window. He was also the animation model and voice for Peter Pan in Disney’s Peter Pan (1953).
Sadly, Bobby Driscoll’s life took a massive decline, primarily due to a heroin addiction that saw him sentenced to prison in 1961. In 1965 he was living in New York and became part of Andy Warhol’s Factory where he produced some outstanding collages and cardboard mailers. In late 1967, broke and penniless he left the Factory and disappeared. On 30 March 1968 his body was discovered lying on a cot by two boys playing in a deserted East Village tenement. The cause of death was registered as heart failure; he was just 31 years old. His body was not identified and he was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave on Hart Island. In 1969, nineteen months after his death, his mother sort help from the Disney Studios to find her son. Through finger identification his death was revealed; although his body has never been discovered. A truly tragic story. Subsequently, watching The Window, or Peter Pan, has a particular poignancy, especially The Window considering the tragic circumstances of his death in a place that echoes with the setting of The Window. Michael Apted’s 7 Up series also resonates here – ‘Show me the child of 7 and I will show you the man’ etc. However, the dreadful fate of Bobby Driscoll is not really apparent when one watches his extraordinary power and talent so clearly evident in The Window.