AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Woman in the Window
Alternate Title: Once Off Guard
Director: Fritz Lang (Dir)
Release Date:   3 Nov 1944
Production Date:   11 Apr--9 Jun 1944
Duration (in mins):   99
Duration (in feet):   8,913
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Cast:   Edward G. Robinson (Richard Wanley)  
    Joan Bennett (Alice Reed)  
    Raymond Massey (Frank Lalor)  
    Edmond Breon (Dr. Barkstane)  
    Dan Duryea (Heidt)  
    Thomas E. Jackson (Inspector Jackson)  
    Dorothy Peterson (Mrs. Wanley)  
    Arthur Loft (Claude Mazard, also known as Frank Howard)  
    Frank Dawson (Steward)  
    Carol Cameron (Elsie Wanley)  
    Bobby Blake (Dickie Wanley)  
    Frank Melton (Man in front of art gallery)  
    Don Brodie (Man in front of art gallery)  
    Alec Craig (Garageman)  
    Frank Mills (Garage helper)  
    Ralph Dunn (Traffic officer)  
    Lane Watson (Man in taxi)  
    James Beasley (Man in taxi)  
    Joe Devlin (Toll collector)  
    Fred Graham (Motorcycle officer)  
    Tom Hanlon (Radio announcer)  
    Calvin Emery (Newsreel camerman)  
    Spanky McFarland (Boy Scout)  
    Harry Hayden (Druggist)  
    Jack Gardner (Lalor's chauffeur)  
    Arthur Space (Capt. Kennedy)  
    Harold McNulty (Elevator operator)  
    Joel McGinnis (Elevator operator)  
    Donald Kerr (Elevator operator)  
    Frank McClure (Elevator operator)  
    Anne O'Neal (Woman at elevator )  
    Fred Chapman (Child at elevator)  
    Anne Loos (Stenographer)  
    Frances Morris (Stenographer)  
    Eddie Chandler (Police driver)  
    Thomas P. Dillon (Flynn [Patrick O`Flynn])  
    Iris Adrian (Street walker)  
    Ruth Valmy (Magazine glamour model)  
    Hal Craig (News vendor)  
    Fred Rapport (Club manager)  
    Alex Pollard (Headwaiter)  
    James Harrison (Steward)  
    Jack Gargan (Steward)  
    Lawrence Lathrop (Pageboy)  
    William Lyer (Pageboy)  
    Brandon Beach (Club member)  
    Austin Badell (Club member)  
    Al Benault (Club member)  
    Paul Bradley (Club member)  
    James Carlisle (Club member)  
    William Holmes (Club member)  
    Fred Fuceton (Club member)  
    Sheldon Jett (Club member)  
    J. W. Johnston (Club member)  
    Charles Meskin (Club member)  
    Harold Minjir (Club member)  
    Ralph Norwood (Club member)  
    Wedgwood Nowell (Club member)  
    Louis Payne (Club member)  
    Dave Pepper (Club member)  
    Roy Seager (Club member)  
    Scott Seaton (Club member)  
    Wyndham Standing (Club member)  
    Larry Steers (Club member)  

Summary: After seeing his wife and children off on a summer vacation, Richard Wanley, a middle-aged psychology professor, heads to see his friends, District Attorney Frank Lalor and Dr. Barkstane, at their men's club. On his way to the club, the professor passes a portrait of a woman displayed in a gallery window and, mesmerized, pauses to admire the model's beauty. While seated with his friends at the club, the professor confides that his life is stodgy and devoid of adventure, prompting Lalor to tease him about his wife's absence and to warn him of the dangers of committing the slightest indiscretion. Several brandies later, the professor settles into his easy chair and asks the waiter to rouse him at 10:30. Later, after leaving the club, the professor is again drawn to the portrait and is startled to find the model standing beside it. Flattered by the professor's admiration, the woman, Alice Reed, invites him to her apartment to view more sketches of the artist's work. Hours later, the professor is still basking in Alice's beauty when suddenly, an irate man bursts into the room, accuses her of infidelity and attacks the professor. As the man encircles the professor's neck in a strangle hold, Alice slips a pair of scissors into the professor's hand and he stabs his assailant. Admitting that she was the man's mistress, Alice claims to know little about him other than his name, Frank Howard. The professor is about to notify the police but changes his mind and proposes that they dispose of the body instead. As the professor goes to pick up his car, Alice asks him to leave his vest behind to assure that he will return. Later, Alice searches the vest and finds a pencil with the initials "RW" engraved into it. Upon returning, the professor empties their victim's pockets and finds a watch engraved with the initials "CM." After instructing Alice to meticulously erase all traces of the death, the professor rolls the body in a blanket, stuffs it in the back seat of his car and drives off into the rainy night. Motoring into the country side, the professor crosses a toll bridge at the mouth of some woods. The professor stops, drags the corpse into a stand of trees, and after snagging his hand on a barbed wire fence, dumps the body and then drives away. The next day at the club, Lalor informs his friends that he is investigating the disappearance of wealthy financier Claude Mazard. At the mention of Mazard's name, the professor blurts out that Lalor should not automatically assume that the missing man was murdered. After Mazard's body is discovered in the woods by a Boy Scout, Lalor describes to the professor the clues found at the crime scene. When Lalor reveals that shreds of fiber from a jacket and drops of blood were discovered on a barbed wire fence, the professor exhibits his injured hand, which he claims to have scratched while opening a can. Just as Lalor mentions that Mazard has been linked to a woman, the district attorney is called away. Noticing that the professor is acting strangely, Dr. Barkstane prescribes a sleeping potion, and warns him that an overdose will prove lethal. Lalor then returns and theorizes that Mazard went to his mistress' house and there was killed by her male companion. He continues that Mazard's associates, distrustful of his volatile personality, hired a bodyguard to follow him, and the man, a wanted criminal, may also be involved in the murder. Lalor invites the professor to accompany him to the scene of the crime, and the next day, as Lalor waits to question the toll gate guard, Inspector Jackson of the homicide department arrives, comments on the professor's injured hand and then declares that the mysterious woman has been located. While walking to the spot where the body was found, the inspector describes the murderer's car based on the tire tracks found at the crime scene. As the professor becomes visibly agitated, the inspector teases him about confessing. When Jackson goes to meet the woman, the professor feigns illness and seeks refuge in the car, and from the back window, he determines that the woman is not Alice. Upon returning home, the professor receives a phone call from Alice, who is eager to tell him that she has seen his picture in the paper. At first believing that the photograph is connected to the murder, the professor is relieved when Alice congratulates him on the news of his promotion. After Alice finishes her conversation, Heidt, the man hired to tail Mazard, appears at the door and threatens to expose her unless she pays him $5,000. Ransacking her apartment, Heidt finds the scissors and the professor's pencil. As he spots the discarded newspaper featuring the professor's photograph, Alice snatches it up and pleads for time to raise the money. Giving her until the following evening, Heidt leaves and Alice then phones the professor and informs him of their predicament. Knowing that Heidt will continue to blackmail them, the professor gives Alice the cash and the sleeping powder, instructing her to slip the drug into Heidt's drink. That night, Heidt becomes suspicious when Alice tells him that she can only raise $2,900. When she offers him a drink, Heidt puts down the glass and declares that the price of his silence is that she accompany him to South America. After Alice nervously leaves the room to refresh his drink, Heidt demands that she swallow it. When Alice refuses, he becomes enraged and begins to search for the balance of the money. Behind some books, he finds the rest of the cash and Mazard's watch. Demanding another $5,000, Heidt pockets the watch and storms out of the apartment. Informed by Alice of their new dilemma, the professor, defeated, downs the sleeping powder. As Alice sobs uncontrollably on her bed, she is roused by the sound of gunshots. Running into the street, she learns that Heidt has just been shot by a police officer after he refused an order to halt. Alice calls the professor to tell him the good news, but the phone goes unanswered. The ringing eventually awakens the professor, who then falls into a death-like slumber. At the club, the professor is finally awakened by the waiter, who informs him that it is now 10:30. After realizing that the murder was just a dream, the professor recognizes the hat check man at the club as Mazard and the doorman as Heidt. As he passes the woman's portrait in the window, a street walker asks him for a light, sending him scurrying into the night. 

Production Company: International Pictures, Inc.  
Production Text: A Nunnally Johnson Production
Distribution Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Fritz Lang (Dir)
  Richard Harlan (Asst dir)
Producer: Nunnally Johnson (Prod)
Writer: Nunnally Johnson (Wrt for the screen by)
Photography: Milton Krasner (Dir of photog)
  Harry Davis (2d cam)
  Ed Henderson (Stills)
Art Direction: Duncan Cramer (Art dir)
Film Editor: Marjorie Johnson (Film ed)
  Gene Fowler (Film ed)
  Paul Weatherwax (Ed supv)
Set Decoration: Julia Heron (Set dec)
Costumes: Muriel King (Cost)
Music: Arthur Lange (Mus score)
Sound: Frank McWhorter (Sd)
  B. F. Dalgleish (Re-rec and eff mixer)
  Earl B. Mounce (Mus mixer)
Special Effects: Vernon Walker (Process photog)
  Paul Lerpae (Spec eff)
Production Misc: Milton W. Smith (Unit pub)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the novel Once Off Guard by J. H. Wallis (New York, 1942).
Authors: J. H. Wallis

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
The Christie Corp. 11/10/1944 dd/mm/yyyy LP12883

PCA NO: 10300
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: RCA Sound System

Genre: Mystery
Sub-Genre: Psychological
Subjects (Major): Accidental death
  Portraits (Paintings)
Subjects (Minor): Bodyguards
  District attorneys
  Men's clubs
  Sleeping potions
  Wounds and injuries

Note: The working title of this picture was Once Off Guard . HR news items yield the following information about its production: In Nov 1943, English actor Harry Lester was tested for a featured role and Fritz Lang hoped to cast New York police officer Johnny Broderick as himself in the film. In Mar 1944, Merle Oberon was announced in the part of "Alice Reed." Also in Mar 1944, Chicago police officer Alicia Murphy was tested for the part of the jail matron in the film, but her appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Although a HR production chart places Gloria de River in the cast, her appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. In Dec 1943, background footage was shot in New York City. In May and Jun 1944, the film was shot on soundstages at the Goldwyn, Paramount, RKO, PRC and Selznick studios, according to other HR news items. The portrait of Joan Bennett in the film was painted by Paul Clemens, according to another HR news item. Raymond Massey was borrowed from Warner Bros. to appear in this picture. In a modern interview, Lang stated that producer Nunnally Johnson opposed the film's dream ending. The film received an Academy Award nomination in the Music (Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture) category. On 25 Jun 1945, Lux Radio Theatre broadcast a radio version of the story, which also starred Bennett and Edward G. Robinson. In 1945, Lang brought actors Bennett, Robinson and Dan Duryea together again with director of photography Milton Krasner to film Scarlet Street (see above). 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   14 Oct 1944.   
Daily Variety   10 Oct 44   p. 3.
Film Daily   10 Oct 44   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Nov 43   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Nov 43   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Dec 43   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Dec 43   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Mar 44   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Mar 44   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Apr 44   p.4, 6
Hollywood Reporter   1 May 44   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   5 May 44   p. 21.
Hollywood Reporter   6 May 44   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Jun 44   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Oct 44   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Oct 44   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Oct 44   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   31 Jan 45   p. 10.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   3 Jun 44   p. 1923.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   14 Oct 44   p. 2137.
New York Times   26 Jan 45   p. 16.
Variety   11 Oct 44   p. 12.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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