The Woman in the Window (1944)

Joan Bennett and Edward G. Robinson in The Woman in the Window (1944)

Joan Bennett and Edward G. Robinson in The Woman in the Window (1944)

It’s hard not to compare The Woman in the Window to Scarlet Street, another Fritz Lang film starring Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, and Dan Duryea, which appeared the following year. It seems many people favor one over the other. Both are successful, and in my mind a preference for one over the other is really a matter of taste. The two films share many parallels. The stories in both films are set off by a relatively harmless extramarital dalliance. In both films, portraits of Joan Bennett sit in shop windows, haunting Edward G. Robinson’s character. In both films, characters mislead others and/or are mislead. In both, clues are misinterpreted, and in both the wrong man gets the blame for the murder, but it’s the man with whom you–the viewer–sympathize least.

Christopher (Edward G. Robinson) will do anything for Kitty (Joan Bennett) in Scarlet Street (1946)

Christopher (Edward G. Robinson) will do anything for Kitty (Joan Bennett) in Scarlet Street (1945)

Joan Bennett has to act a little more, maybe, in Scarlet Street, putting on that she’s really bad news. Though it’s much more sad, Scarlet Street also has more funny moments, while The Woman in the Window is darker–more of a straight noir right up until just before the very end.  Then again, The Woman in the Window has my favorite chuckle of the two when the the boy scout who found the body appears in a newsreel.

"I was not afraid!  I will give my brother some of the reward money to go to a second-rate college, and I am going to HARVARD!"

“I was not afraid! I will give my brother some of the reward money to go to a second-rate college, and I am going to HARVARD!”

I like watching the professor (Robinson) in The Woman in the Window squirming as the district attorney chats with him about the murder investigation. I like the strange, tense relationship in The Woman in the Window between Alice (Bennett) and the professor. I can see how the very end of The Woman in the Window is unsatisfying–a cop out for the Hays code.  I think Scarlet Street gets more love, but my personal taste leans toward The Woman in the Window.

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