Was “Rear Window” Shot in an Actual Apartment Courtyard or an Elaborate Set?
Rear Window (1954) is one of Hitchcock’s classic “single set” films. The entire story takes place in one area, and all but a few camera shots originate from the same position - the big bay window of L.B. Jefferies (James Stewart), the film’s central character. Jeff’s apartment is a fantastic location offering a view into a number of apartments, a lovely courtyard and a glimpse of a city street on the far side. The entire area is also entirely fabricated. Hitchcock didn’t enjoy the idea of commandeering a real apartment complex for two months, dealing with the complexity of that, and being at the mercy of the elements. He decided to have one built based on courtyards he had observed and photographed in New York City’s Greenwich Village.
Rear Window’s apartment/courtyard set was almost 100 feet wide, 185 feet long, and 40 feet high. There were 31 total apartments in the set, and several of them were fully furnished with working plumbing and utilities. The set was actually too large to fit inside any studio space at Paramount. Hitchcock had the studio floors gutted for the purpose of making this set. The courtyard was actually below the basement of the studio (they dug deep enough to hit water), and Jeff’s apartment was at street level with the studio exterior.
Over 1,000 lights were used to simulate the brightness and authenticity of natural sunlight to make the block appear outdoors, and could be modified to reflect varying sun intensity at different times of day. Nearly every light in Paramount’s possession that wasn’t being utilized on another project was brought in for Rear Window.
Construction of the set cost in the realm of $75-100k, a big expense for 1954.