Rear Window

Rear Window Alfred Hitchcock - the Paramount Years

Paramount Pictures was founded in 1914 by W.W. Hodkinson. It is currently the oldest running American studio and the fifth oldest surviving film studio in the world. Alfred Hitchcock spent two phases of his storied career at the legendary studio. His very first job in the film industry was at Famous Players-Lasky, Paramount's London production arm, established in 1919 and headquartered in Islington. At the time, Paramount was the world's leading film producer in the world; young Hitchcock worked there in the early 1920s.

The second wave of Hitchcock's relationship with Paramount Studios came in 1954, after his directing career had gathered significant momentum in the United States as well as the UK. Hitchcock's move to Paramount in 1954 was masterminded by powerhouse talent agent Lew Wasserman. Until then, Hitchcock was under contract at Warner Brothers, who agreed to loan him to Paramount for one film, but Wasserman managed to evolve the initial contract into a longer-term relationship with the studio.

Around the time that Hitchcock made the shift to Paramount, the studio was going through a transition of its own, spearheaded by Don Hartman and Y. Frank Freeman. It used to be structured in the same way that most of the original Hollywood studios were, with salaried producers managed closely by studio executives. In the 1950s, Paramount began to contract outside production companies "dominated by a director, producer, or star lured to the lot by promises of independence and profit sharing" (McGilligan 478). Indeed while Hitchcock was at Paramount, he was in good company: directors George Stevens (A Place in the Sun, Shane), William Wyler (Wuthering Heights, Roman Holiday), and Cecil B. DeMille (Cleopatra, Samson & Delilah) all completed Paramount pictures. In addition, actors Bob Hope, Barbara Stanwyck, Humphrey Bogart, Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, and James Stewart occupied offices on the lot. Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin were contracted to Paramount, and Elvis Presley joined them two years later.

Hartman and Freeman were very eager to sign Hitchcock, and Wasserman took advantage of their enthusiasm to protect his client's creative autonomy while also negotiating a generous salary, expense account, and perks package, as well as profit and gross percentages. Hitchcock was to make 9 films for Paramount: "five directed and produced by Hitchcock, and four produced by the studio" (McGilligan 479). During his tenure at Paramount, Hitchcock was at the peak of his career - both financially and creatively. It was there that he made Rear Window (1954), To Catch a Thief (1955), The Trouble with Harry (1955), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), and Vertigo (1958).