woman in street

The Woman in the Window

The Woman in the Window (1944), is a film noir directed by Fritz Lang that tells the story of psychology professor Richard Wanley (Edward G. Robinson) who meets and becomes enamored with a young femme fatale.

Based on J. H. Wallis' novel Once Off Guard, the story features two surprise twists at the end. Scriptwriter Nunnally Johnson founded International Pictures Incorporated (his own independent production company) after writing successful films such as The Grapes of Wrath (1940) and other John Ford films, and chose The Woman in the Window as its premiere project. Director Fritz Lang substituted the film's dream ending in place of the originally scripted suicide ending, to conform with the moralistic Production Code of the time.

The term "film noir" originated as a genre description, in part, because of this movie. The term first was applied to American films in French film magazines in 1946, the year when The Maltese Falcon (1941), Double Indemnity (1944), Laura (1944), Murder, My Sweet (1944), and The Woman in the Window were released in France.


Wanley first sees the oil portrait of Alice Reed (Joan Bennett) in a store-front window, and then meets the woman herself on the street.

After killing for her in self-defense, she then is blackmailed by Heidt (Dan Duryea), a slick, criminal, ex-policeman who had been the dead man's body guard.


As in Lang's Scarlet Street, released a year later, Edward G. Robinson plays the lonely middle-aged man and Duryea and Bennett co-star as the criminal elements. The Woman in the Window also features Raymond Massey as the District Attorney, a friend of Wanley.


  • Edward G. Robinson as Professor Richard Wanley
  • Joan Bennett as Alice Reed
  • Raymond Massey as Dist. Atty. Frank Lalor
  • Edmund Breon as Dr. Michael Barkstane
  • Dan Duryea as Heidt/Tim, the Doorman
  • Thomas E. Jackson as Inspector Jackson, Homicide Bureau
  • Dorothy Peterson as Mrs. Wanley
  • Arthur Loft as Claude Mazard/Frank Howard/Charlie the Hat check Man
  • Frank Dawson as Collins, the Steward

Critical reception

When the film was released, the staff at Variety magazine lauded the film and wrote, "Nunnally Johnson whips up a strong and decidedly suspenseful murder melodrama in Woman in the Window. Producer, who also prepared the screenplay (from the novel Once off Guard by J.H. Wallis) continually punches across the suspense for constant and maximum audience reaction. Added are especially fine timing in the direction by Fritz Lang and outstanding performances by Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Raymond Massey and Dan Duryea.

Notable quote

  • Wanley (Robinson): There are only three ways to deal with a blackmailer. You can pay him and pay him and pay him until you’re penniless. Or you can call the police yourself and let your secret be known to the world. Or you can kill him.


External links

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