Study Guide

Rear Window Stella (Thelma Ritter)

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Stella (Thelma Ritter)


Oops, sorry, wrong movie.

Stella is a nurse working for the insurance company handling Jeff's case. She shows up to check his vitals, give him a massage, and give him blunt, unsolicited advice about his love life. She's the main source of comic relief in this suspenseful film.

Stella definitely disapproves of Jeff's new hobby:

STELLA: We've become a race of peeping Toms. What people ought to do is get outside their own house and look in for a change. Yes, sir. How's that for a bit of homespun philosophy?

Stella prides herself on having a nose for trouble, and she sure smells it now:

STELLA: I can smell trouble right here in this apartment. First, you smash your leg. Then, you get to looking out the window. See things you shouldn't see. Trouble.

Played by veteran actress Thelma Ritter, whose voice, as Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote, "could clean an oven," Stella stands as (Canby again) "the wisecracking representative of the happy but caustic proletariat."

Stella's Guide to Love and Marriage

In addition to disapproving of Jeff's peeping, Stella thinks he's crazy for not marrying Lisa. Stella is the one character who presents some common-sense ideas about marriage: it's hard, and you can't sit around waiting for the perfect person.

STELLA: You kidding? She's a beautiful, young girl, and you're a reasonably healthy young man.

JEFF: She expects me to marry her.

STELLA: That's normal.

JEFF: I don't want to.

STELLA: That's abnormal.

JEFF: I'm just not ready for marriage.

STELLA: Every man's ready for marriage when the right girl comes along. Lisa Fremont is the right girl for any man with half a brain who can get one eye open.

Stella has been married a long time herself, and she knows it ain't easy. She tries to talk sense into Jeff:

STELLA: Look, Mr. Jefferies, I'm not an educated woman. But, I can tell you one thing: when a man and a woman see each other and like each other, they ought to come together, wham, like a couple of taxis on Broadway and not sit around analyzing each other like two specimens in a bottle.

She shares her own experience:

STELLA: When I married Miles, we were both maladjusted misfits. We still are. And we've loved every minute of it.

JEFF: That's fine, Stella, now will you make me a sandwich?

STELLA: Okay, but I'm going to spread some common sense on the bread. Lisa Fremont's loaded to her fingertips with love for you. I'll give you two words of advice: marry her.

Except for Stella and Miles, all of the other marriages we see in the film are in trouble, or at least filled with bickering. We're glad someone figured out how to make it work. Maybe Jeff will see the light.

Down to Business

Stella eventually gets drawn in to the drama as she starts to think that Jeff's suspicions might not be unfounded. She calls the police when it looks like Miss Lonelyhearts is about to commit suicide, and she helps Jeff get whatever info they can about Thorwald. Once she's in, she's in:

STELLA: (watching Thorwald washing down his bathroom) Must have splattered a lot. (Jeff and Lisa look at her.) Well, why not? That's what we're all thinking. He killed her in there, and he has to wipe up the stains before he leaves.

LISA: Stella, your choice of words …

STELLA: Nobody's invented polite words yet for killing.

Stella's plainspokenness gets to the heart of the matter and helps clarify for the audience exactly what's going on.

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