The Woman in the Window : Meaning of the ending (please answer this)

Meaning of the ending (please answer this)

I saw this film 2 days ago and thought it was fantastic: It had me on the edge of my seat until the very end, although I must admit that the ending threw me; my initial reaction was, why did it have to be all a dream?
However I have given it some thought and come to the conclusion that it may have been the only possible choice.
It makes sense that Prof. Warley was subconsciously wishing to escape his cosy but extremely routine existence by imagining a meeting with the woman in the window but would never actually go through with it in real life.
The portrait of the beautiful lady is merely a screen upon which the protagonist projects his hidden desires and need of adventure, and may not even exist in the flesh. What do you think?
Though I can't get over the feeeling i've missed something.
I'm open to other interpretations, so post those replies!

Re: Meaning of the ending (please answer this)

I think you've interpreted the ending very well. The "it was all a dream" plot has been overdone in recent years, but this movie still retains it's suspense thanks to the wonderful stars and director.

"It's as red as the Daily Worker and twice as sore."

Re: Meaning of the ending (please answer this)

….People tend to dismiss the ending, but it allows for one of the best transitions (without a cut) in films.

Didn't the ending cheat a little, though?

I didn't so much mind the "dream" gimmick, but I thought the movie didn't
play fair on that one. If a movie is going to pull a fast one like that, don't
all the details have to be consistent? Like the surprise twist in "The Sixth
Sense"–afterwards, it's fun to go back and watch that film again, to see
how everything made sense and was consistent with the ending. "Woman in the
Window" cheated a little bit, I thought:

1. When you dream, aren't you always part of every scene, as a spectator
if not a participant? Professor Wanley is at home when Alice meets with
the blackmailer, so how could he have witnessed it? Also, since he
never saw the blackmailer, the doorman would not have looked familiar
to him.

2. In the dream, he sees that Alice has swiped his monogrammed pen, so
how could he be unaware that she has it?

One thing I agree on, though–if a boy scout appeared in one of my dreams,
he probably WOULD look exactly like Spanky McFarland from the Little Rascals.

Re: Didn't the ending cheat a little, though?

I believe the dream ending was tacked on because the Hayes Office wouldn't allow Fritz Lang to end it the way he wanted.

Captain Warren 'Rip' Murdock: I'm the brass-knuckles-in-the-teeth-to-dance-time type.

Re: Didn't the ending cheat a little, though?

This, of course, is urban legend and utter nonsense. It's set up from the first club scene - it's all there. Nothing was tacked on at the end, which is why the "cast" from the dream, all have roles in the finale.

Re: Didn't the ending cheat a little, though?

The "tacked on ending" may be urban legend, but I think Fritz Lang's wanting to end it differently than the Hayes Office would allow sounds likely

Captain Warren 'Rip' Murdock: I'm the brass-knuckles-in-the-teeth-to-dance-time type.

Re: Didn't the ending cheat a little, though?

Urban legend? Perhaps. I seem to recall that the ending to "The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry" was tacked on (due to preview audience reaction rather than the Hayes office), so a tacked on ending is certainly possible with this film too. This is exactly why I love commentaries on DVDs – more often than not, an important subject like a tacked on ending is immediately verified or dispelled by an expert with intimate knowledge of the film at hand.

For me, the dream ending fits so well that I'll be mulling the "true" ending over for some time.

Re: Didn't the ending cheat a little, though?

According to the data on Deep about this upcoming disc(i.e., the info on the package itself) the studio made the decision because of preliminary testing that found audiences did not like the original (not happy) ending . The Hayes Office had requirements (and I loathe them and their supporters) but happy endings were not one of them - and in some cases unhappy (but"moral"!!) endings were required.

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Re: Didn't the ending cheat a little, though?

Although people are dismissing that theory, but I could not agree with you more.

black and white movies were better

Re: Didn't the ending cheat a little, though?

Dreams don't necessarily have to include one. Believe me, I know, I have very realistic dreams where i'm no part of the action, but just an observer, it's like watching a movie…. of course, whatever i'm watching is connected with me in one way or another…

.;*We Live Inside A Dream*;.

Re: Didn't the ending cheat a little, though?

I strongly disagree. In my dreams I often change from one person to another or observe things in which am taking no part. I don't think the movie is very dream-like, but I find it very believable that a person could invent all of the details of the mystery, even those of which he was supposedly unaware. Of course the doorman looked familiar because, since Richard was dreaming the whole thing, HE controlled the whole story! Even the scenes in which he took no part were still part of HIS imagination. I think if you consider this a little more you'll realize the error in your thinking.

Re: Didn't the ending cheat a little, though?

Great analysis from tmaj48, and I have no doubt the Hays Office may have had a hand in the ending.

But… for me it still works. Beautifully. This movie is as close as it gets in a movie theater to entering that twilight world between dreaming and reality.

My answer to tmaj48, and the fact that the professor isn't in every scene? The dream is ultimately not his, but ours. We sit in the dark, exploring our fears and sense of risk and pleasure, as well as our latent guilt and disappointment at ourselves. And then we get to wake up and go home and marvel, a little awkwardly, at how incredibly compelling and enjoyable it all was.

I first saw this movie almost 20 years ago. I haven't seen it since, but it haunts me still – in the best possible way.

Re: Didn't the ending cheat a little? Certainly not!

"When you dream, aren't you always part of every scene, as a spectator
if not a participant?"

No, that depends on the dreamer. I have had many dreams played like scenes in a film, in which I was not really present.

Frederik van Eeden, an acquaintance and colleague of Freud, did his own dream research as well as dream experiments (he tried to break glass in one dream, to see if the laws of physics still applied in the known way).

Following his method, by keeping a dream diary next to my bed, at one time I was able to have lucid dreams (to know that I am dreaming and being able to direct the dream in one way or another).

That said, I love The Woman In The Window as a whole. I saw the professor falling asleep, and seemingly awaking in a dreamlike state, in which adventurous and terrible things happened. To me it was only logical and just that he woke up from his bad dream.
(Without this surreal entering and ending, I would have given this classic a slightly lower rating. As it is now, I find it to be perfect.)" alt="afro.gif">" alt="roll2.gif">
"The Beamer Xperience: 9 feet wide home cinema bliss."

Re: Didn't the ending cheat a little, though?

I tend to come down on the side of agreeing with OP that they didn't really play fair on the dream gimmick.

Let's say you're having a dream and a character in your dream does something, like say swipe a pen. Then you the dreamer show up in your own dream. But you (as a character in the dream) are unaware of the event that happened earlier in the dream (in this case, swiping a pen). But you're the one dreaming, and it happened in the dream, so wouldn't you know?

This movie is primarily the main character's dream. We the viewers see things happen in the dream which the dreamer (as a character in the dream) is not supposed to be aware of. But how could we see it in his dream and him not know?

Arguably one could chalk that up to dreams not being entirely logical and having action on several levels of awareness. But for purposes of the plot flow of a movie, that's a little out there.

I like this movie very much, but really hated that it all turned out to be just a dream. Maybe in its day that seemed like a novel device, but it sure doesn't now.

Re: Didn't the ending cheat a little, though?

"1. When you dream, aren't you always part of every scene, as a spectator
if not a participant?"

Not for me (one can effectively be a spectator in a portion of a dream, without being conventionally present; happens to me all the time - its a little like watching a movie, in fact). And presumably, I'm not the only one this happens to.

I believe all of those "rules" about what can or can't happen in a dream, are old wives tales. I can't think of any of those rules which haven't been broken in one of my dreams. Never-the-less, some things are more likely to happen than other things; most of those rules probably indicate rarities, rather than things which can't occur.

Been making IMDB board posts since the 90s, yet can't bring up any from before December of 2004.

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Re: Meaning of the ending (please answer this)

Definitely there was a cut. You can see very subtly the transition before the club attendant wakes him up.

Am I anywhere near the imaginary cliff?

Re: Meaning of the ending (please answer this)

I don't think that there was a cut in the original take i.e. it was performed uncut. The disturbance in the image is only to do with the density and granularity of the image and it takes place when the porter's hand is already in shot. If it was purely to make the change, there would be no point in cutting there as it would just make life harder. The position matching in any case is far to good to be achievable in a pre-CGI age. So I think that it is all material from the same take.

In any case they did all the hard work, it just needed careful shooting, a small fly-away set and cutaway clothes.

I suspect however a section of the original camera negative was replaced by an optical dupe for some reason during the shaking.

In those days it was bad form to run a dupe for the whole length of a shot if it could be avoided as the quality was noticeably worse (watch most films up until the 1970s and just before and after most dissolves there will be an edit for this reason). After the 1970s intermediate stocks were improved enough that dupes could usually be run for the whole length of the shot without being obvious.

What I think we are seeing in Woman in the Window is a cut from the dupe to the original footage and/or a change in printer lights to adjust the relative density.

True ending to Woman in the Window

I recently read an article where they said that the true ending was so gruesome that they would not allow it to be seen on screen, so it was changed to be all a dream.

Re: Meaning of the ending (please answer this)

Well, at least with this movie, it CLEARLY shows it WAS just all a dream, unlike "Laura" (that came out the same year) or "Vertigo" (1958), you are not left to contemplate whether it was or not (just for some great examples).

Although I read they had to change the ending due to codes of the time, it originally ended with a suicide and not it being all a dream.

"I promise you, before I die I'll surely come to your doorstep"

Re: Meaning of the ending (please answer this)

Why a dream ending? Because it's better that way! And, yes, you can certainly dream of witnessing or knowing about events where you are not present, and you can dream of being surprised (e.g., by the missing pencil).

The twist ending was done masterfully and I didn't see it coming, although I noticed one clue that should have tipped me off: Robinson is promoted from assistant professor to head of the department—dreams are wishes!

Re: Meaning of the ending (please answer this)

I also had the theory of the "it was all a dream" was more to appease the studio. I will definitely give this excellent movie another viewing to see if everything fits together to show that the ending was as it was supposed to be intended. Maybe even going to the source and tracking down the book would be an idea. Although I did like the originator of this thread(sorry forgot your handle) analysis of the movie. All in all this was a great movie.

Re: Meaning of the ending (please answer this)

Please tell me Lang wanted to end the movie differently. As it is, it's a crass ending to an otherwise enjoyable film.

I find it very hard to believe that Fritz Lang would have wanted the awful, childish, simplistic, banal ending that the movie is now saddled with. It reeks of studio interference.

Re: Meaning of the ending (please answer this)

"Please tell me Lang wanted to end the movie differently."

No, on the contrary, he even fought for it. He argued with his screenwriter to end the film as it does now. And Lang wasn't interested in keeping the studio happy. He thought it was a moral issue. It would be cruel, unjust and unnecessary to leave an innocent and good man - as he saw the professor that way - with such a fate. So Lang used the gifts of the gods: sleep. The professor fell asleep in his chair, and woke up again in his chair.

I know and accept that not everyone likes the ending. But to me it is pure, honest, and one of my very favorite endings!" alt="afro.gif">" alt="roll2.gif">
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Re: Meaning of the ending (please answer this)

I thought the ending was great and really fit the character. Don't forget, he was talking about Sigmund Freud in the beginning to his class, as well as talking about murder and the reasons behind it. It felt like a perfect ending to such a character. This movie was fantastic.

Re: Meaning of the ending (please answer this)

Good point Mark, especially in light of the double and reflected imagery motif Lang utilized thoughout the movie!

Re: Meaning of the ending (please answer this)

In an article he wrote in 1947, called 'Happily Ever After', Fritz Lang confirmed that he did indeed want the film to end 'happily', in the manner in which we have it now. It was most certainly his choice.

For in-depth, passionate film criticism:">

Re: Meaning of the ending (please answer this)

While there were many "code endings", I'll argue (without knowing Lang's intent) that this is not one of them! The code would not have required the "happy ending" whatsoever. In fact, if anything, it would have required a "tragic" ending because Robinson had killed someone (although probably self-defense) and was an accomplice to attempted murder and justice (legal or poetic) needed to be served. If anything, the ending is an ingenious device to skirt the code!

That aside, the entire film set up the ending twist beautifully, and would have been a lesser film without it. Why? As I watched it the first time I began to think "this guy is an idiot… he keeps implicating himself… the nitwit is actually leading the search party to the body… etc, etc". However, when the ending twist came, it all made perfect sense and the cheap plot devices (the character being stupid in order to produce circumstances with more suspense) in the story turned out to be brilliant clues to the truth of the whole story!!

It's sad that so many people just don't get it. I think one of the big problems everyone has with this ending is that in the 65 years since its release, this plot device has been (over)used, and has become somewhat cliche. However, remember that this was 1944 and the idea of an entire film being a dream was pretty fresh! The ending is PERFECT. :-)

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Re: The ending (SPOILERS! for the this film and 'The Bad Seed')

Despite what some of the other posters have said, I think the censors demanded that ending.

If the film had ended right before Robinson waking up, there would have two problems. One, Joan Bennett would have escaped justice. Two, Robinson would have escaped justice through suicide. And yes, the latter was verboten, too, in 1944. As late as 1955, the ending of The Bad Seed had to be changed (from the play and the novel) because otherwise the mother would have escaped justice for killing her daughter. (That's how the censors saw it!)

… Justin" alt="noir.gif">

Re: The ending (SPOILERS! for the this film and 'The Bad Seed')

It's a shame Fritz Lang is dead otherwise you could have told him he was wrong in believing the dream ending was the one he'd planned on. (See the post above quoting Lang himself.)

Re: The ending (SPOILERS! for the this film and 'The Bad Seed')

Why would I want to argue with Fritz Lang?

…Justin" alt="out.gif">

Re: The ending (SPOILERS! for the this film and 'The Bad Seed')

great ending imo, really made the movie for me.

Re: Meaning of the ending (please answer this)

One thing I really liked about the ending was we see all the characters from the dream show up in real life, but then the woman at the end is a different, less attractive woman than Reed. Richard then runs away, determined not to give her a light. But we are left to consider perhaps if the Woman in the Window had actually approached him, he might have done it all again!

Re: Meaning of the ending (please answer this)


This type of dream ending, with all the charcters showing up in real life, had already been done years before. Remember a film called "The Wizard of Oz"?

Personally, I found this ending to be a big letdown after all the masterful suspense that came before. If Edward G. Robinson had committed suicide, and the picture ended with his close up, it would have been much more powerful. IMHO.

Re: Meaning of the ending (please answer this)

But is it fair to judge an old movie by today's standards? Nowadays the audience seems to want realism. So if Robinson's character killed himself in the end that would fit. It is at least one of the likely outcomes for someone in that situation. But the movie was shot in 1944. Things were different then.

Re: Meaning of the ending (please answer this)

Yes, I am well aware of The Wizard of Oz. Like I said, it wasn't the fact that the dream characters showed up in real life that I liked. It was that they all showed up except for the sexy girl who could have made the whole dream come true. Instead, he gets a woman without the sex appeal and so is given the opportunity to flee without hesitation.

Re: Meaning of the ending (please answer this)

The ending isn't just about tying up all the ends of the story to create a happy ending out of a tragic story. And it isn't a cop-out either. It's a deliberate decision to get the audience to consider what they've just witnessed in a post-modern sense.

So did the events of the dream happen?

The film says they didn't because of the character's waking up at the end. But then again, this is a film we're watching, so in our waking reality, those events outside the dream never really happened either. It's just a movie.

Do our dreams represent events that really happened?

Not as we understand them, but we experience these events nonetheless, becoming a witness to our own inner thoughts – in a Freudian sense. Much like a movie. So then, watching a movie is like watching a dream.

This movie is commenting on how movies operate in our culture. Things happen in a movie, but then we are let out of the theater and the events of the movie occupy the same spaces in our brains that the events of a dream do. We go about our lives with the events of every movie we've ever watched internalized – and although they never really happened, they stay with us and affect us anyway. It's exactly the same thing with dreams.

The instrument has yet to be invented that can measure my indifference to that remark.

Re: Meaning of the ending (please answer this)

But you haven't got the meaning of the dream ending here. Not all dream endings are the same.

Here, the mood was always nightmarish.

1) Richard's subconscious adventure lust - The film would never have been possible in real life, because Richard's thirst for adventure had died/been repressed so far. It could only have happened in a dream.

2) The woman from the painting coming alive - This is exactly stuff of dreams.

3) Richard's ambition - During the murder investigation, he disapprovingly corrected as 'Assistant Professor', when he was asked whether he was a Professor. Later in the film, he gets a promotion as Head of the Department. Too much of a coincidence to be real. In fact, he wasn't even expecting it, but his subconscious had been wishing for it.

4) He would have phoned the police in real life after the murder. He was just lecturing that a murder done in self-defense and and another with a motive were different.

5) Everything that happened around him, including Frank's investigation centered around his activities on the night of his murder. They portrayed his insecurities. The police were interpreting clues with the speed and precision of Sherlock Holmes which was a tad too unrealistic.

There are more signs in the film as to why it all had to be a dream. The ending worked within the realm of this film, and that's all that is important. Not how many other films ending in a similar way.

Re: Meaning of the ending (please answer this)

Maybe everyone here is a little bit right.

According to an article in Senses of Cinema, Lang did in fact push for the dream ending because the Hays Code would undoubtedly require such a "happy" resolution to a narrative rife with crime and suicide. However, his jovial attitude towards such a "corny" device indicates that perhaps it was all for fun and that he made the constraints of the code work for him, despite the lack of novelty. Apparently, and most interestingly, he was also responsible for introducing the idea of a dream ending to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Therefore, like much of noir, it was most likely a case of censorship inducing creativity that to some fans and critics may have resulted in a more satisfying, even eccentric picture.

Read the whole thing here:">

Be seeing you.

good movie but the ending is a cheat, plain + simple

I liked this movie enough that I wanted to forgive it for the cheesy ending. C'mon, folks, you set up a suspenseful situation, teasing the viewers, making them wonder how it will end - will he die? will he answer the phone and somehow recover from the drug? will she get caught? how can the police ever know about her? All of these things are at the heart of the plot as the movie nears its end. And then we get the ridiculous "Nyah-ha, it was all just a dream." That's about as un imaginative as it's possible to get. In the old days they just had God step in and he made things turn out OK. In Superman comics, the Man of Steel might spin the globe backwards to go back in time to set things right. They're all ridiculous plot contrivances from writers who ran out of ideas. Enjoy the movie, but please spare me from hearing that the ending is anything less than a cheat.

Re: a very effective, thought-provoking ending

Had never seen this movie and really only was a Joan Bennett fan from her Dark Shadows days. It was Edward G. Robinson's and Fritz Lang's names on the PBS schedule which prompted me to watch it rather than a performance of Parsifal last night. (It's also two-plus hours shorter than Parsifal. LOL.) I found it slow-moving but was intrigued by the way the plot kept pulling one in … like a slowly moving dream! And of course that was Lang's intention. When the Professor awoke back in the Club I was chuckling at my reactions all throughout the movie. Of course it had to be a dream. No educated man could so eagerly clue his friends into his knowing so much more than he should have about the murder than he should. I also found upon reflection that the entire dream sequence had been brilliantly set up and executed (no pun intended). It was also a treat to see that Joan Bennett could not only act but had been a great beauty. The entire concept of this movie is astonishingly mature for a film produced in the early '40's. I mentally tip my hat to the entire production crew. Bennett's apartment was so "perfect" a representation of the stylish '40's. I could almost swear that fireplace resembled one in an old family home when I was a child. The entire film is a true class act.

Re: a very effective, thought-provoking ending

Hays Code or commercial calculation, whichever the reason, it was a dumb thing to do and indeed sort of a cheat - it basically turned a powerful, tragic story into some silly cautionary tale about the ills of adultery (it would have been that either way, of course, but also much more than that). It doesnt obliterate all the fine things the film had to offer before the wake-up call, but sure as hell brings it down a notch. Its not the same thing it would have been had it retained its integrity until the end.

I also disagree with the above poster who claims that "no educated man could so eagerly clue his friends into his knowing more than he should have about the murder" - its all very conceivable that one gets nervous and makes mistakes in such a situation. As for his talking about the scar, I suppose it would possibly have been noticed anyway so it was better to get it off the table on his own initiative. Unlike with something like Mulholland Dr, the dream state didnt really seem to inform the films aesthetics in any notable way.

"facts are stupid things" - Ronald Reagan

Re: Meaning of the ending (please answer this)

Such a sadly disappointing ending to such a well-made, if infuriating, movie.

Really quite awful waste of good pathos.

Re: Meaning of the ending (please answer this)

i thought it was set up from the beginning as a dream. the lecture having to do with freud and murder. robinson's friends being a doctor and a district attorney were perfect fodder for the dream. robinson's character talking about being tired. the detective and the d a's reactions when they were at the murder scene. the doctor whipping out his prescription pad to give robinson a medication that can be lethal at the first mention of him being a bit woozy. it was all played just a tiny bit over the top. and the girls apartment was overly sumptuous, as this tired, older family man, looking for some excitement, might imagine a beautiful young woman would have. the promotion being written up in a new york newspaper with a huge picture was a dead give-a-way that it was all imagined. even in 1944 an assistant professor being promoted wasn't that newsworthy. maybe a small blurb in a section of the paper dealing with education, if there was such a thing. i would have been disappointed if it had ended any other way. it wouldn't have seemed finished if he had just died. and, besides, who would want cute, little robert blake to be left fatherless. i loved the movie, and i can't believe, with all the old movies i watch, that i had never seen it until today.

Re: Meaning of the ending (please answer this)

The dream ending is perfect. It gives more meaning to the movie.

If it WASN'T a dream….then what do we have? A far-fetched tale of a woman from a painting that miraculously shows-up….and all the events that unfold afterwards.

But because is WAS a dream….what do we have? We have a look into the mind of a man who's growing older….and who's debating in his own mind whether having 'spice/action/mystery/etc.' in his life would be a good thing or a bad thing. The mild-mannered guy who dreams of excitement….literally. But who won't act on it. Or sadly, this type of intrigue is just not likely to ever happen to him.

I loved the ending.

PS - you don't have to be in every scene of a dream. Just think of him as half-asleep and fantasizing.

Re: Meaning of the ending (please answer this)

I think he had to find out the hard way what adventure can sometimes lead to….

Jim Hutton (1934-79) & Ellery Queen =