She’s Always Gotta Have the Last Word

Hitchcock was neither starry-eyed nor cynical when it came to the subject of married life, but he liked to poke gentle fun at it from time to time. Jeff in RW acts as something of the director’s mouthpiece, sniping at statements made by those—Gunnison, Stella, and naturally, Lisa—who support the institution. Of course, this is standard sit-com operating procedure, showing a character loudly refusing what he will later embrace. But, in this film—about a woman’s triumph over her man—that’s not even the half of it.

Attentive viewers will note how carefully AH prepares for his ending. Hitchcock allows Lisa to conclude each of the film’s three acts with a benedictory piece of dialog. She closes Act I with “Tell me everything you saw. . . And what you think it means.” Act II ends with Lisa’s rhetorical questions: “Why would Thorwald want to kill a little dog? Because it knew too much?”

Subtly, AH is putting over the common male complaint about the woman in a relationship always wanting the last word—and getting it. When Lisa asserts herself silently at the end (accompanied lyrically by the enconium coincidentally dedicated to her) she is also bringing another adage to mind: She speaks loudest when not at all.

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