The Window (1949) And The Tragic Case Of Bobby Driscoll

Firstly, anyone heard “crying wolf” anywhere around me will be getting a jolly good telling off, that’s for sure. Using my esteemed name in vain, well whatever next? Further more, wolf’s don’t cry! And don’t listen to those wicked rumours about that wolf shaped ball of fluff, whimpering and sobbing at the back of the Odeon cinema in 1999 during the opening scene of Disney’s Tarzan. It simply wasn’t true, it was not! Sniffles. Oh no, I’ve just thought back to it. “Oh dang it! pass the tissues, please!“. Ok the legend of the crying wolf is true so I’ll let you use the quotation for the Aesop’s Fable to start the film.

Opening intro –The boy cried ‘wolf’. ‘Wolf’ several times and each time the people came to help him they found that there wasn’t any ‘wolf.”

But before that. What was that most respected and honorable Todd over at Cinema Monolith doing recommending a movie starring a kid? You know the guy right? Yeah Todd, the owner of the movie review site that’s dedicated to all things gritty, dark and twisted. Film noir with smoking hot babes doing a number on some poor schmuck too lost, in too deep, mesmerized and too smitten to know any better. A real B-movie, dark thriller specialist. There were even rumours floating about that he could be the fabled long lost brother of Eddie Muller, the legend behind Noir Alley!. So what was he doing recommending me The Window (1949). I mean how dumbed down in the gritty stakes will a film be starring a kid? I let out a deep sigh as I pressed play!

Tagline – Through the Window He Saw it…but no one would believe him…no one except the Killers!

Seventy three minutes later I sit back letting out a deep breath whilst releasing the tight grip my vice like fingers had dug deep into the sofa’s arm rests. I’d just had way too much suspense and taut thrills thrown in my face. All whilst our young tiny hero carried the whole picture on his eleven year old shoulders. Wow! That was tense as I start to relax shaking my head in shame at the thought that how could I ever doubt Todd’s masterful film recommending skills? I do an imaginary high five to him.

Of course, I never did doubt for one second but what would the fun be in that, I ask? So without anymore waffle from me. “Praise the lord!” “Oh wow he’s actually getting on with it!” “Please…. Please make him stop!” “Hairy thing! Will you shut up!“. Luckily my furry face hides my shame from hearing those comments, as I do, at last, get on with it.

The Film Plot

The Window (1949) is the story of a young lad with a wandering imagination. Tommy Woodry (Bobby Driscoll) can not contain himself from telling tall tales. Each day he yet again angers his friends and frustrates his poor loving parents, Mary Woodry (Barbara Hale) and Ed Woodry (Arthur Kennedy). To the point of despair they feel the unwanted need to punish him to hopefully stop these lies and vivid tales. Tommy is young, hyper and full of thoughts running through his head. He doesn’t mean any harm by it, he’s a good kid at heart.

One terrible, suffocating, hot night of blistering unbearable heat, Tommy asks if he can sleep outside on the fire escape. He takes his pillow and settles down. Only to see a breeze rise and flicker a sheet hanging on the balcony platform above. A cool place to rest. He drifts off to sleep. Only to wake, with a start, his eyes flick wide open. Voices float though the slightly opened window. Tommy looks through. Two men sat there, one looking sleepy. He suddenly wakes, there a rough scuffle between them as a woman appears. In an instant, with horror, he witnesses a pair of scissors slam down into the back of one of the men. A murder! He slowly crawls back along the fire escape, back through his own window as quietly as he can. “Mother! mother, wake up, please wake up” Tommy is terrified. His mother cares for him. It was only a bad dream she says. A nightmare. “Go back to bed Tommy, your father will be back from work soon. He doesn’t need to hear your tales after his long shift.

Tommy is beside himself. What if the murders saw him? What if they come for him in the night? He has to tell Dad! He doesn’t sleep, he’s too petrified. Dad arrives home in time for breakfast. Tommy can’t eat. Ed sees the worry on his son’s and wife’s face. “What’s the problem son?” Tommy spills the whole story. His father looks worryingly on. Not that he believes him, just in despair that his son is telling yet more lies. Was he damaged in some way? This leads to a heartbreaking scene where Tommy, with tears falling from his eyes, is too lost to know what to do or say. He doesn’t want to lie to his father as he’s always told never to lie. It was an impossible task and the teardrops roll down his face with the realisation.

Tommy –Pop? If you see a thing with your own eyes, it can’t be a dream, can it?
Ed Woodry –You don’t want me ever to be ashamed of you, do you?
Tommy –No, Pop.”
Ed Woodry –Well, don’t you see that might happen if you keep this up? People gonna say that Ed Woodry’s son doesn’t know the difference between what’s real and what isn’t. Why, they might even say that you’re a… a liar.

Tommy has to deal with this and the extreme immediate fear of the two murderers coming to see him. “Don’t be silly Tommy, the Kellerson’s upstairs are a lovely friendly couple.” Tommy looks at the ceiling. He could hear Joe (Paul Stewart) and Jean (Ruth Roman) footsteps pace around the floor above his bedroom. They were planning on fixing him? He needed the police. On his own, behind his parents back, he would desperately try and get anyone to believe him. He didn’t want to worry them anymore. The police would believe him? Wouldn’t they?

What comes next is a real neat turn of events for us the viewer but not so great for poor Tommy. As this young lad and the nice friendly couple from upstairs, the Kellerson’s, paths will be crossing in very tense and suspenseful ways. From darl lit corridors, to creaky floorboards and doors. The fear of the shadows, the feeling of being watched. The terrifying presence of two figures moving towards you in the dead of night. Coming to turn out your lights, to snuff you out! And there just isn’t anyone to help you or believe you.

Verdict.

The Window is a wonderful well paced thriller. Bobby Driscoll’s acting is incredible. The scene between him and Arthur Kennedy is so deeply emotional. You get a real sense of the despair his father had for him in this moment and the uncontrollable emotion his son had when he realised he was lost to know what to say or do. I thought it was a very powerful and emotional scene. Paul Stewart was perfect for the part. Sinister and calculating all the time. Especially made all the worse with his wife Ruth Roman, beautiful but with an essence of dark maliciousness to her. Standing in the shadows, fiendishly planning, they made a sinister pair.
Three little shocking scenes that I really enjoyed were, without too much spoils. 1) “The key” in the door moment. You know it’s coming. You feel bad thinking that he will do it? And when he does you let out a gasp! I’ll say no more on that. 2) The cab ride and how to quieten a hysterical kid without sweets! 3) The abandoned building staircase!

Through out all of this, Bobby Driscoll holds the film together with an absolutely fantastic performance. He would be rewarded for it but then…

Bobby Driscoll –I was brought out on a silver platter then dumped in the trash.”

The Tragic Case Of Bobby Driscoll.

In what would turn out, somehow, even more harrowing than his plight against the Kellerson’s in The Window, Bobby Driscoll’s real life would be turned upside down. In an unimaginable way. The recurring tragic consequences of being a child star in the harsh, money hungry Hollywood and film studio system. Building up a child actor, filling their lives with fame and stardom, only to dump them the second those angelic looks disappear as they mature. The aftermath of their actions would lead to the unimaginable and horrifying end to his unfortunate young man’s live at only 31.

With a string of films behind him, Bobby was getting noticed as this talented young actor. With Walt Disney’s studio being a large part of his high profile career and then instantly, shutting the door on him. With films like, the lesser known, So Dear to My Heart (1948) to his portrayal of Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island (1950) leading to what would become his last big picture as the voice for the children’s classic Peter Pan (1953). The Hollywood system rewarded him with a special Juvenile Oscar Academy Award in 1950 for his outstanding acting work. However a few years later Bobby would suffer from acne and most certainly depression as he hit puberty and started to become a man. The ordeal would lead to substance abuse and prison sentences and more addiction.

Later in his short life he would try his hand at art and hung out with the avant-garde art scene with Andy Warhol in East Village, Manhattan. Tragically in 1968 two children found his body in a rundown abandoned building. No one knew who this body was! He would be buried in a potters field unmarked grave on Hart Island. A burial ground for paupers, the homeless and unknowns. A year later, after his mother tried to find him, it was revealed from fingerprints taken by the New York City Police Department what had happened to her missing son. Sadly Bobby is still buried in an unmarked grave, yet there is now a plaque on the island. So as horrible that it is, the fact that he left such memorable roles goes a little way to keeping the legacy of Bobby Driscoll alive…

Sorry to end on a sad note. The Window (1949) can be streamed here on The Archive. Thank you for popping in on Wolfman’s Cult Film blog. All the best Mikey Wolf.

PS If you would to know more? This great independent documentary film made by Jordan Allender is a nice touching tribute. Lost Boy – The Bobby Driscoll Story.

13 thoughts on “The Window (1949) And The Tragic Case Of Bobby Driscoll

  1. My face while reading this post was pretty similar to the expression on young Bobby’s face in this clip after the door mysteriously opens by itself. This was totally fascinating! Marvelous write-up Wolf.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “oh shucks that’s very kind mister.” As Tommy would probably say.
      Oh yes that scene too could/should be added into the “Three little shocking scenes”. As that was so well acted with a real mouth opened amazement. And it’s not quite what it seems in that clip. There a few more seconds to it. A really brilliant little film.
      Thanks Glen.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post Wolfie 🙂 A sad end though for Bobby Driscoll, who seemed betrayed by everybody, including Hollywood, who got him famous 😦 I guess it is sadly true sometimes that one is worth more in death than they are in life 😦 I am glad though that some of the interviewees in the subject recognized Bobby Driscoll and felt the same way we did 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow! Fascinating story about Bobby Driscoll. I wonder what was the cause of death? Tragic…I remember my mom talking about this movie. She really liked it. I’ve never ran across it. Now, thanks to your great review, I’m determined to see it. I like premise and I’m a sucker for a really good kid actor–there are so few great ones.

    Liked by 1 person

    • From wiki “A post-mortem determined that he had died from heart failure caused by advanced atherosclerosis from his drug use.” From what I’ve read it was a blockage in the arteries apparently a common side effect of longtime heroin use. Probably other things too. All very sad.
      Yeah he was excellent and your Mom was right.
      It’s on the “archive.org” site I linked if you fancied it. But quality isn’t great.

      I’m sure you could write a fantastic “All Things Thriller” take on Bobby.

      PS Actually going off topic, not what I’m know for (looks from side to side) I was thinking have you heard of “Michael X”? He’d be great for research. Ends grim but plenty of thriller for your style esp if you added in Peter Rachman in the mix!!! Just a thought.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have little patience for child actors unless they’re really good (yes, I’m heartless), so this sounds like a winner! It was a white-knuckle write up for sure, too. Although that first picture of him in the corner with his “scared” face–that’s just what I look like when I’m trying to do math.

    Seriously, though, the boy who cried wolf this is REAL. My husband is SO mischievous that if he keeled over while he was in the recliner or in bed, I would totally think he was kidding until I took his pulse. The police would be like, “Why did you leave your husband’s dead body in the recliner for 5 hours?” and I’d say, “I thought he was kidding! I went out to write in the park! You have no idea how many times he’s pulled this prank!”

    Btw, speaking of child actors, I was surprised at what a good job Ron Howard did in the Courtship of Eddie’s Father. I had only known the series, not the movie. He was great! He definitely passed my very strict “child actor suck-o-meter” with flying colors.
    Strange how he went on to such heights but poor Bobby went in the opposite direction. I didn’t read up on him, but it seems like he probably didn’t have much support at home…? Like the parents were missing that paycheck maybe?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sorry been on mega hours at work!
      Hehe all your excellent comment was one big LOL machine.

      Haha “I have little patience for child actors (yes I’m heartless)”
      He’s really good. I too at first was like, oh jeez this is gonna be tough watching this brat. But no, he carries the thrills very well. HAHA “his “scared” face is like mine doing math!” LOL I can so relate to that.

      On child actors I actually watched a duo of them last night in The Innocents (1961). Both the kids were awesome and creepy. I’d seen Pamela Franklin a few times over the last couple of years and what a young star she was. She’s so fantastic. She should be up there in the top five of child actors of all time for sure.

      OH MY DAYS! Your mischievous husband is so funny. LOL. That is so hysterical I have to say.
      “Why did you leave your husband’s dead body in the recliner for 5 hours?” and I’d say, “I thought he was kidding!” LOLOLOLOL

      I have to admit to having never heard of Courtship of Eddie’s Father before so I can’t comment but I honestly can say I never knew Bill Bixby didn’t anything other than the HULK!. Maybe that’s why Ron Howard was good in it. If the “child actor suck-o-meter” went too high Bill went full Hulk smash on little bratty Ronnie!!

      Like

  5. Great post and great film. Bobby Driscoll was indeed amazing in this. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a better performance from a child actor in this era.

    I’m glad you included the bit about his later years, sad though it is. I didn’t even know that until fairly recently. It has to be one of the worst fates of a former child star. The truth is that no one wants the cute little moppets to grow up, get spotty, get a deep voice, or whatever.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know right he’s so good in it. Literally carries the whole film. Which is quite an achievement.
      So sad. Yes it does sound like one of the worse cases. One you would hope they learnt from but we all know they didn’t, probably never will, sadly.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.