Shadow of a Doubt
|Shadow of a Doubt|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Alfred Hitchcock|
|Produced by||Jack H. Skirball|
|Screenplay by||Thornton Wilder
|Story by||Gordon McDonell|
|Music by||Original music:
|Cinematography||Joseph A. Valentine|
|Editing by||Milton Carruth|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Running time||108 minutes|
Shadow of a Doubt is a 1943 American psychological thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and starring Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten. Written by Thornton Wilder, Sally Benson, and Alma Reville, the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Story for Gordon McDonell. In 1991, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
A teenager living in the idyllic town of Santa Rosa, California, Charlotte "Charlie" Newton (Teresa Wright), complains that nothing seems to be happening in her life. Then, she receives wonderful news: her uncle (for whom she was named), Charlie Oakley (Joseph Cotten), her mother's younger brother, is arriving for a visit.
Two men show up pretending to be working on a national survey of the average American family. One of them speaks to Charlie privately, identifying himself as Detective Jack Graham (Macdonald Carey). He explains that her uncle is one of two men suspected of being a serial killer known as the "Merry Widow Murderer" who seduces, steals from, and murders wealthy widows.
At first, young Charlie refuses to even consider that her uncle could be a murderer, but she notices him acting strangely on several occasions. She confirms her suspicions when she sees that the initials engraved inside the emerald ring Uncle Charlie gave her match those of one of the recent victims. Her suspicions grow during a family dinner in which Uncle Charlie reveals his hatred of rich widows, comparing them to fat animals deserving to be slaughtered.
One night, Uncle Charlie confronts his niece, admitting that he is the man the police are after. He begs her for help; she reluctantly agrees not to say anything, as long as he leaves soon, to avoid a horrible scandal in the town that would destroy her family, especially her mother, who idolizes her younger brother. News breaks that the other suspect was killed fleeing from the police in Portland, Maine, and is assumed to have been the murderer. Detective Graham leaves after telling young Charlie that he loves her and would like to marry her someday.
Uncle Charlie is delighted he is off the hook, until he remembers that young Charlie knows all his secrets. Soon, the young woman has a couple of near-fatal "accidents"—falling down some steep stairs, and being trapped in a closed garage with a car spewing exhaust fumes.
Under pressure from his niece, Uncle Charlie announces he is leaving by train for San Francisco, accompanied by a rich local widow. He contrives for young Charlie to stay on board the departing train, planning to kill her by pushing her out once the train gets up to speed. Instead, in the ensuing struggle between them, he is pushed into the path of an oncoming train. At his funeral Uncle Charlie is highly honored by the townspeople of Santa Rosa, who know nothing of his crimes. Jack returns to comfort Charlie, and she tells him she had withheld from him information about her uncle which would have confirmed him as the murderer. Jack and young Charlie resolve to keep Uncle Charlie's crimes secret.
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Shadow of a Doubt was both filmed and set in Santa Rosa, California, which was portrayed as a paragon of a supposedly peaceful, small, pre-War American city. Since Thornton Wilder wrote the original script, the story is set in a small American town, a popular setting of Wilder, but with an added Hitchcock touch to it. In Patrick McGilligan's biography of Hitchcock he said the film was perhaps the most American film that Hitchcock had made up to that time.
The Newton family home is located at 904 McDonald Avenue in Santa Rosa, California. McDonald Avenue is named for the McDonald Mansion, built by Mark L. McDonald in 1879, and situated on several acres on the street. The McDonald Mansion was later used by Walt Disney for the movie Pollyanna. The stone railway station in the film was built in 1904 for the Northwestern Pacific Railroad and is one of the few commercial buildings in central Santa Rosa to survive the earthquake of April 18, 1906. The station is currently a visitor center. Some of the buildings in the center of Santa Rosa that are seen in the film were damaged or destroyed by earthquakes in 1969; much of the area was cleared of debris and largely rebuilt. The library was a Carnegie Library which was demolished in the mid-1960s due to seismic concerns.
The film was scored by Dimitri Tiomkin, his first collaboration with Hitchcock (the others being Strangers on a Train, I Confess and Dial M for Murder). In his score Tiomkin quotes the famous Merry Widow Waltz of Franz Lehár, often in somewhat distorted forms, as a leitmotif for Uncle Charlie and his serial murders. During the opening credits the waltz theme is heard along with a prolonged shot of couples dancing.
- Teresa Wright as Charlotte "Charlie" Newton
- Joseph Cotten as Charlie Oakley
- Henry Travers as Joseph Newton, Charlotte's father, who loves to read crime stories
- Patricia Collinge as Emma Newton, Charlotte's mother and Charles' sister
- Macdonald Carey as Detective Jack Graham
- Wallace Ford as Detective Fred Saunders
- Hume Cronyn as Herbie Hawkins, a neighbor who, like Charlie's father, is also a crime fiction buff. He appears periodically and discusses ideas for the perfect murder with his friend Joseph Newton
Hitchcock's cameo 
Alfred Hitchcock appears about 15 minutes into the film, on the train to Santa Rosa, playing bridge with a man and a woman (Dr. and Mrs. Harry). Charlie Oakley is traveling on the train under the assumed name of Otis. Mrs. Harry is eager to help Otis, who is feigning illness in order to avoid meeting fellow passengers, but Dr. Harry is not interested and keeps playing bridge. Hitchcock on his part seems surprised to see that he has somehow been dealt a full suit of spades, the best hand for bridge.
Upon release, the film received unanimously positive reviews. New York Times critic Bosley Crowther loved the film, stating that "Hitchcock could raise more goose pimples to the square inch of a customer's flesh than any other director in Hollywood". Time Magazine called the film "superb" while Variety stated that "Hitchcock deftly etches his small-town characters and homey surroundings".
In a 1964 interview on Telescope with host Fletcher Markle, Markle noted, "Mr Hitchcock, most critics have always considered Shadow of a Doubt, which you made in 1943, as your finest film." Hitchcock replied immediately, "Me, too." Markle then asked, "That is your opinion of it still?" Hitchcock replied, "Oh, no question." At the time of the interview, Hitchcock's most recent work was Marnie. When later interviewed by François Truffaut, Hitchcock denied the claim that Shadow of a Doubt was his favourite. But in the audio interview with Truffaut, Hitchcock confirmed it was his favorite film. Hitchcock later reiterated that Shadow of a Doubt was his favorite film in his interview with Mike Douglas in 1969 and in his interview with Dick Cavett in 1972. Alfred Hitchcock's daughter Patricia Hitchcock also said that her father's favorite film was Shadow of a Doubt in the documentary "Beyond Doubt: The Making of Hitchcock's Favorite Film".
Today, the film is still regarded as a masterpiece. Contemporary critic Dave Kehr called it Hitchcock's "first indisputable masterpiece." Many other critics have agreed. Based on 30 reviews on the website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has received 100%, with a consensus of "Alfred Hitchcock's earliest classic -- and his own personal favorite -- deals its flesh-crawling thrills as deftly as its finely shaded characters". When asked by critics as to an overarching theme for the film Hitchcock responded: "Love and good order is no defense against evil". In his book Bambi vs. Godzilla, David Mamet calls it Hitchcock's finest film.
Radio adaptions and remake 
The film was adapted for Cecil B. DeMille's Lux Radio Theater aired on January 3, 1944 with its original leading actress and William Powell as Uncle Charlie. (Patrick McGilligan said Hitchcock had originally wanted Powell to play Uncle Charlie, but MGM refused to lend the actor for the film.) In 1950, Shadow of a Doubt was featured as a radio-play on Screen Directors Playhouse. It starred Cary Grant as Uncle Charlie and Betsy Drake as the younger Charlie. It was also adapted to the Ford Theater (February 18, 1949). Joseph Cotten reprised the role on radio in The Screen Guild Theater adaptations of May 24, 1943 and June 21, 1948 and again in the Academy Award Theatre production of Shadow of a Doubt which aired Sept. 11, 1946.
- Jim McDevitt, Eric San Juan. A Year of Hitchcock: 52 Weeks With the Master of Suspense. ISBN 9780810863880. Page 158.
- Chicago Reader capsule review
- "Other Cary Grant Radio Appearances". carygrantradio.com.
- "Old Time Radio (OTR) Drama and Adventure".
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Shadow of a Doubt|
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- Shadow of a Doubt on Screen Guild Theater: May 24, 1943
- Shadow of a Doubt on Lux Radio Theater: January 3, 1944