Shadow of a Doubt Film Details
Overview: A young girl, overjoyed when her favorite uncle comes to visit the family, slowly begins to suspect that he is in fact the “Merry Widow” killer sought by the authorities.
Tagline: What horror did her secret life hold… that made her dread this man of her dreams?
Review: “Shadow of a Doubt” was pivotal in Hitchcock’s career as the first movie set in directors’ Promised Land: America. And if I’m not sure that he held the film in higher regards than some later classics, I’m pretty sure though that the film was a sentimental favorite. And the word ‘sentimental’ is crucial as the underlying theme of “Shadow of a Doubt”, is “when idealization meets deception” and we idealize a big deal in the name of sentimentality. So sentimentality was a prevalent element of Hitch’ premiere in America, he wanted the most American-looking location, one you couldn’t tell in which state it was. The privilege went to Santa Rosa, a postcard little town of old fashion charm, with an obligatory library, train station, bank, all in one copy. Townspeople know each other by first name, from the priest to the brave overweight traffic cop. The town also neighbored some famous Californian vineyards, which made the shooting all the more interesting for Hitch and all. If the sleepy little town could appeal to any outsider in quest of peace, some insiders would have a much different opinion. Charlotte, played by the sweet and talented Teresa Wright, nicknamed Charlie after her mother’s brother but will be called Charlotte in this review for clarity’s sake, doesn’t feel exactly like a fish in water. When we first see her, she’s lying on her bed, wondering how she can get off this unbearable heaviness of boredom. And she can’t find any supports from her parents played by former co-stars, from “Mrs. Miniver”, Henry Travers, a banker, and from “The Little Foxes”, Patricia Collinge as the devoted housewife. All these faces fit together and the actors are so natural we really believe this is a family, but there are many hints suggesting that each member tries to escape from a suffocating routine The mother is mentally rooted in the past and mourns her brother, Charlie whose absence had a profound effect on her well-being. The father shares a strange hobby with his friend Herb (Hume Cronyn in his debut) imagining the perfect crime as if they were about to write a crime novel. The precocious little sister Ann, is a bookworm, as indicated by her glasses, and doesn’t indulge to child’s activities, and the youngest child Roger enjoys counting steps between places. Unrealistic? I used to do the same thing as a child. As usual, Hitch manages to create eccentric yet realistic characters, and Charlotte, the one person who had her feet on the ground decides to invite her Uncle. She learns that Uncle Charlie is coming to pay a visit after many years of absence. And it’s not much the news that delights Charlotte, but the fact that she and her uncle had the same idea, she calls it telepathy, we call it idealization. We all feel a deep connection with the people we love and will find signs everywhere. And sneaky Hitch provides us the same signs, so we can also feel that bond. Narrative-wise, it’s excellent because in a film where the bad guy is the main protagonist, Hitch knows we have to root for him a little, he manages to create the empathy by giving similar feelings to the good characters. So Hitchcock (who’s all about signs) give us the ultimate sign of a deep bond between Charlie and Charlotte. When we first see Uncle Charlie, played by the great Joseph Cotton, he’s also lying in a bed in some lousy place in New Jersey, just like his niece. But obviously, he has darker motives as suggested by the cops who try to arrest him. Uncle Charlie is a fugitive, a criminal whose record will be revealed progressively, but we’re already ahead of Charlotte and her family. And the first visual sings of the titular shadow seem to be conveyed by the heavy cloud of gray smokes coming from the train, when Uncle Charlie arrives. Hitchcock, loved contrasts and the idea of sleazy evil coming to disturb the quiet peaceful town, something so impossible that no one would accept it, not even Charlotte, maybe not even us. It’s a strange feeling because as soon as he comes, Uncle Charlie is like the touchstone of the family, such a natural charismatic character that we somewhat want the happiness to be maintained to this status quo. However, Uncle Charlie constantly throws hints to the face of Charlotte, and her resistance to face the truth takes its source from her admiration toward uncle. Before being a psychological battle, it’s an internal one, and the whole first act is your typical Hitchcockian quest of a mysterious identity. The film gets actually more interesting once Charlotte knows, and has to digest the contrast between her idealization of her Uncle and what he really is, and it’s such a startling contrast that she knows her mother mustn’t know the secret, because it would kill her, it becomes a life-and-death situation. It also allows to cops not to arrest him in the house and so begins a psychological battle between the man-who-wants-to-stay and the girl-who-wants-him-to-leave and it naturally culminates with murder impulses from both sides. And while the story leads us to its thrilling resolution, we discover deeper and darker aspects of the protagonists’ personalities, confronting two visions of life: cheerful and optimistic and twisted and misanthropist, and Teresa Wright is as convincing in the positive as in the negative emotions. And while the good triumphs over the evil, she’s slightly contaminated by her Uncle’s spirit, and might have her own shadow of a doubt regarding the goodness of human nature. While a masterpiece in its own terms, the film has a few little flaws but Hitch, and even us, viewers, keep on idealizing “Shadow of a Doubt”, just like the family idealized Uncle Charlie, ignoring his darkest side. It’s part of human nature. The question is, do we idealize the film better for its good or for its dark side?
Country: United States
Duration: 108 min
Genre: Film-Noir, Thriller
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