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Daily Dose #10: Nothing on Me (Opening Scene of Shadow of a Doubt)


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#221 tshawcross

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Posted 11 July 2017 - 07:35 AM

  1. As mentioned in the curator's note, this scene operates as a prelude to the main story. What do learn about the character of Uncle Charlie in this prelude? Be specific.  - We learn that Uncle Charlie has been involved in something shady, because he thinks his pursuers are bluffing and have nothing on him. We learn that he is not the type of character who gives up without a fight, as he gets out of bed and marches right past the two men.  We also learn that he has a decidedly strange way of taking naps, as he lies on the bed holding an unlit cigar while still wearing his suit jacket and shoes.  
     
  2. In what ways does this opening remind you of watching a film noir? If it doesn't remind you of a film noir, what makes the opening here different from the opening of a noir film like Siodmak's The Killers? (Note: If you haven't seen The Killers, it is fine to answer this question in general terms about your own personal expectations)   - I have seen ​The Killers. One major difference is that in it, Burt Lancaster stays in bed and waits to be killed, whereas Joseph Cotton gets out of bed and walks defiantly past the two men who had been looking for him. Another difference was in the cinematography. The Killers ​scene, in classic film noir ​style, is shot with very dark shadows, whereas the scene in ​Shadow of a Doubt is more of a film gris ​(light grey shadows).     
     
  3. As we move into Hitchcock's Hollywood years, his scores will take on more importance than they did during the British years. Music will play a big role in Shadow of a Doubt. The film's score is by Dimitri Tiomkin, the first of four film scores that the composer will create for Hitchcock. What effect does the Tiomkin score have on the mood, atmosphere, and even the pace of this opening scene?       - The score by Tiomkin effectively sets a dramatic tone of conflict, danger and impending action. But what interested me most was the reference some of my classmates made to hearing a snippet of "The Merry Widow." Not only did I not notice that snippet, I had to watch the clip four times before I could hear it (for those of you who are as musically challenged as I am, it begins around 2:37 and lasts about three seconds). Frankly, the brevity of the snippet makes me wonder if it was inserted by Hitchcock as some sort of inside joke or as some sort of "easter egg" to reward his more discerning viewers. In my case, I did not know that the character played by Joseph Cotten was a murderer of widows, so the snippet of music flew under my radar. As a more general comment, I wonder how many people notice the subtle "clues" provided in many movies. For example, in this clip, I noticed that Joseph Cotten exited the rooming house via a door marked with the number "13."  Was this unlucky 13 also intended to be a clue to the viewers? Frankly, I did not notice it the first time I saw the clip. I noticed only while watching the clip over and over to try to find the Merry Widow music.

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#222 LRH

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Posted 11 July 2017 - 07:25 AM

What do learn about the character of Uncle Charlie in this prelude? Be specific. 

 

We learn he has a secret that is dangerous and probably related to where he got his money.  But we also learn that he has the ability to completely mask his emotions – to remain impassive even as he feels danger.

 

In what ways does this opening remind you of watching a film noir? If it doesn't remind you of a film noir, what makes the opening here different from the opening of a noir film like Siodmak's The Killers?

 

Like the Swede in The Killers, Uncle Charlie seems resigned to his circumstances.  There is a strong dose of fatalism in both scenes of men waiting on a bed to be hunted down and killed.  Neither one seems particularly scared, though Charlie, more than Swede, to me at least, shows a bit more resolve to try to escape the situation.

 

What effect does the Tiomkin score have on the mood, atmosphere, and even the pace of this opening scene? 

 

Tiomkin does several terrific things in this opening to give us emotional cues, plot hints, and overall pacing.

 

Right from the beginning he gives us somewhat energetic music to depict a city scene, but the music doesn’t necessarily give away what kind of film this will be.  That is, it doesn’t sound ominous.  It could be a kind of human interest inner city film (like Marty, for instance).  But there’s one little hint of what is to come in this opening.  Right away, at :04 seconds in, we hear a short snippet (only about 2 seconds) of the opening of the “Merry Widow Waltz” which will be a leitmotif throughout the film.  Here’s a youtube of it.  Ignore the opening fanfare.  The theme starts at :09.

 

By giving us this little hint of the theme (varied slightly) he begins to construct his score in a very organic way in that the theme will be woven in and out of the score and not always played full out.

 

We dissolve into more placid music to reflect the scene setting of Charlie’s room. As he talks with the boarding house landlady, we get no underscoring, as that might give away too much emotion – Charlie is clearly trying to be emotionless.  But as she lowers the blind @1:59, and we see the shadow cover Charlie’s face, the music begins in a more ominous way in the lower instruments.  Clearly things are descending on and around Charlie.

 

Tiomkin is a bit heavy-handed, to my ear, when he next brings in the violin and allows it to crescendo into Charlie throwing the glass (starts @2:14).  I could predict the glass crash just by the music that led up to it.  Nevertheless, this moment shows Charlie inner turmoil and rising panic, even as he has been hiding it under his cool exterior.

 

The neatest moment, I think, is when Charlie looks out the window at the two men and says to himself “What do you know?  You’re bluffing.  You’ve nothing on me.”  At that moment @2:37, the score answers his question.  High in the orchestra we get other-worldly sounding chimes/xylophone – something shimmery and metallic – as they play the opening motif of the “Merry Widow Waltz.”  That tells us what the two men “have on him” and what he knows is his crime – the murders he’s committed.  Then he starts to panic again as the music gets insistent and dissonant at @2:44.

 

The music rises in pitch and dynamics as he makes his way to the front door.  But when he exits the building, the music comes back down in intensity.  Again, inside he was agitated; on the street he needs to appear calm.

 

As Charlie leaves the boarding house, the music rises again as he passes the men, @3:20 it starts.  It raises the tension – will he be spotted?  Do we want him to escape?  The tension dissipates @3:37 as he passes them, seemingly getting away.  But then, no.  They begin to follow him, and @3:42 we hear piano and percussion in a rhythm pattern that matches exactly the footsteps of the two men (a technique known as “mickey mousing”).  This ominous rhythm sets up the idea that they will be dogging his steps the rest of the film.  And he seems to know it.

 

Overall, Tiomkin goes between indicating Charlie’s inner calm with his rising tension in the way the orchestra moves between serene and agitated music.  A terrific opening!


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#223 Alynia

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Posted 11 July 2017 - 06:47 AM

  1. As mentioned in the curator's note, this scene operates as a prelude to the main story. What do learn about the character of Uncle Charlie in this prelude? Be specific. -- Charlie doesn't seem surprised by the landlady's comment about the two men; that she confided her feelings to him and suggested in words and action a sort of 'protection' indicates he has some charm over her not visible in this scene. He is also not a coward and while he supposes they do not know what he looks like, he makes certain they do when he approaches and then passes them by; he has gotten a look at them - so he is a man who takes action and gathers information.
     
  2. In what ways does this opening remind you of watching a film noir? If it doesn't remind you of a film noir, what makes the opening here different from the opening of a noir film like Siodmak's The Killers? (Note: If you haven't seen The Killers, it is fine to answer this question in general terms about your own personal expectations) -- The play on light and shadow - isn't as soft as in other films; it is stark and dares to show the line between black and white, but as it's shadow the black and white is actually gray and suspect. The music is melodramatic and indicates action in the character's thought, even when he moves slowly.  The final bit of the film, where Charlie is framed by the two men... who place their hands in their jacket pocket (I think that's gonna be a gun, Charlie...) and creates a long 'walk' is something I consider very noir.
     
  3. As we move into Hitchcock's Hollywood years, his scores will take on more importance than they did during the British years. Music will play a big role in Shadow of a Doubt. The film's score is by Dimitri Tiomkin, the first of four film scores that the composer will create for Hitchcock. What effect does the Tiomkin score have on the mood, atmosphere, and even the pace of this opening scene? -- As I mentioned earlier, it adds a touch that indicates the character's mood and thoughts, while his expression relays calm, the music suggests otherwise.

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#224 Sue BBq

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Posted 11 July 2017 - 06:44 AM

  1. As mentioned in the curator's note, this scene operates as a prelude to the main story. What do learn about the character of Uncle Charlie in this prelude? Be specific. 

Uncle Charlie is a sharp dressed man that has some money, although he does not seem to be overly concerned about it. It doesn't appear he is drinking alcohol. Twirling an unlit cigar and thinking, really thinking about his next move -- contemplative, cool, calm? What has he done? His landlady seems to have taken a liking to him and is concerned about his health, so he must have made a good impression on her. Uncle Charlie appears to be fearless as he contemplates facing the two strangers head on.

 

2. In what ways does this opening remind you of watching a film noir? If it doesn't remind you of a film noir, what makes the opening here different from the opening of a noir film like Siodmak's The Killers? (Note: If you haven't seen The Killers, it is fine to answer this question in general terms about your own personal expectations)

 

I have not had the privilege of seeing the killers in its entirely, but somehow I recall that scene where the man in the hotel is waiting for his killers. This film does not open in a dark shadowy hallway; with a murder or with a chase scene. It opens rather sunny and relaxing until ... the music.
 

  1. As we move into Hitchcock's Hollywood years, his scores will take on more importance than they did during the British years. Music will play a big role in Shadow of a Doubt. The film's score is by Dimitri Tiomkin, the first of four film scores that the composer will create for Hitchcock. What effect does the Tiomkin score have on the mood, atmosphere, and even the pace of this opening scene? 

 

The music is amazing... I could feel the tension building as Uncle Charlie strode across the street, the point of view switching from the chased to the chasers. It was noticeable how much the music added to the film. 


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#225 barkerjuliea

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Posted 11 July 2017 - 06:39 AM

  1. As mentioned in the curator's note, this scene operates as a prelude to the main story. What do learn about the character of Uncle Charlie in this prelude? Be specific. We learn that Uncle Charlie is not as he seems to his landlady. He starts out seemingly morose, with a lack of affect, and becomes upset after hearing about the "friends" outside, shown by smashing the water glass prior to going outside to meet his fate.
     
  2. In what ways does this opening remind you of watching a film noir? If it doesn't remind you of a film noir, what makes the opening here different from the opening of a noir film like Siodmak's The Killers? (Note: If you haven't seen The Killers, it is fine to answer this question in general terms about your own personal expectations) We have a man, seemingly outside the law for some reason. Shadows, a suit that has seen better days, a man without a job, but with money.
     
  3. As we move into Hitchcock's Hollywood years, his scores will take on more importance than they did during the British years. Music will play a big role in Shadow of a Doubt. The film's score is by Dimitri Tiomkin, the first of four film scores that the composer will create for Hitchcock. What effect does the Tiomkin score have on the mood, atmosphere, and even the pace of this opening scene? We start with lighthearted sounds, as we see the children outside playing. We get a taste of the Merry Widow waltz. The music becomes more insistent and driving as we watch Joseph Cotten confront his fate by walking past his "friends."

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#226 Chillyfillyinalaska

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Posted 11 July 2017 - 04:26 AM

1. What the audience learns from the opening scene of "Shadow of a Doubt:"

Our "leading" man is depressed, lying listless in the bed of a shabby rooming house;
He has two visitors whom he has never seen and who have never seen him;
The two visitors don't want him to know they have come calling on him;
The two visitors are likely law enforcement of some kind and are waiting for him to emerge from the rooming house;
The landlady is a busybody who thinks that he has some kind of problem with the two visitors and warns him of their visit;
He has plenty of money which he leaves lying around his room;
He is bold, and purposely leaves the rooming house to lead the two visitors on a chase of some kind;
He is cynical;
He has something to do with widows because the "Merry Widow Waltz" is the background music.

2. I confess I never thought of "Shadow if a Doubt" as a film noir before, so the lecture notes about Wilder constructing the opening exposition from the novel "The Killers" is fascinating! Both Joseph Cotton and Burt Lancaster are wanted men, lying resigned in bed waiting for their just desserts: Cotton to be arrested for murder, and Lancaster to be killed by other criminals. In each film, someone comes to warn them of their impending doom. Here it is the landlady, in "The Killers" it is the Swede's friend. Both have a problem with women. Cotton likes to kill widows for their money, and the Swede loves the wrong dame, namely Ava Gardner. The lighting is dark to reflect the mood of the film and the fact that both are lying in the dark awaiting their respective fates. The difference is Cotton is lying around during the day indicating indolence and no job. Lancaster is lying around at night. He is otherwise a hardworking stiff. Both become motivated to leave bed and try to take their individual fates into their own hands, leading to two great chase scenes.

3. Tiomkin's music crashes into the film just as Cotton becomes defiant rather than resigned. The fact that the music is about Merry Widows reflects Cotton's victims and his contempt for their circumstances in outliving their husbands who worked hard to leave them well provided for.
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#227 GeezerNoir

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Posted 11 July 2017 - 02:17 AM

As mentioned in the curator's note, this scene operates as a prelude to the main story. What do learn about the character of Uncle Charlie in this prelude?

 

We definitely learn that Uncle Charlie is a bit manic/depressive (to use an old but very descriptive term).  Initially he is very lethargic and seems resigned to whatever fate has in mind for him.  Then, after the landlady’s visit, he suddenly is up and flinging a glass into his wash basin.  He now is clearly about to swing into some sort of fate defying action.

 

In what ways does this opening remind you of watching a film noir? If it doesn't remind you of a film noir, what makes the opening here different from the opening of a noir film.

 

How many times in watching noir films have we seen a character holed up in a seedy boarding house or hotel?  And oft times that character has reached ‘the end of the line’ and is ready to ‘cash in’.  That seems to be Uncle Charlie’s status when the scene begins.  But, as I said above, Uncle Charlie isn’t ready to ‘throw in the towel’ quite yet.  He will not be going quietly into the night.  Oh, no.  This thing is just getting started.  And, when you think about it, manic/depressive characters aren’t exactly scarce in noir films, now are they.

 

The film's score is by Dimitri Tiomkin, the first of four film scores that the composer will create for Hitchcock. What effect does the Tiomkin score have on the mood, atmosphere, and even the pace of this opening scene? 

 

There is very little background music heard until Uncle Charlie is up and flinging the glass.  Then the music suddenly becomes as loud and defiant as Uncle Charlie’s mania.  Look out mysterious guys standing on the corner!  Also we hear, for the first time, a snippet from the “Merry Widow Waltz”.  We’ll be hearing much more of that tune as the film moves along.


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#228 Dr. Rich Edwards

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Posted 10 July 2017 - 11:12 PM

Today's Daily Dose is the opening scene from 1943's film noir classic, Shadow of a Doubt. 

 

Watch the clip over in Canvas, and then come back here to reflect on the opening scene and share your observations and insights.

 

Here are three questions to get the reflections rolling:

 

1. As mentioned in the curator's note, this scene operates as a prelude to the main story. What do learn about the character of Uncle Charlie in this prelude? Be specific. 

2. In what ways does this opening remind you of watching a film noir? If it doesn't remind you of a film noir, what makes the opening here different from the opening of a noir film like Siodmak's The Killers (Note: If you haven't seen The Killers, it is fine to answer this question in general terms about your own personal expectations)

3. As we move into Hitchcock's Hollywood years, his scores take on more importance than the British years. Music will play a big role in Shadow of a Doubt. The film's score is by Dimitri Tiomkin, the first of four film scores that the composer will create for Hitchcock. What effect does the Tiomkin score have on the mood, atmosphere, and even the pace of this opening scene? 


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Richard Edwards, PhD

Ball State University

Instructor: TCM Presents: The Master of Suspense: 50 Years of Hitchcock (2017)

Instructor: TCM Presents: Painfully Funny: Exploring Slapstick in the Movies (2016)

Instructor: TCM Presents: Into the Darkness: Investigating Film Noir (2015)

 

 





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