Dr. Rich Edwards

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

228 posts in this topic

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? 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

  • Like 6

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  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."
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  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. 

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  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.
  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELufSzviGoU

 

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!

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  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.
  • Like 8

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELufSzviGoU

 

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!

 

A terrific analysis, LRH! As a side note, I had not noticed the initial playing of The Merry Widow at .04 seconds in. It took several tries for me to hear it at 2:37 in, and even then it did not tip me off to anything, ha ha.   

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

 

He has a cool head. He doesn't seem worried when the woman tells him people were looking for him. He thinks he can outsmart eveyone. His demeanor and the cash out in the open on the table and floor eludes that he has obtained the money in a dishonest manor.

 

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)

 

As in many film noirs the audience knows who the criminal is before the mystery gets started. Another similarity is it's black and white and the use of 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 music helps create tension in the scene and making it clear that these are not Charlie's "friends".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  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. 

 

He has contempt for others - especially women (as evidenced later around the dinner table). He doesn't get up when a woman enters the room - He's a "cool customer" - or you think he is at first. He acts unconcerned about the two men trailing him. He's unconcerned about the money on the floor. He doesn't kill for the money. It's just a means to get him to the next place. But when the landlady leaves his room, he's in a fury. A typical sociopath, he believes he's smarter than everyone else. That he will get away with hims crimes. He is cold and seemingly emotionless at first, but the fury belies the rage that's always inside him. 

 

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)

 

Shadow. Uncle Charlie is in shadow on the bed. We know some mystery is going on here. Where did he get the money? Who is he? Why are men following him? Uncle Charlie is clearly not the hero archetype. 

 

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? 

It suggests danger and the possibility of violence. It helps to amplify the rage in the character of Uncle Charlie. We don't know if they men are going to recognize him, shoot him, or if he's going to shoot them. As he quickens his pace towards and then away from the men, the music rises in volume and pace as well. 

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1.  In the opening scene of Shadow of a Doubt we learn a few things about Uncle Charlie including the implication he is up to no good or in some sort of trouble; money spread out on the bedside table and onto the floor, the warning from the landlady (an older women who knocks and enters his room) that two men are watching and askiing about him. He appears well dressed and suave, is attentive and polite to the woman but you can see he is manipulating her and she empathizes with him. She is quite willing to warn him despite the mystery that surrounds him. He is handsome and well dressed. He begins with calm presence which is shattered along with the glass he smashes against the wall revealing his anger/temper.  

 

2.  Having seen The Killers I do see many similarities in the opening the two pictures.  Excellent use of music that sets the pacing and mood of the film at the outset.  Each movie reveals a man who is being pursued by two men wearing suits and fedoras.  In The Killer the intention of the two men is clearer at the beginning of the film, the reasons being resolved by the end of the movie. Hinting of course that a crime has been committed. A room in a boarding house and each man in his bed figure in the set up.  Both men being pursued are warned by individuals who want to help.  The pace is a more intense in The Killers as many things happen within the first few minutes of the film. The main characters themselves differ in style, Burt Lancaster is handsome, dressed in tee shirt, a bit rough around the edges and resigned to his fate.  Joseph Cotton's character handsome,suave well dressed decides to be more proactive in controliing the situation.  In Shadow of a doubt we see a prelude of things to come, in The Killers much of the story is told in flashback. Both films are very effective in grabbing your attention. There is something more complex about Joseph Cottons character,  Burt Lancaster seems more a victim of circumstances. The set design, diner, hit men, shadows, the night time setting all create a more prototypical film noir feel in The Killers in the opening scene.  As Shadow of a Doubt unfolds the characteristics of film noir are revealed.

 

3.  The Music in this film is very effective in first setting a mood and then throwing us off balance with a quick change.  The music opens with cheerful music in the backgound, music that will surfance again in the movie, children are playing outdoors on a pleasant day.  Then as the camera pans to the window of a boarding house we see a man lying on a bed, on top of the covers, fully dressed smoking a cigar the music changes and becomes, eery, mysterious, even a bit haunting as the camera moves to items about the room giving us some insight into the character of the man on the bed and a feeliing of uneasiness about what is to come.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. We learn that Charlie is a psychopath. You can see him going back and forth being in and out of control. He doesn't move when a woman enters the room but throws the glass in a fit on anger when she leaves. He is paranoid and fearful of the men who are watching him and is clearly thinking about escaping from the spot he finds himself in.

2. The only thing different is that Burt Lancaster seems resigned to his fate and from there the story is told in flashbacks. Here Charlie is looking for an escape and a means of surviving. .

3.The score raises the tension level in the room until the glass is broken. It is then raised again while Charlie is walking out to face the men who are watching him. All during the opening shots the score highlights his mood and what he appears to be thinking. We watch as Charlie tries to figure out what to to all the while the chaos of the score moves with Charlie's mood.    

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

From the opening scene, we see that Charlie is being followed, by whom, we aren't sure. We also learn that he is worried about being followed. He plays cool and calm when the land lady tells him of the men outside but once he is alone, he reacts angrily to their presence. And we also see that he is a bit brazen - rather than remain holed up in his room, he walks directly toward and then past the men. His cavalier attitude is seen throughout the rest of the film.

 

 

This is extremely similar to the opening scene of The Killers, in direction and foreshadowing. In that opening scene the young man tells the Swede that the men are in town to kill him and he remains unfazed about that. He almost welcomes them in his calm demeanor. Similarly in this opening scene Joseph Cotton's character calmly listens as his land lady tells him about the men waiting for him; he doesn't move except to continue smoking his cigar. Both scenes also contain heavy foreshadowing, to a point. As the men calmly learn that they are being sought, it is sort of a fatalism about the scene. In The Killers, the Swede is resigned to his fate but in this movie, Charlie is more defiant.

 

The music score does much for the film, outside of the opening scene. Once he reconnects with family, we see how he is idolized by his niece Charlie, his namesake. But we also are witness to her change in attitude as she discovers who he really is, and that is aided by the score. She, in a way, grows up because she is no longer naive to his real character. There is plenty of suspense as well, as we see Uncle Charlie continue to elude the police and the final scene is full of suspense, and the music does a great job in building that for the audience.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The backstory of SHADOW is conveyed efficiently and grittily by the key lighting, incongruous pinstriped suit in bed in the middle of the day, tossed dollars on the floor & an unlite cigar Unk fiddles with as he resigns to his fate.

Cotten as Uncle Charlie anticipates our anxiousness.

This opening scene differs from KILLERS by the long tracking shot of Siomak's as opposed to the Hitch touch of montage. Hitch portrays a classy menacing character of Spencer (Cotten.) The Swede of Siomak in KILLERS is in bed but is creepy, not noble. Shadows on Cotten's face and his later V.O. pinpoint Noir elements in SHADOW.

Dimitri's score is designed to ellecit emotions. He starts with a light, playful tempo on the streets with kids, goes to somber bells once inside the Boarding House. Quiet on the set with accompanying dialogue. Then, foreboding bass, sad. violins. Then crescendos to drums with glass throwing. Picoloes like screams. Decision trumpets.

Once back on the street, stuccado piano strokes, bold and decided as Cotten marches past the ominous made men, who are baited to follow him and face fate. Plucky violas track.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hitchcock's contribution to film noir was immense but largely ignored. I think that the main reason Hitch is not considered an important noir director is because his films were so unique that trying to fit them into a particular style or film movement is irrelevant.

 

Uncle Charlie could be compared with many noir characters in this opening scene. He seems calm, not disturbed by the fact two unknown men are looking for him, nor by the large amount of money in his room, he's nonchalant, calculative, and lacking any sentiment. If he feels fear or anything else, it's well hidden. That's his attitude throughout the whole film; he doesn't care about anyone, he doesn't respect anyone he looks only after himself and his well-being.

 

Lighting, shadows, the setting and dialogue from this opening scene remind me of film noir style. The first lines are practically the same with the ones in The Killers. However, Uncle Charlie isn't like the Swede, he's not giving up and he has an air of invincibility ("they've got nothing on me", he says to himself).

 

Music frequently helped Hitchcock as a precursor to the most suspensful moments in his films as well as setting the mood and the tone for the audience. In this opening scene music is almost disturbing, in typical noir style, because what we're watching is disturbing, too. So, what we hear emphasize what we see, and the viewer uses more of their senses than just vision.

 

 

  • Like 7

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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. 

 

In this opening scene, Uncle Charlie seems tense, worried, sly, and it's obvious that he's in some kind of trouble. This characterization stands in stark contrast to the Uncle Charlie we'll see around his sister and his sister's family. 

 

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 thing that most stands out to me in this opening that reminds me of a film noir are all the shadows. The intense music also reminds me of film noir. Finally, there are detectives in this scene, and aren't detectives the first thing that come to mind when we think of film 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? 

 

Dimitri Tiomkin's score is married perfectly to the camerawork of this scene. The music helps guide the viewer's emotions. I believe it perfectly matches what Hitchcock wanted for this opening scene. You hear the "Merry Widow Waltz" for the first time, and that music will come back to haunt the viewer -- and Uncle Charlie -- throughout the rest of the film. 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Teresa Wright plays Charlie, a small-town high-schooler who enjoys a symbiotic relationship with her favorite uncle, also named Charlie (Joseph Cotten). When young Charlie "wills" that old Charlie pay a visit to her family, her wish comes true. Uncle Charlie is his usual charming self, but he seems a bit secretive and reserved at times. Too, his manner of speaking is curiously unsettling, especially when he brings up the subject of rich widows, whom he characterizes as "swine." When a pair of detectives (MacDonald Carey and Wallace Ford), posing as magazine writers, arrive in town and begin asking questions about Uncle Charlie, young Charlie's curiosity is aroused. Why, for example, has Uncle Charlie torn an article out of the evening newspaper? Rushing to the library, Young Charlie locates the missing item: the headline screams WHO IS THE MERRY WIDOW MURDERER? As the horrified Charlie reads on, the conclusion is inescapable: her beloved Uncle Charlie is a mass murderer, preying upon wealthy old women. And what happens next? Thornton Wilder, Sally Benson, and Alma Reville (Mrs. Hitchcock) based their screenplay on a story by Gordon McDowell, who in turn was inspired by real-life "Merry Widow Murderer" Earle Leonard Nelson. The casting, from stars to bit players, is impeccable; the best of the batch is Hume Cronyn, making his film debut as a wimpy murder-mystery aficionado. Lensed on location in Santa Rosa, California, Shadow of a doubt  was Alfred Hitchcock's favorite film.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

DAILY DOSE #10

1.     The scene is extremely like the opening to The Killers, though set in the daytime as opposed to the dark night time. Laying on his bed, eyes closed, but awake, money on the floor suggesting that it is not of any real concern of his. This scene tells us that Charlie has for some reason become embittered and there is a dark spirit overwhelming him. A sense of futility, and isolation from humanity. Specifically it is Charlie’s reactions to his boarding house host; a woman whose most likely the same sort of character he will criticize at dinner later in the film. Charlie later criticizes the wealthy widow who behaves more as a busy body and good for nothing leach proud of her jewelry. Charlie’s host even makes a comment about how money makes her nervous, kind of like Cobby in Asphalt Jungle, but she goes on to say that she’s never really had money issues. Furthermore, Charlie isn’t phased by the gentlemen waiting outside. He is set on confronting them, and mentions that, “isn’t it interesting that they have never seen me”.

2.     Completely identical to The Killers as stated above, although in the Killers we see the henchmen first go searching for Swede, then we see Swede lying on the bed knowing what is coming. The flashback for Killers comes later here. Hitchcock makes continual flashbacks throughout Shadow, constantly referencing Charlie’s psychological state. The signature connection between both openings is the two henchmen/ detectives walking side by side in an even pace toward their prey. We see this at the end of The Killing, the beginning of The Killers, and here in Shadow.

3.     The score is so eloquently tied to the psychological twists that occur very quickly even within the first sequence. Starting off as playful and innocent like the kids playing in the street, then shifting and building through the sequence to the climax of when Charlie boldly approaches the henchmen and passes them. 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
  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.

     Joseph Cotten lies on a boarding house bed fully-clothed in a nice suit and groomed, holding an

     unlit cigar (symbolic?) in the middle of the day--already a clue that 

     something isn't "right" or ordinary.  He does, indeed, look like a man waiting for death,

     or at least tired of life, especially in shots where his eyes look closed.  The fact that

     he has cash strewn carelessly in his room is another indication of someone who does

     not care about life. The landlady's caring attitude towards him seems to indicate that 

     he has a way of eliciting the sympathy of older women. He seems to think of

     something that mobilizes him to go out and brazenly walk right past the two men who

     have been asking for him and are waiting on the corner.  He also says they have

     nothing on him.This seems to show that he is arrogant and thinks himself above the

     law and a risk-taker.

 

---------------------------------------

 

 

 

  

  1. 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 whole contrast between the outside with happy children playing in the the bright street and    

      the shadowy room with Cotten lying on the bed fully-dressed in the middle of the day in a

      boarding house, places the film in noir-land for me.  I always think of noir characters as somewhat

      marginalized from society (as Weegee's subjects are).  Cotten's voice is creepy to me, too.  With

      his eyes closed, he looks dead, especially after the landlady pulls down the shade. When he

      leaves, we see the house number is 13.  Also, the two men waiting on the corner for Cotten augur

      some kind of trouble or violence to come.

     The whole scene also has a grittiness (dialogue, sets, lighting), one associates with film noir.

 

------------------------------------------------ 

 

  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?

    As we see children playing outside in the street, the music is light and happy.  It gets

    darker once we enter Cotten's room/world.  As Cotten becomes mobilized, we hear

    bells that almost sound like wedding bells or funeral bells.  For brief moment, we hear

    bucolic, somewhat "wholesome" music, perhaps reflecting Cotten's thought to go to

    his family in California.  The pace of the music gradually quickens and becomes more

    suspenseful, reflecting Cotten's inner turmoil and comes to a climactic crescendo as

    he brazenly goes out and walks past the two men.  The music then sounds almost like

    a march of sorts as the two men follow Cotten.

 

    

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The opening of SHADOW OF A DOUBT first and foremost reminds me of M as we see a number of young children playing unaware of the looming danger above. Hitchcock pans up to the window which appears empty and lonely (much like the windows in Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks) in differing odd-angle shots. When we finally see Charlie (my dad’s name just happens to be Charles Spencer! ha), we know immediately he lives perilously and is possibly suicidal. He has money thrown around the room and doesn’t even flinch when the landlord begins to handle it. Like THE KILLERS, he is lying very solemnly in bed, speaking in an almost indiscernible, comatose voice. Unlike THE KILLERS, however, it is day time and Charlie is dressed to the hilt. We are clued-in to the fact that he is dangerous because he is smoking a cigar in bed and day drinking.  We instantly see that he is bi-polar when he awakes from this virtual coma and violently throws his glass to the ground, shattering it. It is only when he sees the kids playing below that he is reminded of his sister and her kids, his future prey.

 

This opening scene is reminiscent of film noir in that we have a flashback scene (a front-loaded glimpse into Charlie), expressive use of light and shadow, and an urban setting full of desperation and fatalism. 

 

The score enhances the subjective mood of the opening scene, changing gears throughout the changing moods and reflecting the inner mind of Charlie. In fact Charlie doesn’t speak much at all so we get most of this character’s essence through the music. The loud music fits the loud kids playing, the subdued music begins as we enter the quiet room, the short measure of the circus-like music occurring just as we suddenly see the change from desperate Charlie to one of renewed hope in his clever idea of moving on to his next victim- his young niece and nephew, to finally the pounding footsteps in his abandoning this urban setting.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's been many years since I've seen SHADOW OF A DOUBT and all I remember from my viewing of it was walking away with a mix of emotions, thinking it captured my attention throughout. Based on the opening clip for today's daily dose, I look forward to watching it again!

 

The fact that the opening clip is a prelude to the main plot line shows, and not in a bad way. Unlike some films that shift location/story/focus from beginning to middle to end, SHADOW OF A DOUBT introduces us to the villain that we will follow throughout the course of the film. We learn, through some amazing introductory motifs by Hitchcock, that Joseph Cotten's Uncle Charlie is a menacing, troubled man. While we don't learn HOW or WHY he became that way, we immediately pick up on his flaws as he lies in the bed. The exposure to motifs of film noir by Hitch is brilliant. The one that stands out especially is the closing and reopening of the shades, something we see many times in film noir and even into later 20th century detection films. CHINATOWN always comes immediately to mind as a film that focuses heavily on light v. dark with blinds/shades.

 

Speaking of lying on the bed, the parallels seen between this film and THE KILLERS are plentiful. I may have even picked up on it without the mention from Dr. Edwards. Just as Burt Lancaster's pained and tormented character of the Swede conveys trouble, Joseph Cotten's Uncle Charlie does too. He knows that his mischief has led him to danger and the two men after him, like the two men after Lancaster, deeply worry him. 

 

Tiomkin's music helps immensely to underscore the tension that Uncle Charlie is feeling. Like many of Hitch's composers, who he often listed second to last on the opening credits (a rarity in those days but demonstrative of the fact he relied HEAVILY on his musicians), Tiomkin does not disappoint with his focus on rising and falling music as the actions both build and settle. As the tension rises, the music does too and as a sense of normalcy seems to be in place, the music settles. Brilliant.

 

Now I'm chomping at the bit to watch this film again since it's been so long!!!

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I dearly love shadow of a doubt! 

 

1. He's careless with money. Perhaps because it comes easily to him.

    He's able to put on a show of prosperity but is possibly more at home in dark corners.

    He's attractive to women. They like him, protect him, fuss over him.

    He's a stylish dresser.

    He's prone to depression or a sort of suicidal ambivalence. 

    He's a risk taker.

    He's avoiding something.

 

 

2. The movie reminds me of a noir:

    Uncle Charlie speaks in a cryptic, cynical, almost jazzy or philosophical way.

    Money is useful but it's not the primary thing at stake. Something more primal is at stake (think

    of the Maltese Falcon- "the stuff of which dreams are made".)

     There's a strong irony contrasting innocence and corruption (the boys play in the street while

    policemen track down a wanted man in a sleazy boarding house)

    The shadows are a dynamic element- informing and animating character. (The woman pulls

    the shade down and it's as if Uncle Charlie comes alive in the darkness.)

    The cops hover like storm clouds but don't really have the goods to strike.

    The mood is one of stylish unease.

    We sense the violence will be psychological.

 

 

3. The score is amazing.

    I loved the crescendo when he finally decides to leave the room. It's a fairly unclimactic thing 

    to do - just to walk out a door- but the music signals it's importance. 

    The occasional jazzy interspersing of the merry widow waltz feels ironic and gives some 

    foreshadowing. The dark underside of his seductive waltzes are these moments of dodging

    the police. 

    The music underscores the play between dark and light. 

    It feels improvisational at moments- highlighting the impulsive decision making of Charlie. 

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  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 see a man awaiting some kind of fate. He knows it is approaching and doesn;t seem to care about anything (his money is carelessly lying about). He is fuly suited 9well dressed) , lying in bed in a somewhat lower class boarding house with an unllit cigar in the middle of a typical day. On the outside children are playing in the light while he lies in a semi-darkened room. he doesn't seem to care that two men are inquiring about him - he knows there would be someone - and shows no emotion towards his landlady's concern for him. he expects such concern and attention from ladies like this. Something snaps him to atention, he throws a liquor bottle at the wall and looks out the window at his pursuers. We go from low energy, no interest in life in a dimly lit room  to a bold move of meeting his pursuers full on in the light of day.

 

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)

 

Yes, it does. The play of light vs. dark. The feeling that something is not quite right - fully dressed man on a bed in the middle of the day - and something is about to happen. The way Cotten is lying on the bed reminds me of a prisoner lying on his cot before execution day.

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 music outside is playful,carnivalesque then we move inside the dark room of the boarding huse and it get softer, expectant almost. When Cotten moves into action the music swells into The merry Widow Waltz - faster pace, faster movement - and maybe a hint of the story behind the character but what?

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. In the opening scene of Shadow of a Doubt, we learn that Uncle Charlie is being pursued by someone (maybe the police or maybe a gangster he wronged). He seems, if not unconcerned, resigned to it. Almost as if he knows it is futile to fight against it. He seems tired, almost defeated in some way. We also learn that he must be a likeable person in some ways, as his landlady seems concerned about him, and even warns him about the men looking for him. She also believes he is honest, evidenced by her statement that she hasn't had much trouble with dishonesty. There is lots of money on his bedside table and on the floor, but he seems unconcerned with it. If he has come by the money dishonestly, he didn't do it just for the money, but maybe for the thrill of it. 

2. The opening scene of Shadow of a Doubt reminds me of film noir. We open on a gritty, city street. A man lies on a bed in a seedy boarding house toying with an unlit cigar (sometimes a cigar is just a cigar). Minor key music plays. The expression on the man's face is blank, resigned. There are shadowy figures waiting outside for him. We can guess that the large amount of money on the bedside table and floor was obtained dishonestly based on the man's demeanor and the information provided by the landlady.

3. Tiomkin's score for Shadow of a Doubt greatly heightens the anxiety and suspense of the action. The music is in a minor key. There are many discordant harmonies. The music builds anticipation and also builds when a decision is being made by Uncle Charlie. Tiomkin is a master at projecting the mood of a film. The music is a definite film noir touch to the movie.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

New Members:

Register Here

Learn more about the new message boards:

FAQ

Having problems?

Contact Us