Dr. Rich Edwards

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

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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. 

 

The scene opens with a street view of innocent kids playing — shot straight on by the camera. The scene fades into a view of a doorstep and then a window — each shot at a crooked angle by the camera. The window leads into Uncle Charlie’s room. Therefore, we instantly know something is askew with him. The camera angles are an instant visual comparison of right vs. wrong, as are the shadows lying across Uncle Charlie’s face when we first see him.

 

The boarding house lady enters and notices the money he has piled up beside him on the table and floor. She mentions that “Everybody in the world ain’t honest, you know. Though I must say I haven’t had much trouble that way.” She is good and honest, but acknowledges that not everyone is — yet she doesn’t realize she’s talking to one of the people who isn’t.

 

We know Uncle Charlie isn’t a good guy because of his dark demeanor. He doesn’t smile and greet her. He doesn’t thank her for her concern about him. His lack of desire to speak with her or humor a conversation with a well-meaning woman creates a sense that he is living in his own world playing by his own rules.

 

The two men (good guys? — lighter colored suits; engaged in casual conversation with each other makes them seem normal) who are waiting to speak with Uncle Charlie don’t acknowledge him when he comes out, but they follow him down the street. We know from this that Charlie is wanted for some sort of wrongdoing… and that he doesn’t even care! He is confrontational enough to approach the two men without fear and walk past them. He thinks he’s above everyone.

 

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.)

 

Both opening scenes take place in New Jersey. The one in The Killers (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtfUrnKpyLg&t=518s <<I think this is the right one) takes place in the dark at night (and yet it’s only 6pm — hmm). In SOADoubt, the scene is daytime, with full light. Both openings have two men tracking down another man. The Killers has snippy, snappy conversation that I expect from film noir, while in SOADoubt, the boarding house lady is the one doing all the talking. She is snappy, but not snippy. :-) The two snippy characters in The Killers are condescending and rude, thinking they’re above everyone else. They seem to be causing trouble just to make trouble. There’s a lot of double-talk and going around in circles in the conversation.

 

Fast-forward to the scene in the room with the Swede lying in bed and Nick coming to tell him about the two bad men: We get a fast camera pan from L>R from the Swede in bed to the door where Nick enters. We don’t see the face of the Swede; it’s in a shadow. We see Nick’s shadow looming over the bed, fearing for the Swede’s life. The Swede says, “There’s nothing I can do about it.” His voice, like Uncle Charlie’s, is low and monotone, but in this case, it’s a softer voice. We might even feel sympathy for the Swede, even though we haven’t seen him yet. But we already know we don’t like Uncle Charlie… because we have seen his face… his expression… in the light… and we don’t like it.

 

The Swede admits he’s done something wrong and is willing to receive his punishment. In contrast, Uncle Charlie is agitated by anyone having the nerve to even tell him he’s done something wrong, let alone punish him for it.

 

Our POV in The Killers is looking at the bed from a point beyond Nick (e.g., the door); whereas in SOADoubt, our POV is from the wall beside the bed, looking over Uncle Charlie toward the boarding house lady and the open door (full scope of the room).

 

- - -

 

Other observations…

 

Again, we were treated to the skewed camera angles upon meeting Charlie. We saw his carelessness by the way he treated the money at his bedside. We see him fully dressed lying down in a supposed inferior position, but his state of mind is very controlled. For the time being.

 

The boarding house lady pulls down the window shade for Charlie to sleep and the room goes from light (good/safety) to dark (evil/dangerous). Once she leaves the room, Charlie feels comfortable there in the dark and finally gets up out of bed, sips his drink, breaks the glass angrily. From this, we see his physical strength, yet weakness of mind. To him, life seems to be as fragile as a glass that can be picked up and thrown away/broken for no real reason.

 

He re-opens the window shade and looks straight at the two men saying, “You’ve nothing on me.” This line can be taken two ways: 1) You have no proof of anything I’ve done; and 2) You are not as smart, etc. as me. Of course, neither of these are likely true. The two men wouldn’t be watching him if they didn’t know something he’d done… and they were smart enough to track him down. In other words, they are definitely “on to” him.

 

Charlie stands in the half-light/half-dark space… and even when he moves, the shadows of the window frame make the light criss-cross upon him. He heads out the door (#13, which some people fear). He walks straight toward and beside the two men trailing him. They hold back but play it casual. They walk in lockstep with each other to the beat of the music, each with their left hand in their jacket pocket -- almost like they're dancing together.

 

I expect the Sharks and the Jets to appear any minute now... :-)

 

 

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?

 

At first the music is grand and cheerful and gala-worthy… but then the tone and pace turns curious/cautious. The music disappears altogether when the boarding house lady appears. The conversation ensues and then, when she pulls down the window shade, it returns with an ominous mood as we now see Uncle Charlie go from light to dark — his fake persona that he shows everyone, compared to his true evil self.

 

The music heightens when he throws the glass. We then hear the low, thunderous undertones of the bass drum before he re-opens the window shade. Suddenly, the music (and the room) is lighter — like bubbles floating about the air — and Uncle Charlie’s mood turns to one of self-confidence and the ability to con everyone… and then it all gets very dramatic as he walks out the house and we wonder what he’s about to do. It quiets down when he steps outside and casually, but offensively, walks past the two men who then (again) walk in lockstep to the low pounding notes of a piano. Those piano strokes seem to say, “We’ll get you in the end!”

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  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 the name Uncle Charlie is using is " Mr. Spencer" (real or fake name?). Early middle age.  He is a passionate smoker of cigars (he savors them), He has plenty of money and he doesn't really care about it (way it lays around the room). He is a dapper dresser, maybe even a dandy but there is something shabby about his dress too (note the hole in the back of his suitcoat). Uncle Charlie has a temper as evidenced by the glass throwing incident. If he is a criminal he is bold about his crime in terms of no fear..."Nothing on me!" Being set in WW2 America we don't know if he is a criminal, a wronged man or a spy.

 

 

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 discussed in the notes, the first thing that hits me about the opening of this 1943 film and the 1946 "The Killers" is the completely different treatise on  basically the same scene a'la Hemingway. In Hitchcock / Wilder version, we see the "man in the bed" as a fighter, he is not going to give in / up, in fact he is bold in presenting himself to the two "friends on the corner". "Nothing on me!"

​     In Siodmak's treatment in "The Killers", Swede (Burt Lancaster) is fatalistic, he knows he is a dead man, he doesn't even want to attempt any resistance even when warned. Swede just waits for the door to open and the shots to finish him off. 

       Hitchcock's opening is set in the daytime. Siodmak's in the dark of night. We don't see any interaction with the two guys in Hitchcock's version. We only learn everything from the landlady. The menace if there is not as great as the real menace in Siodmak's version. The killers threaten and boldly hunt down Swede whereas in "Shadow of  Doubt" the two guys just wait around across the street on the corner and then eventually follow Uncle Charlie. 

       The differences in the music are evident also...Hitchcock uses a reoccurring lite motif in the "Merry Widows", Siodmak uses an intense drum beat mood to ratchet up the tension. 

 

 

​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? 

​         Tiomkin's score ​controls the mood, atmosphere and even the pace of this scene. We start out with a light motif followed by the "Merry Window" theme which will reoccur throughout. We also have spots of no music at all... and this silence effects the mood also. We hear deeper themes with drums and challenging notes that let us know that Uncle Charlie is angry and is headed to a showdown. His throwing of the glass has an appropriate musical signature.The music adds tension to the later parts of the scene. To be honest I could hear the kind of Tiomkin musical themes that he would later excel at in "High Noon". It sounds like Uncle Charlie is heading to a showdown in this unnamed town a'la Will  Kain in Hadleyville.

​"Do Not forsake me cause Ya got nothin on me!"

 

Note to viewers:​ Don't forget to look for Hitchcock's cameo. Hint: train to Santa Rosa

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What struck me was the stark contrast of kids playing outside - happy-go-lucky, not a care in the world -and just the other side of the rooming house door we see Charlie obviously with many cares and problems. An older man who has traveled light years from his innocent days. I was also intrigued by him laying in bed with full suit on - jacket buttoned and tie not even loosened. Very formal napper! Then when he left the rooming house I was initially impressed by this three-peaks pocket square - then I realized it was three cigars! I must try that. Then Hitch went from location shot of Charlie approaching the two men to process shot of Charlie passing close by the two men and then back to location shot for the men beginning to follow Charlie. This always irks me about Hitch and classic film in general: if they're already obviously on location, why do they stick in process shots? I'm sure there's good 'film making business' reasons but , still.

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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 comfortable living on the seedy side of town.  So comfortable that he leaves his money thrown on the floor.  He is lying in bed in the middle of the day, posed, looking like Dracula.  He is in full suit, he didn't take off his jacket as most of us would if we were lying down.  He is comfortable enough to tell his landlady that he never met the men who called for him. She pulls down the shade and his eyes are closed, looking like he's dead.  He throws a glass at the wall, showing us he is angry and that he is a wanted man.  "You have nothing on me"

 

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 opening of kids playing ball in the street, the light music is very friendly.  Then the camera looks up at the rooming house window.  This is different, in prior AH films, the camera looks down (Gods perspective), is this Satan's perspective?  The throwing of the glass at the wall is very film noir, the prediction of more violence to come. 

 

When Uncle Charlie walks out the door, he doesn't walk away from the detectives, he starts to walk right up to them.  In traditional film, you would be expecting a confrontation, or a shoot-out.  It's not in the clip, but the opening you see that the neighborhood is seedy, you see broken-down cars down by the river in an industrial area of the city.  No trees, no grass.

 

 

 

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 at the beginning is light and friendly, the kids are playing ball.  Nothing wrong here.  Then the music changes as the camera looks up, it starts to get darker.  It climaxes when he throws the glass at the wall.  You know when Uncle Charlie decides to leave the city, the music becomes light, a little tinkle and back to ominous.  It ramps up again as he walks right up to the detectives.

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Further Reflections:  After watching the clip, please go to Twitter (#Hitchcock50) or the TCM Message Board (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.  (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.to continue your reflections on this clip. Here are a few discussion starters (though feel free to come up with your own):

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 loves cigars – he is smoking one or at least he is tasting it and he has three of them in his handkerchief pocket in his suit. Cigars are an expensive habit and seem out of place in the less then elegant boarding house where he lives – that coupled with his expensive suit creates an even greater juxtaposition. Uncle Charlie is not easily intimidated. He goes outside and stress down one of the two men ostensibly pursuing him (the scene reminds or has a feeling like the early scene in “The Killers” when “The Swede” is in his darkened room waiting for the men to come kill him). Uncle Charlie is someone who people tend to like or trust – note how the boarding house lady lies to the two men after Uncle Charlie. Charlie is a likeable cad.

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 regards “The Killers” the biggest difference is that “The Swede” is resigned to his fate, indeed he awaits his punishment. Uncle Charlie says to himself, “They have nothing on me.” Rather than accept his fate, Uncle Charlie decides to take matters into his own hands.

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?  I think the score has a sense of dread or an underlying uneasiness. 

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Good Afternoon, All,

1.) What I learned about Uncle Charlie is that he is being sort after by two men and apparently has charmed his landlady to tell them he is not home. When she comes to inform him of the visitors, he is resting in bed, an unlit cigar in his hand, seemingly unphased by the news; he doesn't even budge when the landlady tells him he ought not leave money lying around and that she is honest and doesn't have money problems. Once she leaves the room after telling him to rest and pulling the shades down, Uncle Charlie sits on the side of the bed, finishes his glass of water and smashes the glass, goes to the window, has a pep talk with himself, stores his money and cigars puts on his hat and exits. He walks right pass the two men following him as if to reinforce what he told himself "..you have nothing on me". Uncle Charlie's arrogance abounds, he can get away with whatever it is he has done.

 

2.) The opening of children playing in the street, then move in closer to the boarding house, closer still on the window, then into the room and dolly up to the bed where Uncle Charlie is "resting".  The crispness of the black and white against the dark shadows in the room add to the mystery and suspense of the film. I don't remember The Killers so can't compare but based on the notes this is what I believe.

 

3.) The music in the beginning adds to the playful mood of hte children playing in the streets to the foreboding mood in the room and when Uncle Charlie goes to the window, the music does a upbeat, almost like Uncle Charlie is being fueled by his pep talk, he is ready to be defiant and the music crescandos highten the mood of anxiety...will he do it, will he walk up to them and defy them to challenge him?  Not only does he walk right up to them, he almost bushes against one of the man's shoulders as he turns and walks away. 

 

 

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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.

 

I feel we learn he is un-caring, and jaded with his monotone delivery. I feel he is definitely on the run for a crime. We learn he is single. We learn he's not living in California which is where he's headed...

 

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 will take this opportunity to say if we freeze the course during this period and studied it in greater length we would be gaining a large amount of knowledge about true cinema especially once you grasp that the genres are so vast and film noir draws from so many influences. Hitchcock's force of strength stems from everything he learnt up to that point including all his collaborators. He seemed untouchable. Really glad to read he had less of a budget but more control over the subject and the film in general. Also, if you wish to study film noir you could do far worse than checking Hitchcock's film noir "touches" I'd say he set many a standards for the film's that followed each of them drawing from film noir. Style, genre, and movement can be pretty epic in scope but for Hitchcock cinema purity was in reach is my opinion. I have so much I'd like to say about the subject but think it's best to allow others to take in each of his films on their own time. This question and the many themes we touch on are all relevant in my honest opinion. The obvious touches: b&w, the music, the stark contrast, the characters, the camera movement, the pacing, the performers, the lack of trust and the universal appeal of ordinary guy versus the extraordinary situations. There seems a strong contrast in perception and he played off opposites so well. Include duality of characters later as an afterthought. In comparison to the killers Cotten's character also seems to be accepting of his fate until he throws a glass which defies Lancaster's actions. Like reading Hitch predates Siodmak's version...

 

Although Shadow of a Doubt is not my favourite it is my favourite subject knowing it evokes such insightful analysis from scholars, critics, and fans. I was fortunate enough to catch Del Toro's lectures on both Shadow and Notorious while seeing both Hitch's films on the big screen in Toronto. Line from Lost Highway: "I'm beginning to think there are no coincidences..." (recommended neo-noir from David Lynch)

 

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?

 

I believe the music really gives us many of the cues to not only the atmosphere but the somber then menacing, and even freightening themes which will take shape in this movie. Thumbs up all the way! Seriously the best course day thus far for subject and genre! Go Hitch go!

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While similar to Hemingway's and Siodmak's The Killers, with Joseph Cotton here and Burt Lancaster just lying there in bed, waiting. Lancaster's character the Swede knows the killers are coming for him, that he will put up no fight, and that he will die. Die for a mistake he made years before. The rest of The Killers is an insurance agent tracing it all back, and then finding out who had the Swede killed and why—the “femme fetale”.

 

While Lancaster laid in the dark, smoking and waiting, Joseph Cotton's, Uncle Charlie, is laying down in the day time, with lots of money falling off the night stand, the land lady coming in telling him about his friends, then pulling the blinds, sympathetic with how Charlie needs rest. When Charlie gets up it is to plan his escape, after the first moment of anger. He looks out the shades and can see “They're bluffing”. He knows he can get away, and even walks right past them, daring them. He succeeds in getting away and going to Santa Rosa for the rest of the film.

 

The music does not begin until Uncle Charlie is alone, then it starts anxious, moving to climax when he throws the glass, then calm Saturday afternoon, kids playing urban sound, as Charlie decides the police are”bluffing”. Then as Charlie plans to run, it builds in anxiety again, louder as he approaches police, then almost silent, when he is past them. The music adds a lot to the scene.

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  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's paralyzed not literally but figuratively. He doesn't move, he doesn't shift his weight, he doesn't sit up. He is at such a low point that he can barely move. He has a lot of money, but he doesn't care about it or the things it can buy. He lets his money fall on the floor, and if he wanted the luxuries that come with money, he would be staying a nice hotel and not this rundown rooming house. When the landlady pulls down the blind, then he gets energized like he is invigorated by the darkness. Then he decides to take action, violent action, throwing his glass on the floor. He looks at his opponents, the men outside, and decides to go out and confront them or escape.

     

  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 seedy boarding house with a character who feels like he is trapped in a cage with bars he can't see is very film noir. I just re-watched the opening of The Killers. The focus is on the situation and the killers themselves and how they are after the Swede, Burt Lancaster. In Shadow of a Doubt, the focus is on Charlie, Joseph Cotten. They both are in the same state of mind, paralyzed by fear, but Joseph Cotten decides to do something about it, take action, whereas Burt Lancaster lets it happen. Stylistically, The Killers is probably more noir, much deeper shadows in the room. You can't even see Burt Lancaster's face. The opening of Shadow of a Doubt set in the daytime, shadows that deep might have seemed unrealistic. Hitchcock could have set the opening at night, but I think he wanted to show the kids playing stickball in the street, so that he could contrast the East Coast, big city, family experience with the small town experience of Santa Rosa. I think there's more going on in Shadow of a Doubt. There's a dynamic in the way the shadow moves across Joseph Cotten's face when the blind is pulled down, and he is motivated into action by it.

     

  3. As we move into Hitchcock's Hollywood years, his scores will take on more importance than the 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?

     

    First, it's significant that the Merry Widow Waltz is incorporated in a couple of spots. We hear it as the kids are playing, but then it drops out as we see Joseph Cotten. In fact, the music drops out completely to match the lack of energy on Cotten's part. Once the landlady leaves, the music comes back, it is dark and foreboding, but what is the danger? Is it Joseph Cotten, seems likely from his violent behavior?  Or is it the men outside? The Merry Widow Waltz is brought back in right after he thinks, "What do you know. You're bluffing. You don't have anything on me." Whatever they  want from Joseph Cotten is tied up with that waltz. Then the music goes back to sinister as Joseph Cotten goes out to the two men who are after him. There are a couple of mini climaxes in the score, as Cotten comes out the door and again as he walks past the two men, building tension and releasing it, then building and releasing again.... 

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Uncle Charlie seems resigned to his fate, whatever that may be. But maybe a little on his own terms.  Perhaps he feels his past has caught up with him. This has such an American feel to it, contrasting a lot with Hitchcock's British-themed movies. Joseph Cotten is pretty American.

 

Monotone dialogue from Uncle Charlie brings to mind film noir for me. Unlike his landlady's lively chatter. Use of light and dark lighting seems very noir. I am new to examining film noir, but have always enjoyed it.  

 

The Tiomkin score here is lively at first, belying the dark mood of Uncle Charlie in his room. The waltz music tells us he is reminiscing about his past, maybe.  Then as Charlie leaves his room, there is  purpose and intent in the music, then drama and suspense as he walks down the steps, past the two men and brushes up against one of them. The music builds and builds and we want more. Great scene.

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He is  alone in a dingy room in the East Coast, a very dark place which fits his mood. A contrast to warmth of  family in California.

I can see the similarity with  The Killers both characters are lying in bed feeling trapped. I like  the play of light and shadow on Joseph Cotten's face.

At first the music is light and bouncy matching the kids playing stick ball, then it stops while Uncle Charlie his laying down, after the landlady leaves it turns ominious and then it starts to build up to a crescendo when he meets the detectives and then it fades out while he turns ad walks away from them. 

I think the movies adds the suspense to scenes watching the changing moods of Uncle Charlie.

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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. 


Rather than the proposed opening beginning the film in Santa Rosa (a bucolic farm town)  Hitchcock opens in an east coast run down boarding house.  The furniture is worn and shabby and Joseph Cotton is dressed in a full suit apparently waiting, but for what?


The money on the nightstand and floor suggests he may have pulled a heist or con of some kind and his face bears a sort of reticence.  We know he’s done something, but not sure what.  This sets the air of mystery about him and in his scene with the landlady its confirmed by the two men who came looking for him that his is guilty of something, but what.  So in this scene we learn all we need to know about him for the time being, his is to reveal his dark side even more later.  Then he says, “They’ve got nothing on me.” To further convince us that he is no hero.


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)


Although the term “film noir” had not been invented yet there are elements of darkness and foreboding that run through this opening, which would show up in later films of the 40s and 50s.  Hitchcock sensed early on that the tide for film narrative was changing in Hollywood.  That the war had drug on and a sense of dread and doom was grabbing the nation and the way was open for darker tales and darker motifs countering the technicolor dreams of much of current Hollywood product. 


The Killers is a classic film noir and Hitchcock touched on a suggestion from Thornton Wilder that he read the Hemingway novel where a pack of killers are coming to kill our supposed protagonist known only as the Swede.  Hitchcock read the story and saw the same dark opening Siodmak was to film two years later and included it in the prelude to Shadow of a Doubt.  The same darkened room, the same tortured character waiting on a bed for death to arrive, the same resolution that what is coming cannot be escaped, but can it?


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 was an innovative and brilliant composer of film scores and Hitchcock used his haunting opening score to heighten the tension faced by Uncle Charlie and quicken the pace of his exit out of town.  The atmosphere is haunting heightened by the deep resonance of the lower pitch adding to the darkness that surrounds Uncle Charlie.


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I have seen "The Killers" only a few times, so memory of opening is just not there. But I have seen "Shadow of a Doubt" at least 100 times (not exaggerating), and the opener not only has all the style of noir, it is signature Hitchcock -- we know everything we need to know about Uncle Charlie in the first three minutes and from there, his insinuation into his "family" in Santa Rosa is cringe-worthy anxiety through to the very last scene. We learn that he abhors humanity; he doesn't care about anything, evidence the money strewn all over the floor. He is casual to a fault. And he has no feeling or fear as he walks by the detectives he knows are looking for him.  You know, I've always wondered this: I get the feeling that Charlie is not really the uncle (mother's brother); there are hints sometimes: Ann says "you look different;" the mother really doesn't know what he does; with his gifts upon arrival, the old photo is supposed to be their parents, but I get a queasy sense of doubt that he's making it up. It's just a veil of a sense I pick up every time I watch this movie. I'm not an expert, but does anyone else get this feeling that he is not the real Uncle Charlie, but instead has hijacked the identity. Maybe I'm over-analyzing. Does anyone else get any kind of feeling that he may not be the real Uncle Charlie? That would be really dark, yes?

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Here's an interesting bit of personal trivia.  As a nine year old boy living in Running Springs, California near Lake Arrowhead, my mother became friends with the caretakers of the Selznick mansion not far out of town.  It was the hunting lodge of Myron Selznick, talent agent to Hitchcock and brother of David O.  Since nobody was in residence and hadn't been for years we got to to up there and spend weekends in the mansion.  We stayed in the William Powell room above the main floor, but down a small staircase was the game room.  In that game room was a square of wood that guests would be invited to carve their names in.  Lots of stars names, William Powell, Gene Harlow, Clark Gable, but down in the far right corner was a silhouette carved by Hitchcock himself.  I knew him from television and movies I'd seen so it was quite a thrill when I happened upon it.  Wished that old mansion was still there but it burned down several years ago, a damn shame.

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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. 

The money haphazardly lying about suggests he is on the run, and yet he is very casually smoking a cigar and appears to be very calm. When the Mrs. Martin comments about “not having much trouble that way”, meaning HONESTY, he looks down almost in shame.  You know he’s far from honest.

When he tells Mrs. Martin he may go down and meet them in person, or he may not, he conveys he wants to remain in control of whatever is going on; it’s his decision whether or not to see his “friends”.  You sense he is very deliberate and always wants control. 

He is also a very snazzy dresser, another way of conveying his deliberateness.

 

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 room becomes almost black (noir) after the woman pulls the shade down.  Also the music/score – it is very different before Mrs Martin pulls down the share.  It is lighter and more joyful.  But as soon as the shade comes down the tone (set by the music and absence of light) changes remarkably.

Also, the score has a big impact on the sinister feel of parts of this scene, parts that are noir in tone and first impressions (the mood).

 

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 is everything in this scene!  Imagine watching it without the score.

The effect is one of an ominous feeling.  The crescendo is akin to a surge of fear rising up in your chest.  I love the one tiny moment in the score where hear just enough of the Merry Widow tune to connect that song with Uncle Charlie. Fantastic!

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1. All that money tells me he just pulled a job and he is contemplating his next move. He breaks the glass in frustration  because he didn't want the lady to get mixed up in his problem. Ge decides to lead them on a wild goose chase sort of speak.

 

2. This film reminds me of the opening scene of The Killers where is laying on the bed waiting to get killed.

 

3. The Tiomkin score puts the ominous mood to the audience while there is a foreboding atmosphere to the picture. 

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1.       We learn a lot about Uncle Charlie in the New Jersey opening. He is filmed and behaves like a vampire. The opening shot of the boys playing outside his apartment in the daylight contrast with our first view of Uncle Charlie: lying in bed in the shadows, wearing a suit and dress shoes and smoking and fondling a cigar. Later, after Mrs. Martin, his landlady, closes the shade, bringing a shadow down his face, he gets up, as if the darkness fully awakens him. We learn that he has a lot of paper money and that he makes no effort to conceal or store it carefully. We learn that he speaks in a deep, uncaring voice. Most importantly for the plot, we learn that two detectives are following him and that this information makes him furious.

2.       There is much in the opening scene of Shadow of a Doubt (1943) that exemplifies what would later be termed film noir: the urban setting, the criminal activity, the extreme use of shadows, the dramatic underscore, the existential dread of our central character. It also bears some comparison with the opening of the noir classic The Killers (1946). That film also involves two men coming to get a third man who is lying down in bed in a dark room. This time, though, the two men are the “bad guys,” hit men hired to kill The Swede. Both openings use darkness and shadow to mirror the dire situation.

3.       In scoring Shadow of a Doubt, composer Dimitri Tiomkin follows the Hollywood tradition of establishing the mood of a scene through its music. When Uncle Charlie gets up and breaks his glass, Tiomkin’s music swirls wildly, sharing Uncle Charlie’s state of mind. Then we get the musical motif of Franz Lehar’s “Merry Widow Waltz,” here played in carousel style, giving us a clue to Uncle Charlie’s crimes. Finally, for Uncle Charlie’s audacious walk past the detectives who are trailing him, the music builds into a swell of horns and strings as he passes them and then fades out for the beautiful framing of the detectives on either side of Uncle Charlie as they follow him down the sidewalk, away from the viewer.

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For some reason, I am having trouble posting my response today.  Let's hope that the third time is a charm...

 

 

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. 
 

First, I like the parallel between this opening scene and the opening to the film Psycho, with Hitchcock taking us up towards and into the window where we first see Charlie lying on the bed just as he takes up towards and through the window so we can spy on Marion and Sam, who are also lying on a bed.  In this scene, we sense that Charlie has been involved in some type of criminal activity as suggested by the amounts of money lying on the table and the floor.  He doesn't seem concerned about it.  Does this suggest he regrets how he has earned the money?  Also, we sense indecision on his part regarding staying in the room and awaiting his fate or leaving the room to confront it.  We see this in some of his dialogue with Mrs. Martin when he talks about how even though the men are not his friends, he should speak with them anyway.  Also, after Mrs. Martin leaves, Charlie paces the room, weighing his options, especially when he espies the men across the street.  However, he finally decides to be bold and make the first move by not only walking towards the men, but actually brushing up against one of them as he passes by to show that he knows who they are and why they are there but also to show he is not afraid.

 

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)
 

(possible spoilers) I have not seen the film version of "The Killers," but I was immediately reminded of the Hemingway story when I watched this scene.  In both, the main character is lying on a bed, knowing that his pursuers are closing in.  Each must decide whether to fight, flee, or simply surrender.  At first, it seems Charlie has decided to surrender, accepting his fate.  However, instead he chooses to leave the room and indirectly confront the men who are looking for him.  By contrast, The Swede in "The Killers" resigns himself to his fate, it seems, by turning on his side and facing the wall.  In both stories we aren't sure why the characters are being pursued.  Not having seen all of Shadow of a Doubt yet, I'm assuming we will learn the answer to this question eventually.  However, in the story "The Killers," we never learn what Andreson has done.  One can speculate that since he is a boxer, perhaps he refused to take a dive in a fight, costing organized crime some money?  Another "noir" element is SoaD once again is Hitchcock's use of lighting.  This, I realize is not exclusively a noir element, but I think it works as one here, with the contrast between the children playing carelessly in the sunny street and the shadowy room where Charlie contemplates his next move, a room cast in even more shadow when Mrs. Martin draws the shade.  Also, even though this scene does not contain the stereotypical "noir-style" dialogue with a voice over of a detective describing a "dame" who has just walked into his smoke-filled agency, we do hear Charlie say that the men outside have nothing on him.  Lines like this establish the mystery in this film, raising questions in the viewers' minds.

 

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?

 

 

Finally, the music also adds to the noir style of this film.  Tiomkin begins with very light-hearted music while the children are playing outside and the music remains light-hearted at first when we enter Charlie's room while he is lying there talking to Mrs. Martin.  However, the pace quickens with the use of tympani and strident violin strings when Charlie sees the men standing on the corner and as he walks past them, thinking perhaps they won't try anything with children playing in the street.  I might be wrong with this analysis, but in "poetic" terms, the piano chords are "spondaic" or "trochaic," two poetic meters that suggest urgency or danger, unlike the more natural "iambic" pace that Charlie takes as he walks away from the camera and away from the men before they give chase.  For me, this shows that Charlie is aware of the potential danger behind him, as noted with the harsh "trochaic" piano chords being contrasted with his calm rhythmic "iambic" walk.  This is his way of showing that he is aware of the danger, but he doesn't care.

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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 inhabits a rented room in a boarding house, address number 13 (bad luck?) in a NYC neighborhood.  We first see Uncle Charlie in his room, lying on a bed with his arms folded on his chest, resembling a vampire.  He’s dressed in a suit and smoking a cigar, which suggest he likes the finer things.  He doesn’t seem concerned about the large denomination bills that are lying exposed on the nightstand and on the floor.

 

He appears to be a loner, bored, shut-off.  He reacts indifferently, barely opening his eyes, when the landlady tells him about two men who were looking for him.  The tone of his voice is menacing while composed as he tells the landlady that the men, “aren’t exactly friends of mine. “They’ve never seen me.”  He appears to be on the run from the law, but at the same time, the law can’t prove he is their guy.

 

After the landlady leaves the room, he calmly sits up, puts out his cigar, picks up a glass and downs the drink in one shot, stands up, and then smashes the glass on the floor. While he appeared cool and collected when the landlady was present, there is pent up anger inside.

 

He walks to the window and sees the two men standing across the street. We hear him say (think?), “What do you know? You’re bluffing. You’ve nothing on me.”  He fully believes he is smarter than these men.  He demonstrates this by gathering his things, going outside, and confidently heads straight for the two men.  He boldly walks in front of them with head high, almost brushing one man as he passes, and then he continues briskly down the street.

 

 

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)

 

Film noir elements:

 

Low-rent location

Darkened, poorly lit room

Man lying in bed surrounded by cigar smoke

He seems to be a crime suspect being followed by police

Alienated from others, loner, possibly disillusioned, cynical

Foreboding background music

 

 

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 is expertly crafted from the big, happy overture as the scene opens with neighborhood kids playing ball in the street, to a blending with the Merry Widow waltz as the camera focuses on the boarding house and then the room window where Uncle Charlie lives.  Then there’s a change to a slow, methodical, insidious tone as Uncle Charlie is introduced to the viewer.  The mood from film opening to here goes from expansive to closed and dark.

 

 

After the landlady pulls down the blind, the room darkens and a creepy, sinister foreboding tune plays as we see a close-up of Uncle Charlie lying on the bed.

 

As Uncle Charlie sits up, the music swells slightly and then builds to a crescendo as he smashes the glass.  He moves to the window and the pace of the music races, mimicking his adrenaline surging as he opens the blind to see the men across the street. 

 

 

While Uncle Charlie ponders his next move, the music switches to a lighter tune with some of the waltz notes mixed in as he realizes what he has to do.  He grabs his things to leave, and the music becomes a determined, forceful tone, quicker in pace and then intensifies to another climax as he opens the front door and steps outside.

 

When Uncle Charlie walks towards the men, the music becomes loud and purposeful as he passes them and heads down the street.  The men following him are accompanied with the sound of piano keys rhythmically pounding, as the men pound the pavement yet again.

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July 11, 2017 – Hitchcock lecture Part 10

 

We know that he’s being watched. It’s clear from the landlady’s dialogue and at the end when the two men actually follow him. The hero seems well aware of this and is depressed, almost resigned, as evidenced by how he leaves wads of cash on the ground, and also by how he doesn’t take extra precautions to hide from the men, like closing the blinds or making sure his stalkers aren't at the door. He just lets the landlady in very easily, without even acknowledging her presence. 


 

2.

Iconographically, in line with other noir films, we see the fedora, the suit, and wads of money on the ground. The two men are also suited. Stylistically, there’s high contrast lighting, shadows from the blinds, and a sort of urban setting. While I've seen lots of noir films, I haven't seen or remember about enough of them to really point out what makes this particular opening different from others. But Alfred Hitchcock's use of omniscient camera is apparent from the very beginning, where the camera liberally pans and tilts to show the money without any motivation. 

 

 

The music opens on a cheerful note to give us a sense of place and time, but a mood of foreboding develops as we see Charlie on the bed. The music highlights the emotional actions in the film, such as the suspenseful build up to where Charlie throws a glass piece at the wall in frustration. We also get a sense of the men that are keeping watch of him with a score underlying the moments in between. In terms of pace, the music externalizes the sense of dread our character is feeling—which may make the pace seem slower than it actually is (not without a sense of anxiety and anticipation). 

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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 know that "Mr. Spencer" has a lot of money scattered on the table and floor, which is incongruous with the dingy room and bed he's laying on. When a knock comes he says "Come in," with not much energy. He seems to be suffering from lack of motivation. When the landlady tells him about the two men who have come asking for him, he tells her they "aren't exactly friends". We know then for sure that they are after him and he's been trying to figure out how to evade them. An interesting shot happens as the landlady pulls down the blind casting a deep shadow over Mr. Spencer's face. After the landlady leaves Mr. Spencer gets angry and throws the glass. It seemed to me that he feels the trap closing around him, but takes up the challenge, and says as he raises the blind and looks out at the men on the street corner, "What do you know. You're bluffing. You've nothing on me." Then he gathers his things and goes out to the street passing extremely close to the men. He's challenging them to follow. From this opening, we know that Mr. Spencer must have committed some terrible crime, but we don't know what just yet.

 

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)

 

First of all the music has a dark tone. Then there are the light shining through the windows in contrast with the shadows in the room. When the landlady pulls down the blind, there is a deep shadow that progresses down Mr. Spencer's face. I've seen The Killers only once, but in that film Burt Lancaster seems resigned to his fate. I don't remember the music, or light and shadow patterns of that movie. In Shadow of a Doubt, Joseph Cotton is playing with the cigar as if using it as a fetish to help him plan his next move. His tone of voice isn't particularly nice toward the landlady in contrast to her caring, considerate tone toward him. And he uses violence by throwing the glass.

 

 

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 first bit of music we hear is the waltz. It's rather light, but as the camera goes from outside the window to the inside it turns darker. Then when the landlady pulls down the blind the music is still the waltz, but it is decidedly dark. We know something is terribly wrong with Mr. Spencer. His body language tells us he's not happy with his situation and the music backs that up. This is not going to be a happy movie.

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​This was a good introduction and a great idea on Hitchcock's and Wilder's part. We get an idea of the kind of character Uncle Charlie is and what he's going through. Though we aren't given all the details, we know he's being followed and that he needs to get out of this situation. Yet, he's very calm about the whole thing, showing us that he knows what he's doing.

 

The aspects in this clip that speak film noir to me are the darkened, somewhat dingy room; the calm demeanor of Uncle Charlie; and the looming presence of some dark plot that we don't quite know about yet. Of course, the shadows cast across the room also add to the effect, and I think the title of this movie is fantastic because it practically references this popular effect associated with film noir. I also have to add that when Uncle Charlie looks out his window at the two men, who are just standing casually outside waiting, it gives off that same private/hard-boiled detective feel. This looks like a situation that is being taken into their own hands--and Uncle Charlie will be forced to do the same.

 

Even though the film score was already discussed in the lecture video and my attention was already brought to it, Tiomkin's music for this movie really stood out to me from the other Hitchcock films we've seen so far. It's more dramatic and almost sets itself in the foreground, especially as Uncle Charlie walks out of his room and out onto the street. Suddenly, the atmosphere is very intense and the pace feels fast, even if the visuals aren't. As music usually does (and this is why I love soundtracks so much), it draws out the emotions in the viewer and forces you to start anticipating something. You know something is about to happen, but in this clip, it doesn't--at least not in the way you thought.

 

For an additional and more personal thought, I love how Hitchcock handled Joseph Cotten's character. I saw this movie a few years ago and even though I only remember parts of it (one reason why I need to watch it again), I remember how I began to admire Uncle Charlie in a similar way as his niece does. Even though we're given the information that he's involved in something dark, you don't want to believe it. But as the story progresses, you realize you may be wrong. It's confusing actually, but it gets you emotionally involved in the story. I should also put some blame on Joseph Cotten himself, because he made a dark character lovable (and I admit I developed a little crush on him after seeing this movie). But this is interesting, because as it has been discussed lately in lecture videos, Hitchcock could use Hollywood actors in dark roles, even if they are beloved by the public (Cary Grant in Suspicion​ comes to mind).

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1. Uncle Charlie seems resigned to his fate (not getting up when the landlady comes into the room, waiting around listlessly) and is probably guilty of some kind of crime or shady dealings (the large amounts of money on the cheap boardinghouse floor). He seems to make up his mind about either getting out of his situation/town when the blind is closed (symbolizing a dark change).

 

2. The opening is very The Killers. We have a cheap and shady location, a male character who drinks, lacks a zest and love of life, and is probably a bad kind of dude. There is an apathy with a lot of characters in noir novels and films, that Cotton shows immediately. 

 

3. The music helps to set the mood- anticipation building from the lighthearted tones to when the children were playing in the streets to a build when he breaks the glass and slow build when he passes the detectives.

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What we learn abut Uncle Charlie is, in short, that he is NOT the hero of our tale. Hitchcock let's this reveal unfold slowly. After we see the reclining figure of Uncle Charlie, the camera lingers on the money on the table, then the floor. It begs several questions: how did he get it? Why is it lying around? What sort of man leaves that much money lying on the floor like that? We learn the he is going under the name Mr. Spencer, though we don't find out until later that that's a fake name. And we find out he is being followed.

 

Now, while all this is certainly highly unusual, this doesn't quite yet codify him as the bad guy. As we know, Hitchcock likes to make innocent men seem guilty (see The Lodger), though there is certainly an undercurrent of something sinister in Uncle Charlie's mannerisms. It isn't until he utters the line, "You don't have anything on me," that we finally have confirmation our hero is not our hero after all.

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1.  What I learned from this prelude about Uncle Charley is that he has some sort of shady life.  The first clue is that he leaves money lying around without a concern for it.  That tells me that money is not important to him, or at least this money.  Then the way he talks to the woman.  There are 2 men who are looking for him, he does not seemed concerned nor does he seem surprised. 

And the entire time that he is lying in bed holding the cigar, he has a demeanor of someone who doesn't seem trustworthy. 

 

2.  The first thing that reminded me of film noir is the shot of the shadow of the curtains over Joseph Cotton's face while he is in bed.  The use of shadows is classic noir, to me anyway.  Also most noir  protagonists seem to always live in a dive apartment/hotel room.  The music when the woman closes the curtains also seem noir like to me.  And when he walks toward the 2 men on the street, there is a threat that a violent fight will occur, and noir films always seem to have a threat of violence breaking out at any time.

 

3.  Even before the music, the scene has a sense of dread due to the lighting and Joseph Cotton's performance.  The way he doesn't look at the woman as she is talking to him but instead he just looks ahead.  But then she pulls the curtains down and the music starts, that adds to the dread in the scene and lets the audience know that there is something not right with this man.  Is he a criminal or a victim?  It doesn't answer that question but definitely lets the audience know he is shady.

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