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Dr. Rich Edwards

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

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The Killers’ director, Robert Siodmak (a German émigré director), was a product of UFA and German Expressionism’s chiaroscuro lighting, extreme camera angles, emphasis on the psychology of characters, and fatalism.  Siodmak brings these characteristics to the opening scene of his 1946 noir film, The Killers, closely based on a Hemingway short story of the same name.  As the door slams on the killers’ exit from a Hopper-like diner, Miklós Rózsa’s score begins.  The dark driving low brass and discordant strings accompany Nick Adams as he leaps a succession of iconic white picket fences on his race to warn the Swede of the assassins.  The Swede, cast in shadow, responds impassively to Nick’s warnings of his fate.  The audience never sees the Swede’s face, and the door closes on this tarnished hero who fell under the spell of a femme fatale who led him to his doom.  We learn his story in flashback as he fatalistically awaits the killers.

Three years earlier than Siodmak’s The Killers, Hitchcock’s screenplay writer for Shadow of a Doubt, Thornton Wilder, suggested that Hitchcock take a page out of Hemingway’s short story “The Killers” for the opening scene.  [Curator’s Note, Daily Dose #10]  Hitchcock did. 

The scene opens with an establishing shot of a city street with boys playing stickball; dissolve to a rooming house of connected brownstones; dissolve to a window of the brownstone; dissolve through the window, then track to a pinstripe-suited man lying on a bed.   Three dissolves underscored in three-four time by Dimitri Tiompkin’s waltz music instills a light-hearted mood and cheerful atmosphere. 

The room is full of light; however, the window grilles and blowing curtains cast shadows and Tiompkin’s music changes to a minor key and the mood changes.  The swirling lines of the headboard, the vertical shadows of the curtains, the wallpaper design, the pinstripes of the man’s suit, the blocks on the quilt, the chair spindles in the light-filled room grate on the eye.  All of the patterns taken together irritate.  Tiompkin’s subtle score with minor keys reinforces that discordance.

In a similar fashion to the Swede is Mr. Spencer’s response to his landlady’s announcement about the two men looking for him.  However, his toneless responses, delivered prone from his bed, smack of disdain and misogyny for this woman who he deems faded, fat, and greedy.  [Lecture Video, Daily Dose #10]

When the landlady pulls down the blind and casts Mr. Spencer in shadow, Tiompkin’s music darkens, the pace picks up, and an ominous tone develops.  Suddenly, Spencer sits up, contemptuously giving us only his back.  He tosses back a drink.  His anxiety explodes with the thrown glass.  His disdain and arrogance resurface, though, as he looks down at the two men waiting for him, and just there, Tiompkin inserts a few music box-like bars of Franz Lehár’s “The Merry Widow Waltz.”  The score rises and drives the scene as Spencer gathers his possessions and strides out to confront the two strangers, leaving the door to a light-filled room of shadows wide open behind him.

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1. From the beginning it's obvious something sinister is going to occur when the camera pans across the room with wads of money on the floor and on the bedside table. When the landlady enters to speak to Uncle Charlie about the two men that asked for him. Even though his voice or expression doesn't change you know that he has done something. Once the landlady leaves he checks to see the men on the corner waiting for him. He leave and walks past without being recognized until hismdown the block.

 

2. I haven't seen the Killers but as in most film noir even though the rest of the world appears "normal", there is a a dark feeling. In this film it's the shadowy appearance of the room. Uncle Charlie has done something terrible. He also appears normal to the majority of the world, but the music from the Merry Widow you know he's a killer. It reminds me of the movie Act of Violence. In this film Van Heflin appears to be the town hero back from the war. Robert Ryan plays a dark character and appears to be the bad guy. The reality is it's Van Heflin that is. Most of the movie is filmed is a dark foreboding atmosphere.

 

3. The music is light as the scene opens with children playing in the street. It gives the appearance it just a normal neighborhood. As it moves to Uncle Charlie it turn dark.

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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 learned that Uncle Charlie was a stranger in town renting a room in a boarding house and who had possession of a lot of money.  Uncle Charlie appeared to be a very calm man contemplating what appears to be his next move as the landlady told him of the gentlemen that came looking for him and that she thought they would be back to see him.  So now I learned that Uncle Charlie was being hunted and was feeling a bit uncomfortable and paranoid and getting ready to leave town.

 

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 think both openings are similar in film noir because they open into a scene of darkness; the darkness in of Uncle Charlie’s room with him lying on the bed in a dark suit and The Killers’ opening with a car driving on a dark road on a dark night.  Shadow of a Doubt has the classic cinematography and lighting of a film noir with the opening of a man appearing to be up to something sinister because of all the money on his nightstand leaving the viewer an impression that a crime has taken place…and we all know, crime does not pay!

 

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 very telling in the beginning with violins and horns playing a bouncy tune giving the viewer the idea that things are alright; the boys playing outside in the daylight. Then the music quiets down to silence as the scene reaches Uncle Charlie in his room introducing us to a scene full of intrigue and curiosity as we wonder where did the money come from, who is this man lying there so cool and quiet, and who are these men looking for him? Soon the music builds again helping us feel Uncle Charlie’s anxiety and anger and even his paranoiac state at the fact that these men may come back, so Charlie leaves his room and the music speeds up matching his walking pace making us feel his arrogance and righteous attitude as he boldly and innocently walks by the men on the corner.

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Carousel music plays as we see children on a neighborhood city street. We cut to a close up of a boarding house stoop, shot at a slight angle, and then a view of one of its windows from beneath. This tilted angle of the window, heavily shadowed below the sill, appears ominous. Then we’re in the room with Uncle Charlie, laid out like a corpse, as the shadows from the drapes play over him. As the dolly shot closes in on him, he moves the unlit cigar in his hand in time with the music, which is changing rhythm like a rundown music box. As the camera pans to the bedside table and then to the floor, where cash is carelessly strewn, the music stops completely as a knocking is heard at his door. Charlie lies there as the landlady enters the room to tell him about his visitors. She’s a little out of breath from climbing the stairs, but it also indicates concern she has for these 2 men seeking her boarder. Charlie continues to calmly lie on the bed, and responds to her in a measured tone. But he quickly jerks his head towards her when she says the men were on the corner when she went out. Then he sighs deeply when she says she’s sure they’ll be back. Charlie seems to grit his teeth as the landlady picks up the money on the floor and neatly places it on the table next to him. Obviously, he’s on the run from someone or something, but is able to contain his anxiety with his cool as a cucumber demeanor. The landlady stands arms akimbo, in a defensive pose, as she looks on him with a growing incredulity. As she closes the shade, her look of concern grows stronger as the room darkens.

 

The landlady leaves the room, and the music begins once more, now at a more frantic pace, and crescendos as Charlie vents his rage by throwing the glass to the floor. As it shatters, he walks to the window and he displays his superior attitude as he states they’ve got nothing on him. This sentiment is accompanied by the refrain of the carousel music, as he feels he can skate through this situation. But then the musical score builds in a frenzy as he dons his hat and leaves the boarding house, as the shadows of the window frame appear as prison bars across his back. As he approaches the men, the music gets louder and the plucking of the strings are like taut nerves being played, adding to the tension of the situation. Charlie thumbs his nose at his pursuers by walking right past them, taunting them with his audacity, deliberately bumping into one of the men. They are very aware of his presence, as he certainly knows, though they act indifferent, and follow him down the street in time with the piano score.

 

The entire scene is like a film noir as we first approach an ordinary scene and move through tilted angles to the man who is the antagonist. The shadows, the concern of the landlady (does she care for her boarder or is she intimidated by the men seeking him out, which is reinforced by the pile of cash in disarray on the floor, or does she seek to assist her tenant?), the mention of men staking him out, Charlie’s cool exterior peppered with glimpses of concern, his feeling of superiority over his pursuers, and the bold confrontation with them on the street as he nonchalantly walks away – all these are film noir touches. The music score sets the scene, moving from a lighthearted tune to reflect Charlie’s state of mind as the music changes in intensity and volume. His charming manner and gentlemanly behavior are tools he works to his advantage.

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1.  We learned that while Charlie is soft-spoken, he has anger issues.  He knows why the men are there and that they are trying to prove something against him.  He's bold and confident.  He thinks he's smarter than they are and decides to bluff it out by walking right passed the two men.

 

2.  The film noir aspects:  It takes place in a low rent room.  It's in black and white with pronounced shadows.  Filmed from low angles.  Glass of alcohol.  He's in the dark with the sun shining shadows on the room and the curtains casting shadows on his face.  Hearing his thoughts is also "noir".  It is very reminiscent of the opening scene of Robert Mitchum in Farewell My Lovely.

 

3.  I thought the Tiomkin score was a little over the top, especially when he was just going to walk out the door.  It certainly ratcheted up the tension.

 

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Wow, the entire Film Noir course in one long PDF. It is wonderful to make connections between those films and these works of Hitchcocks. As usual, when you get to the message boards late, there's not much to add to the wonderful previous observations. But a couple of things:

  I appreciated the comparison to "The Killers," and it's interesting to know that the parallels are intentional. The opening scene of that film emphasizes the inevitability of retribution -- "I did something wrong, once" and the Swede is simply waiting for his death, film noir in a nutshell. Uncle Charlie disrupts that pattern, by breaking out of it. At least he tries. He's ultimately a man of action, so he doesn't wait for his pursuers. He breaks the glass, opens the window, leaves the door open and the room flooded with light. He thinks to escape by making his way to sunny California where it's never dark and where a happy family awaits him. What makes this film noir is that it catches up with him, anyway. And that he has a darkness inside that he'll bring with him wherever he goes.

   The music is wonderful. Perhaps the accompaniment to the scene is a little bit overwrought. But what I'm thinking of is the way the Merry Widow waltz forms the motif of the entire film. Here, in its first introduction, we get enough to recognize the tune and then it distorts and moves toward something reckless and crazy -- again, Uncle Charlie in a nutshell. The gay life of the dance hall and the indulgent life of the "merry widow" in the title will become for him an image of decadence and immorality, practically inviting him in as a predator / avenger. What he articulates in the dinner scene, we sense in just a few bars of music. 

   Uncle Charlie is self-confident and contemptuous of others, self-pitying, risk-taking. And devilishly handsome in that perfectly cut suit! 

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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 Uncle Charlie has had a spate of good luck—whether gambling or such, for the money is lying as though tossed about, not located in a wallet or tucked away under the mattress. Charlie lies back with total aplomb in his pin-striped suit gripping a cigar as he listens to the landlady discuss the visitors.  Only when she leaves does he exhibit emotion: anger or frustration when he throws the glass against the sink.

 

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 opening here reflects that hardcore protagonist who *seems* unbothered by visible threats.  When I heard Cotton’s sardonic voice over, “What do you know? You’re bluffing.  You got nothing on me!” I am immediately reminded of the opening “tough guy” stance of William Holden in Sunset Boulevard.   I have seen Shadow of a Doubt, so I know this film is far more sinister, but yet it mimes the other film in tone and attitude and subjectivity.

 

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 score serves as an emotional guide during this scene: hard and loud when Uncle Charlie faces the men shadowing him and yet the quick chirp and warble signal as he entertains an idea for escape and then back again to crescendos when he begins his journey toward and past the men.  These musical notes resonate and usher viewers into the emotional action of the scene.

 

As an aside:  I absolutely love these connections to the Hardboiled and early detective fiction, both of which are inextricably-linked to Noir.  

 

Dr. Edwards: would you consider your next class as a Hardboiled?  It would be excellent, for sure!

 

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What is learned about the Uncle?  He appears to be despondent, has hostility toward possible visitors ("they may not be friendly visitors"), is aggressive.  He appears to decide to walk directly into a threatening situation in which his guilt? may be discovered.

 

Similarities in this opening and film noire may include the setting (it is a lower class place), the lighting (b/w, shadowy, harsh lighting on his head), and the feeling of impending doom.  Difference may be in the way we move into the house from outside with the traveling cameras which is reminiscent of Hitch's previous film technique.

 

Tiomkin's musical score builds tension from lazy languor to a frantic opening of the door to step into - what?

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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. 

     

  • He is posed like a corpse while in bed.  He looks dead!  This is VERY telling of his downward spiral that is occurring and we get to join him for most of that fall into hell.  He knows how to manipulate people as he does his landlady treating him like a little boy.  We know that with charm he does manipulate the fat, useless widows he hates to get their money.  He has an unusual amount of cash that he doesn't respect, meaning he must have a lot of it as it doesn't seem to matter much to him.  Lastly, the guts (or stupidity) to walk out the door so soon and right past the two detectives is brazen and bold knowing he is being watched.

 

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)

 

Modern theater is an impact in the creation of the film (didn't see The Killers).  This specific type of leading man is a loner, a loser, unloved, gritty, cold, unfeeling and monotoned, which fits the film noir classifications.  I have to ask though, why is Little Charlie's mother so normal and he would be called a sociopath, with a borderline personality disorder maybe as well.  Something must have happened to him in his childhood or later to trigger this mental break ...we don't see what or maybe I missed it? 

 

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 associated with film noir, especially with the table scene.  The mood is sober, the atmosphere is depressing and the pace is slow and creates a crescendo as it builds.  As he said, "The world is a foul sty ...find swine."  The trailer is amazing to make you want to buy your ticket now! Interesting, about a earlier this spring I came home and turned on TCM and this film had started with them already being in Santa Rosa.  I missed the opening scene and I missed it was an Alfred Hitchcock film.  But i was hooked and stayed up way to late to finish and loved it.  Teresa Wright was fantastic!!

 

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This is one of Hitchcock's masterworks, but also another showcase for the talents of Mercury Theater alumnus Joseph Cotten. In the opening sequence we learn that he has lots of cash, but seems rather careless with it. We learn he is a dapper dresser, but seems holed up in a rather drab boardinghouse (#13!), we learn that he seems rather indifferent to what happens to him ("Show them in, or I may go out and meet them"), and we learn that he is being pursued, or at least shadowed by the two men who "have nothing on me." (Apparently they don't, since they don't stop him or even speak to him as he walks right by them on the street.)

It is a lot of information, and more than enough to pull you firmly into the film.

 

Film Noir? Yes, in some sensibilities and techniques. But our protagonist is not a detective, a boxer, a grifter, or an ordinary citizen. He is a SERIAL KILLER. Yes, he is cynical, but this is more of a horror story, or more precisely, the story of the horror within. Charlie's dad and neighbor Herbie engage in macabre banter about the best ways to commit an undetectable murder, but Uncle Charlie is actually engaged in the real thing! The shadows are not as pronounced here as in many Noir films, but the hint is there. 

 

As for the music, Tiomkin (correctly pronounced CHOMP-kin, not tee-OMP-kin) was one of the great masters of film scores, and the enormous menace conveyed by the bass notes, tympani, and frantic orchestral climax (all within 70 seconds of screen time) are enough to raise the hairs on the back of anyone's neck. Then, immediately, a slightly de-tuned plodding piano as the detectives begin to follow Uncle Charlie. This is a huge upgrade for Hitchcock, and perhaps the first time that music becomes vitally important to his films.

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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. 

 

One thing we learn about Uncle Charlie is that he is being sought out by two men, two strangers, and his reaction to the news indicates that he is expecting that. However, he has specifically told his landlady that he is not in to anyone, indicating he is hiding from someone. He also has a large sum of money laying out on the floor, and that would only make sense if he either had been quickly moving from place to place or he wants to be able to leave at a moment's notice.

 

We also learn that he has been a very isolated man since he came to the house. It seems like a big deal for him to leave to meet the two strangers. Again, this is another indication that he has something to hide.

 

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)

 

One way this opening reminds me of a film noir is that we have a character resigned to their fate. Even though we know Uncle Charlie is on the run, he doesn't even flinch when his landlady knocks on the door, and he even invites her in. When she tells him that two men were looking for him, he just closes his eyes.

 

However, that calm sensibility flees once the landlady leaves, and we can see into Charlie's mental state. He wants to know what the two strangers know, what they have on him, and then the fear that they might just have something on him. The psychological is, in my opinion, a huge factor in film noir.

 

Finally, and just a small note, I feel like in any film noir I've ever seen, there has always been some kind of "following" by mysterious men.
 

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 thing I noticed about the score was that the tone changed, from being happy and carefree outside the building with the children, to a slower melody once inside the room. While everyday life is just flying by outside the building, every minute is dragging on for Uncle Charlie in his room. It creates a sense of calm anticipation.

 

However, as he stares out and wonders what the two strangers have on him, the music ramps up, becoming louder and more insistent, fear creeping in. The music continues with its urgency, a crescendo as he starts to walk towards the men.

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This film has some noir elements but a few noir style inclusions do not make a film noir. In particular, a film noir should be urban, the "mean streets" of Chandler.  After the introduction, on a lower middle class, but not a "mean" street, the action shifts to small town America and its friendly and, as presented, naive inhabitants. A noir film should have some "street wise" characters, hoods, suckers, drunkards, tough dames, city slickers, somebody; this film lacks all of these types. Teresa Wright is not a suitable substitute.

Uncle Charlie, a serial killer, embodies the psychopathic personality: charming, ingratiating, adaptable in behavior to his surroundings, but actually lacking empathy, engagement with others, respect, and always planning how to advance his own desires regardless of the effect on anybody else.  Charlie displays a cool, calculating, fearless personality.  Audaciously, he walks out the front door, passes close by the waiting investigators, continues, not too quickly and never looking back, down the street, and around the corner.   The psychopath may be present in a film noir, but is not a required element.

 

The music reflects the psychological state of Charlie; its level of sound and intensity matches his mood during the non-dialogue portion of the scene.  The Merry Widow Waltz is introduced at the beginning of the sequence. The dialogue section lacks music. After the landlady leaves and Charlie lies quietly on the bed, the music is calm, soft, and slightly ominous. When he sits up and begins to move about, it rises in tempo and intensity.  The Merry Widow theme is briefly repeated  as he looks out the window and decides that the waiting investigators, "have nothing on me". The sound reaches a crescendo as he leaves the house, and a pounding piano score accompanies his walk down the street. 

 

 

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This scene shows so many aspects of film noir. The scene starts with children playing in the bright light outside, and then moves to the dimly lit room of a run down rooming house. There's the contrast between innocent kids playing in their neighborhood, an everyday occurrence and, not so far away Uncle Charlie, a serial killer, stretched out on the bed. He's well dressed, a contrast to the condition of the room. He appears depressed, almost resigned. The scene is so similar to the one showing The Swede in The Killers. When the landlady comes in, she's a middle aged woman, like Uncle Charlie's victims. She's not a target, though, because she's not wealthy. It's established that Uncle Charlie is able to charm women, because the landlady is sympathetic towards and protective of him. He's polite to her, but his whole manner is "off."

 

She makes him aware of the men looking for him, and, of course he knows it's the police. When the landlady pulls down the shade and his face is covered in dark shadow, I thought two things. First, it was symbolic of the police closing in on him and second, it was like a foreshadowing of his own eventual death. But unlike The Swede, who was resigned to his fate, Uncle Charlie suddenly gets out of the bed and pulls the shade up completely, defiantly. He smugly assures himself that the police have nothing on him and arrogantly goes outside and walks right past them in a show of bravado. He doesn't think much of them, the way he doesn't think much of the women he's killed.

 

In the video lecture, Dr. Gehring mentioned Uncle Charlie's "losing it" at the dinner table. I think there are signs of his starting to unravel even in this scene with the way he is so careless with the money, rambles on to the landlady about the men not knowing him and maybe he'll have to go out and meet them,etc. And then there's the way he suddenly throws the glass hard enough to shatter it.

 

Dimitri Tiomkin's music underscores the rapid changes in Uncle Charlie's emotions and actions.

 

I haven't seen this film in ages and am looking forward to watching it again. I'm a big fan of both Joseph Cotton and Teresa Wright, enjoy Alfred Hitchock's films, and love Dimitri Tiomkin's music. He did wonderful scores for so many films in addition to Hitchcock's, including one of my all time favorite classic Sci Fi films from the '50's, The Thing from Another World.

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The music is ominous as the camera moves from the children playing in the street to the boarding house, to the window.  Uncle Charlie, Mr. Spencer, is suspicious right away because of the booze (I assume) and money put sloppily on the bedside table and falling on the floor. Mrs. Martin prattles away about two men looking for him, and pulling the shade down creating a shadow over the corpselike Joseph Cotton lying on the bed.  This is all very noir as the mood goes from the children (innocence) to the solemn (not playful) dead-like Cotton to the danger (the two men, the money, his resignation).  

 

Then--resolve.  He rises, breaks the glass (his back turned to the audience, making him remote ), to the shade going up, he is in the sunlight (notice the tune of the waltz foreshadowing what comes later). They are bluffing.  With noir defiance, he walks out (note the #13 on the door), walks into the face of danger/death, past the men daring them.  And the piano planks planks planks to their steps as they follow him away, away down the city street.

 

Great film.

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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 is a mean man maybe a murderer or has committed some crimes.
  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 think the killers opening scene began at night time and this opening scene begins at day time. When we see Cotten in bed he might have just come home from stealing some money (that we see all over the night table and floor by his bed) but he just seems to be relaxing in bed planing what he might do next 
  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? 

 

When the film opens (pre-opening) we see people dancing to this waltz song and its a very happy scene...then the music becomes more mensing (almost like the scene in "the wrong man" where Fonda is in the jail and the horns from the music gets faster and faster and the camera is also getting faster and faster.)  Yes, the waltz is almost "Charlie's theme" (the female) or the towns theme because its everywhere USA.

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He is an awful man whom is an crimanal. ​Shadow of a Doubt ​opens in daytime, seeing Uncle Charlie laying in bed, probably after he robbed or murdered someone. The film opens to a waltz where people are dancing happily. The waltz moves faster and faster.

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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 is a likable man as seen by his relationship with the landlady. This is a prelude to his relationships later in the film. 

 

We see a man who is prepared for defeat but is not ready to give up. 

 

He also doesn't have much care for money so we are left wondering what his motives may be for his crimes. This all sets up a great speech and my favorite part of the film. 

 

 

 

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)

 

Uncle Charlie is the male lead of this film but he is not your average hero. That is a staple of Film Noir. The scene where he looks out the window at the cops is the most Noir moment of the whole seen. 

 

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 know something is up and that Uncle Charlie can't be the hero. We notice that in the music that sounds more like introducing a villain then a hero. 

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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 is a pursued man, and one who appears troubled and weary, but also strangely calm chatting  with his landlady regarding his visitors (of which he has little reaction to). Is he a criminal or someone falsely chased; we do not know (yet)? Hitch has the landlady pull down the shade on the napping Uncle Charlie, casting him into shadow (as the title proclaims) "shadow of a doubt". He appears well dressed and has money, which he carelessly lets fall to the floor, but he seems to hold an secret. Is he hiding from his followers in his shabby room? And if so, why? He only shows a reaction when he rises from his nap to sip some water and then hurls the glass into the bathroom, shattering it, as the musical score rises to a crescendo. 

 

 

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 children playing in the street to light music is in contrast with the noir, but this changes to one of tension as the scene grows dark and we enter the tenement building and rooms of Charles. Now the music as grows tense and we look on to a man on a bed contemplating as he smokes his cigar. But unlike in The Killers, the man is not sweaty and restless, but well dressed, calm and maybe a bit pensive or just deep in thought, smoking his cigar. In The Killers Lancaster seems to be waiting for some horrible outcome, but in Shadow of a Doubt Charles remains calm (almost relaxed), and as the landlady enters he does not stir or raise his voice. He seems quite even tempered, even engaging as they talk of two "friends" who wish to see Charles and Charles makes a remark that  the men are not friends because they have never really met. Charles seems more profound than scared.

 

But as he rises, drinks from his glass and then shatters it, do we then see that an anger or fear is welling up from within. He speculates that the men, who he can see from his window, don't have anything on him. What is it that makes them want to follow him? This sets up the suspense, will they corner him. Then Charles decides to turn the tables and escalate this cat and mouse games, by leaving his building (#13 as seen on the outside door) and walks toward his pursuers, walking right past them, and daring them  to follow. How will he elude them? The game begins ...

 

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 mimics the scene as it goes from playful to focused on Uncle Charlie, and gets stronger still as Charles breaks the glass and looks about to blow over, but regains his calm and begins to hatch a plan to evade his followers. Music is the sole of the performance as it unfolds. 

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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.

 

It's made clear that it's daytime, and he wishes to be alone inside. We see a carelessness for his great deal of money. We see an edge as he throws a glass. And once again, we see observe a watcher, as he watches the two men. We also see a fearlessness as he walks right by them.

 

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 love the Killers. The difference that jumps out to me is that we are focused, in the Killers, on the two men, whereas here we are focused on the Charlie. Given the different outcome of each lead, this seems deliberate and effective in shedding light on the character.

 

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 found it escalated the scene in intensity as Charlie begins to rise to action. It could have been a rather boring opening if the music didn't assist with the drama unfolding.

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Uncle Charlie gives me the creeps. He seems to be talking a bit on the **** side of things when watching today's clips. No self preservation and without fear and anger issues.

 

I don't know a lot about film noir, but the detectives and a man on the run seems significant

 

The music sets the whole tone and is expressive to the emotions of the scene. Very subjective and carries the viewer deeper into the character. Gotta go Rebecca started....yipeee

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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 doesn't show any emotion to other characters. When the landlady tells him two men are looking for him, he realizes they are detectives, but if he's worried, he doesn't let her see it. He shows his anger at the situation after she leaves the room. He knows the men don't know what the man they are after looks like, so Uncle Charlie fearlessly walks right past them, again not showing any emotion. We also see that money doesn't really seem to matter to Uncle Charlie, as money is on the floor of the room as well as laying on top of his wallet which is open on the nightstand.

 

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)

 

A couple of things that remind me of a film noir would be the rented room in what appears to be a not great part of town, the two detectives on a stakeout on a street corner, the shadowy cinematography, the canted angles and of course the score.

 

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 follows the mood of the film perfectly and dictates the pace of the scene as it changes. We hear the waltz as we view the street scene, but the music fades away once we are inside the room with Uncle Charlie and the landlady. Sinister sounding music begins when the landlady pulls the blind down and the room darkens. The score has a somewhat lighter tone as he realizes the men have "nothing" on him and are "bluffing", then it becomes quite thrilling as he decides to go outside and walk past the men. Once Uncle Charlie steps outdoors, the music is subdued, sinister and dark, and then suspenseful as he walks past the men, then fades for a moment and fades back in as discordant piano chords that mirror his footsteps. The score really reels you in as the scene unfolds.

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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. In the opening scene, we find discover Charlie relaxing in his rooming house, smoking a cigar. When he landlady enters she tells him about his friends that came to visit. He, at first, seems to take it all in stride and is dismissive of his landlady. He then flies into a rage and throws a glass into the sink and decides to brazenly walk past the two men to force a confrontation on his terms. Charlie is charming, calm with witnesses but prone to violent anger when alone. Methodical and quick planning.

 

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 opening is an urban setting with kids playing and the music is light, only after we meet Charlie does the music turn ominous. The Killers starts out darkly and stays that way. The only real dark tones in the opening sequence is when the landlady shuts the window shades and he immediately opens then when she leaves.

 

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 mood opens lightly with children playing in the street, the movie moves along casually. The music drops while Charlie and the landlady speak but then rises along with Charlie's frustration and anger as he leaves the house. The music makes the atmosphere and the pace of the prelude.

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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. ​In the opening scene, we see Uncle Charlie lying in the bed.  The camera pans left, and we see money on the nightstand and the floor.  He seems brooding, contemplative.  The landlady enters, and we find out that two men have been at the house asking for him.  He seems very poised, but it seems a bit odd that he feels comfortable lying down in the company of the woman.  When she leaves, his poise is gone.  He becomes agitated, as if he is indeed hiding something.  Something that may be connected with the money.  He throws the glass across the room, and then seems determined to dare these men to follow him.  He is almost foolhardy at this point.  When he leaves the house he walks right up to the men, almost daring them to follow him which they do.  So we have learned that this man is brash, determined, has money, and is full of secrets.  Here is a man of mystery.  A man with a past.

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 are in the city in the opening scene, as we are so often in film noir.  We see grit, dirt, broken sidewalks and city children playing in the street.  We are thrown into a secretive situation, seemingly in the middle of the action.  We've missed something, and we have to find out what it is.  We aren't seeing sweet, wholesome America.  We are seeing a more realistic portrayal of the world that has secrets, and maybe even tears.

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 Merry Widow theme blends into a more sinister sounding musical motif as the scene opens.  The music seems a bit mournful, almost haunting.  Tiomkin masterfully creates an ominous feel with his score.  Whenever we hear the Merry Widow theme again, the chords are minor rather Tham major.  It allows us to start to feel the inner thoughts and situation in which Uncle Charlie finds himself.

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The opening scene of this film reveals quite a lot about Uncle Charlie. For one thing, we only see his silhouette or one side of his face, so even in room light, he looks suspect.  He has a wad of money on the table and another pile on the floor; this seems to be careless, but we know this is not so. He is contemplative; his mind is on something else as he taps, taps and taps his cigar on his chest.  We know he has a lot of money and some how we know he didn't get it legally or morally.  

 

We also learn a lot about him when the landlady comes in to tell him about the visitors.  She is not supposed to tell, but she does anyway and she likes Charlie because we see she is concerned about his health and the money wad on the floor.  Uncle Charlie has a way with women; he is able to garner their sympathy and even when she learns the two men are not Charlie's friends, she all the more concerned with him.  She picks up the money and pulls down the shade, so he can take a long nap. That's just what you need she tells him, a long rest.  

 

Now, he is now in the shadows and the music begins to rise in an ominous tone as Charlie quickly moves from the bed, throws the glass; it shatters, making a jarring sound as then heads to the window to look out for the men, who are on the corner.  Charlie says, "They don't have a thing on me." Cotten delivers the line with a hint of tension as if he is trying to convince himself.  The shade, silhouette and then darkness combined with the music is very much Noir.  

 

The music becomes takes on an even more ominous tone and begins to drive the action toward a crescendo as Charlie walks out of the room, down the house stairs, the outside steps and to the corner, past the men.  They begin to follow him, but he is not worried because he knows they don't even know what "he looks like." Some how, the viewer already knows he is going to get away.

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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.

As we’ve learned already, Hitchcock is interested in handing over as much information as possible, up front.   We know Uncle Charlie is a criminal.   Innocent men don’t leave crumpled up bills spilling over the table onto the floor.  We get the sense that his psychology is changing from the beginning of the scene to the end.   He goes from calm and cool and collected to a rage, and willing to walk right past the cops trailing him.

At one point in the scene, when Charlie’s back is to the camera (which I am sure has meaning but I can’t just grab it now), the shadow of a pull cord for a window shade is swinging slightly against the far wall Charlie is facing.   I had the feeling it was like a hangman’s gallows as he stood there looking at the wall.

We no longer have any Shadow of a Doubt!   We’re in the know.   Our doubt will be transferred to his niece in California he will visit.

 

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 don’t consider myself an expert on film noir at all.   And my first impression is that this scene takes place during the daytime.  However, I do love the way expressive shadow plays a role in the very beginning of the scene.  They almost seem like prison bars.  And that makes sense because we get the feeling, as the scene progresses, that Charlie feels trapped.  

I can imagine Hitchcock’s direction to Cotton: ‘You are an experienced criminal and you’re tired of the world.  This is not your first time outwitting the cops’.

I also get the sense of how buildings and walls and windows figure heavily in film noir.   Buildings and walls keep us safe or keep something at bay.   While windows allow light and observers to peer in.  Somehow, it’s very much about secrets, especially when they are big buildings made of brick and mortar.

 

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 creeps up on us.   It starts off silent as we enter the apartment and he is speaking to the landlady.  When Uncle Charlie is left to his own thoughts, the music builds and builds even as he makes the decision to leave the building and walk past the cops.   Not only does the music pace the scene and build suspense, but I feel it also is closely aligned to Charlie’s psychological state of mind.  

Talking to landlady: quiet

Alone and absorbed in thought: music builds

Becomes angry, frustrated, trapped: music reaches a crescendo.

Appears at the front door: the music softens a bit.  He’s calmer now and ready to carry out the first move. 

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