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Shadow Of A Doubt (1943)


classyteen16
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According to Robert this was Hitchcock's favorite film. It may not be the most remembered or liked of his many films, but I think it's a true masterpiece. Saw this maybe for the first time last night, at 8, before Psycho. I couldn't find another thread about this movie here, and this is the first thread I've posted. I loved the movie, and though I don't want to spoil it, but the end is just grand. The movie is set in a "small town", not so small now, in a beautiful old home. You might have recognized Clarence the angel as the father..he plays trivial parts in many movies around that time. Hope you watched this film, or hear about it, because it's very suspenseful and one of my all time favorites! Joseph Cotten is outstanding in this film.

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I believe that Hitchcock himself has said in interviews that *Shadow Of A Doubt* was his favorite of his own films. An ordinary town, ordinary people living ordinary lives (that could be very boring) but a "monster" is right there among them and they haven't the slightest clue about that , except for one very observant young woman. She has figured it out, but she knows no one will believe her. To make things worse, the "monster" knows that she knows. How do we resolve this? Hitchcock is all about suspense and this film has it big time. Having a very good cast makes it even better. You'll find many other Hitchcock films are of a similar nature. If you haven't seen them I think you would like *Strangers On A Train* , *The Man Who Knew Too Much* (either version, the 1956 remake may be more appealing) , *I Confess* (I think a very underrated Hitch film). Among my personal favorite Hitchcock films are *Rebecca* , *Rear Window* , and *Dial M For Murder* , and of course about a dozen or so others :)

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>classyteen16 said: "he plays trivial parts in many movies around that time."

 

 

 

 

I don't think that I would call smaller, supporting roles "trivial". Not only were these parts often important to the plot, but just as important for the whole atmosphere of the films. When actors are cast, it's not just their acting skill that matters, but also their "look" as the character.

 

You mention Henry Travers as "Clarence" in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. The next time you watch that movie pay close attention to the supporting roles and you'll see what I mean.. Whether it was Ward Bond as "Burt, the cop" or H.B. Warner as "Mr. Gower, or Sheldon Leonard as "Nick, the bartender", all of them were fine, experienced actors who were perfect for those parts and brought a great deal to the film.

 

.

 

Edited by: markfp2 on Sep 3, 2013 11:41 AM

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Well, I love this film because I'm deeply in love with Patricia Collinge, who simply didn't make enough films. Seeing her as a normal, happy, loving woman in this film (in spite of what she learns about her brother) is like a gift after seeing her ground and beaten into a sad, soggy little heap of muslin and lace in The Little Foxes.

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Excellent points all there Mark, however you'll have to forgive our new young friend here because they have come of age decades after the concept that character actors and the parts written for them contributed so much to the storyline of a film somehow became "obsolete".

 

(...though I know you really knew this, I just wanted to lament this fact here) ;)

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I'm sure this is a minority opinion, but Shadow of a Doubt is among my least favorite Hitchcocks. It always strained my credulity that someone so obviously "off" as Cotten was in so *many* telling moments wasn't tagged much sooner than he was. But maybe that's just hindsight on my part

 

The lengths he went to avoid being photographed was the last straw, but there were many signs before that, none of which in isolation were particularly damning, but collectively it's unimaginable that they wouldn't have had people suspecting something peculiar.

 

Think about it: A relative you haven't seen for many years sends a perfunctory telegram from clear across the country, and then just shows up on your doorstep, with almost no explanation and no inclination not to make himself a permanent guest. He then goes around getting severely agitated over a series of trivial happenstances, more or less attempts to force everyone to cater to his peculiar whims, and then treats the "survey team" as if they were the FBI and he was Public Enemy #1, for no reason that would make any sense to a normal person.

 

Of course that "survey team" was blatantly transparent in its own way, but to me that only added to the clumsiness and incredulity of the entire plot. Since it was Hitchcock, it could only sink so low, but I can't think of more than one or two of the many Hitchcocks I've seen over the years that I wouldn't rank well over this one.

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Sure, it has it's flaws. What movie doesn't. MY only issue is the ending. Too neat. Realistically, niece Charlie should have turned Uncle Charlie over. Realistically, uncle Charlie could have ducked out of the "interview" a dozen different unsuspicious ways. Realistically, the Feds could have hauled Uncle Charlie off while allowing him to tell his "delicate" sister they were business associates, and some urgent business problem came up.

 

But the notion that this is an underrated( to some) movie betrays the fact that it is one of JOSEPH COTTON'S more underrated performances. I was struck by how in ONE SENTENCE, Cotton was able to go from "nice guy, good ol' Charlie" to someone with a deep seated malevolence, then back again without skipping a beat. He became somewhat, downright SCARY. Even to this jaded contributor!

 

Sepiatone

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But the notion that this is an underrated( to some) movie betrays the fact that it is one of JOSEPH COTTEN'S more underrated performances. I was struck by how in ONE SENTENCE, Cotton was able to go from "nice guy, good ol' Charlie" to someone with a deep seated malevolence, then back again without skipping a beat. He became somewhat, downright SCARY. Even to this jaded contributor!

 

See, to me all that did was make me wonder just how clueless everyone else around him seemed to be. I know damn well if someone like Uncle Charlie had popped in on my house and started acting as strangely and erratically as he did, I would have been asking him what the hell is going on.

 

And yeah, I know that we all have to suspend belief during movies sometimes, but this was like trying to swallow six impossible things before breakfast.

 

P.S. Sepiatone, I hope you don't mind that I corrected your spelling. Joe Cotten never done picked a bale of cotton in his life, far as I know. ;)

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>P.S. Sepiatone, I hope you don't mind that I corrected your spelling. Joe Cotten never done picked a bale of cotton in his life, far as I know. ;)

 

Nope, maybe not, but I STILL say he's REALLY David Letterman's DAD!!!

 

(...and so he MUST have been doin' SOMETHIN' that time he passed through Indiana, anyway!)

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> Dargo2 said ..... "however you'll have to forgive our new young friend here ....."

 

 

 

 

Oh, I didn't mean to come off as being critical, I was just trying to help our young friend appreciate the importance of smaller roles.

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Don't worry mark, I didn't think you did...sound overly critical, that is. And thus the reason for the following addendum to my post down there when I wrote my earlier response to you:

 

>(...though I know you really knew this, I just wanted to lament this fact here) ;)

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I can't really agree, Andy, that the family should have seen through the pecularities of Uncle Charley mainly because he is well established as such a beloved figure with that family beforehand. Call it the rose coloured glasses syndrome, if you wish.

 

The audience, of course, knows from its first sighting of Cotten lying on his bed alone in that shoddy room that something is "off" about him, and see him soon on the run from two undercover agents.

 

But his family, on the other hand, in particular that sister who absolutely adores him, will be blind for a long time to pecularities that a more objective observer (such as yourself) would pick up on. The family has blinders on, not because they're particularly slow witted, but because he's a family member they haven't seen in a long while and they are happy to see back in their home again.

 

Of course, with time, Teresa Wright's character starts to have the very growing suspicions about him of which you speak.

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Yes I agree with your take.

I don't think it is that unusual for family members to not see what non family members can see (which is why in-law relationship are often tense; each side sees the negative stuff the other side refuses to see).

 

Hitchcock might have taken this concept a step or two too far but that is common for a movie plot.

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We know very early on in the film that the killer is Joseph Cotten. Hitchcock has stated that his suspense technique is not usually based on surprising the viewers with the identity of the villain; he makes a point of revealing that, or other essential information, to the audience in the first half hour or so of the film.

The suspense lies in the audience knowing what the other characters in the film do not.

 

As for *Shadow of a Doubt*, there is no shadow of a doubt that the "monster" is Joseph Cotten's character; this is made obvious quite early on. There are not "two men" , one of whom may be the killer. There is only one man, and that's Uncle Charlie.

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Sep 4, 2013 9:38 AM

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I can't really agree, Andy, that the family should have seen through the pecularities of Uncle Charley mainly because he is well established as such a beloved figure with that family beforehand. Call it the rose coloured glasses syndrome, if you wish.

 

But as I said, it's not any one instance of acting merely "eccentric", it's a steady drumroll of instances where he's acting both erratic and creepy. I can acknowledge the fact that the family might choose to indulge his behavior, but I find it impossible to believe that they wouldn't at the very least have been talking about his behavior among themselves while he was out of their presence. It simply doesn't add up.

 

And that whole bit with the "survey team" was so transparently absurd it's hard to know where to begin. In this case it wasn't just Cotten's suspicious paranoia about being photographed or interviewed, it was the way the survey team kept persisting about him. No reputable polling organization would operate like that, not in the face of repeated refusals. The whole thing was about as subtle as a club.

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Well, no fi, and Andy - I don't agree. We, the audience, first see him as a disturbed person, lying on his bed in some crummy boarding house, staring at the ceiling, and on the run as soon as he hears "there are two men looking for you" from his landlady.

Pretty strong signals that something's not right with this guy.

 

But Emma Newton, her husband, and children do not see or know any of that.

They see a beloved family member returning for a long overdue visit. His character can be and is very charming and pleasant when he needs to be; and in fact, part of what makes the story so interesting is that on some level he genuinely does care about his sister and her family.

 

We notice his off-kilter behaviour - like the folding of newspapers into hats (or ships?) and his hatred for having his photograph taken, because we already know something about him. The Newtons do not.

 

Also, people are a lot more suspicious, and more aware, of, shall we say, aberrant behaviour, than folks were then. One reason why Hitch chose to set the story in a small community, with a "wholesome" family, is because their innocence in such matters would serve as a kind of blind for them. It simply does not occur to them that anyone living in their midst would be capable of murder, especially the kind which "Uncle Charlie" is guilty of.

 

Maybe Tom, with whom I agree 100%, explains it better: He wrote:

 

"I can't really agree, Andy, that the family should have seen through the pecularities of Uncle Charley mainly because he is well established as such a beloved figure with that family beforehand. Call it the rose coloured glasses syndrome, if you wish.

 

The audience, of course, knows from its first sighting of Cotten lying on his bed alone in that shoddy room that something is "off" about him, and see him soon on the run from two undercover agents.

 

But his family, on the other hand, in particular that sister who absolutely adores him, will be blind for a long time to pecularities that a more objective observer (such as yourself) would pick up on. The family has blinders on, not because they're particularly slow witted, but because he's a family member they haven't seen in a long while and they are happy to see back in their home again.

 

Of course, with time, Teresa Wright's character starts to have the very growing suspicions about him of which you speak."

 

I think that says it all, quite neatly. should have just quoted Tom in the first place.

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Sep 4, 2013 10:37 AM

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*AndyM108 said:*

*I find it impossible to believe that they wouldn't at the very least have been talking about his behavior among themselves while he was out of their presence. It simply doesn't add up.*

 

Back in the mid 70s, I was employed as part of an office support team and the newest hire was a young man who was flamboyantly gay. So, on the second day or so, we're all in one close area and the new hire goes off to fill in some papers - the usual new hire protocol.

 

When he came back, he storms in and says "And I'll just bet that you all had a few words to say about me while I was gone just because I'm different."

 

I looked at him and said "Haven't you realized yet that most of the time that you have three or more people together that the first one who leaves the immediate space will be discussed by the remaining people? It's especially likely if the absentee is any kind of eccentric individual."

 

To change the subject, and not that it's happening here, but on another web site I was engaged in a thread by someone who was proclaiming STRANGERS ON A TRAIN to be Hitchcock's best. I mean really engaging heavily in the use of "masterpiece" and "art."

 

I mentioned that I enjoyed the film, but that I had qualms with the climax with its trigger-happy cop shooting into a location crowded with children, injuring an innocent bystander and setting a carousel into motion at a speed that no carousel on Earth is designed to go. My sister is an expert on the subject of carousels, and I had long ago inquired about the film's depiction.

 

The original poster then came back to tell that I was taking it all too seriously, that I should calm down (not that I was excited anyway) and that Hitchcock would be the first to tell me "it's only a movie."

 

I responded that I was now quite amused that while earlier he was calling it a masterpiece and the greatest example of Hitchcock's art, suddenly in the face of my comments, it's "only a movie." I then added "If that's all that it is, then why shouldn't I be able to question it?"

 

 

Perhaps it is similar to the guy who complains that these Japanese monster films are unrealistic because there's no way that the city of Tokyo cold be completely rebuilt in the one year between chapters of the series.

 

A fire-breathing dinosaur - that's acceptable, but rebuilding the city isn't.

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Of my many nephews, there's one in particular that's made somewhat of a mess out of his life. He's in a volatile marriage with what most of us agree is an unstable wife. He has a messed up back and takes painkillers( hydrocodon) to alleviate the pain. His wife's convinced there's no pain at all, and just takes the pills to get high. Their last break-up came after he "fell" down the basement steps of the house they were renting. This caused him to miss work, and because this wife called his place of employment to tell them he fell down the stairs ( he almost lost that job because she kept calling his boss the "check up" on him) because he was on dope, they asked him to enter a 28 day program before taking him back. He refused, and lost that job. NOW, he's working at a place that pays way below what he was making previously, and after a short separation( which we all though, or hoped, would be permanent) got BACK with this psyco and is living upstairs at his Mother's house.

 

OK. WHAT has any of this to do with Uncle Charlie? Well, like Charlie, this kid has always been in the "soft spot" of everybody's heart. As a child, he was engaging, bright, funny full of energy and cute, too. But as he grew older, HE made the choices that up to now have made his life miserable. But too many in the family tend to blame EVERYBODY ELSE in his life for the situation HE got himself into. Me, his step father and even his own BROTHER can't understand why nobody else sees HIM as the main cause of his problems. Like the family in the movie, all the "Aunties" and his mother merely see him as "good ol' Joshua" whose abberant behavior is seen as simple "eccentric" quirks that make him "unique".

 

So, Uncle Charlie's sister's family really isn't that far a stretch from reality.

 

Sepiatone

 

Edited by: Sepiatone on Sep 4, 2013 11:20 AM

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Well, no fi, and Andy - I don't agree. We, the audience, first see him as a disturbed person, lying on his bed in some crummy boarding house, staring at the ceiling, and on the run as soon as he hears "there are two men looking for you" from his landlady.

Pretty strong signals that something's not right with this guy.

 

But Emma Newton, her husband, and children do not see or know any of that.

They see a beloved family member returning for a long overdue visit. His character can be and is very charming and pleasant when he needs to be; and in fact, part of what makes the story so interesting is that on some level he genuinely does care about his sister and her family.

 

But it's not just "we" who see much of this "disturbed" behavior. Just to cite two examples, the dinner scene and the "survey team" incident. What "we" are doing here is suspending our disbelief that such behavior would be routinely overlooked and *not even commented on behind Uncle Charlie's back,* no matter how "beloved" Uncle Charlie might be. But as I said in my first comment here, mine is obviously a minority opinion.

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