Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943). Director: Alfred Hitchcock.

Young "Charlie" Newton (Teresa Wright) is thrilled that her Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) has come to the small town of Santa Rosa for a visit, but when she learns he's a suspect in the "Merry Widow" strangulation murders of three wealthy widows, the friendly visit becomes a battle of wills between two determined individuals. Shadow of a Doubt, bolstered by a script co-written by Thornton Wilder which features interesting, three-dimensional characters (perhaps young Ann is a bit too "cute" and precocious), is also quite talky and drags in spots, making it hard to sustain the tension. However, it holds the attention and spins a fascinating web around the two Charlies as they dance their sinister dance. Joseph Cotten never had a better role or gave a better performance, and he is matched by Teresa Wright. Patricia Collinge ("Birdie" from The Little Foxes) is strong and touching as the mother and sister who loves both Charlies, and there are a lot of good character performances. Hume Cronyn, who plays a friend of Charlie's father and is comedy relief, becomes a little tiresome after awhile. There are some nice Hitchcock touches in the picture -- Uncle Charlie's family walking ahead of him and out of camera range as he remains isolated (after they pick him up at the station); the tracking shot to the ring on young Charlie's finger -- but it is obvious that the beginning and ending of certain sequences (which open or end too abruptly) were left on the cutting room floor. Although well-photographed, the film still has the look of a B feature. One could also quibble about certain plot points.

Verdict: Despite imperfections, an effective and occasionally chilling picture with great lead performances. ***1/2.


Craig Clarke said...

My long-time favorite of the Hitchcock canon. You point out its flaws fairly, but I love it because of the performances of Cotten and Wright.

I find it holds up to repeated viewings, as well. Thanks for the review.

William said...

Thanks for your comment. I don't believe I ever saw Cotten or Wright give better performances, and despite its flaws it remains a very good picture.

Anonymous said...

I have only been watching "old" movies for about the last 4 years of my 37-year life. (sad, I know)This movie was one of the first to hook me. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Joseph Cotten has to be the most underrated actor of all time. Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself...he was outstanding in this flick!

William said...

You're right that Cotten was outstanding. It's not only his most famous movie but probably his greatest performance.

Thanks for your comment and welcome to the world of old movies!