One of the things I’m loving most about doing this challenge is how many new films I’m watching that I would not have watched otherwise. For today’s pick, an old favorite could have made the list like Psycho or The Birds, but instead for the Hitchcock pick of the month, Natalie and I went with one we hadn’t seen before. This one is allegedly, Hitchcock’s own favorite: Shadow of a Doubt.
This 1943 thriller written by Thornton Wilder & Sally Benson & Alma Reville brings us the story of a bored young woman, Charlotte “Charlie” Newton (Teresa Wright) who gets more than she asked for when she wishes something exciting would come into her life. Too bad the excitement in her life comes in the form of her Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) who seems to have more than a little in common with the killer in the papers who’s been murdering rich widows for their fortune.
Easily one of the best parts of this film is its dialogue. There’s a lot of great one-liners, especially from young, female Charlie, like “How can you talk about money when I’m talking about souls?” Surprisingly, some of the best lines come from her younger sister Ann (Edna May Wonacott, she was 11 when the film premiered) who is pretty much a genius and wants to make sure you know it. Still, as the film goes on, Uncle Charlie delivers several incredible monologues that give you just a peek behind the curtain of the mind of Uncle Charlie, further muddying the waters of whether he is innocent or not. The most famous of them is by far his useless women speech or his monologue about Charlie’s naiveté. So good, am I right?
These characters are also so incredible. The introductions we’re given to so many of them are so unique and they tell you so much about each of them in so little time. Their interactions with one another are also fun to watch. Some are comical, like Charlie’s father (Henry Travers) and his odd friendship with a colleague (Hume Cronyn) where they spend their time discussing what would be the perfect murder. Against the backdrop of the story, these conversations add to the question of whether Uncle Charlie truly did commit the crimes are not. Some of the other conversations are more layered with subtext
Hitchcock is always considered a master of his genre. While his films aren’t truly horrifying (to me anyway), he is an undeniable master of suspense. The film is set up so brilliantly, making you wonder if her suspicions are true.
What would he do it if it were true? Is she in danger? Will the cops catch him? Every little piece of dialogue makes you wonder. The shadows and the compositions of the shots increase the feelings of dread.
Shadow of a Doubt is undoubtedly fascinating to watch. I’m not sure I would watch it again, but perhaps I should just to take in how masterfully Hitchcock brings this story to life. It may not have the perfect Halloween vibe to it like Psycho does but that doesn’t mean it won’t make a great choice for a chilling, fall night in October.