Movie Name: Shadow of a Doubt
Studio: Universal Pictures
Release Date(s): January 12, 1943
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Charlotte “Charlie” Newton (Teresa Wright) has a favorite uncle…her namesake Charlie Oakley (Joseph Cotten). When Uncle Charlie reveals he’s coming to town it seems like the perfect opportunity to spend time with him. Unfortunately, Charlie has a secret. Detective Jack Graham (Macdonald Carey) and Detective Fred Saunders (Wallace Ford) show up and reveal that Charlie is one of two suspects who could be the Merry Widow Murderer. Charlie now is caught in the middle of the investigation and questions if the uncle she loves could be a murderer. If Uncle Charlie is the Merry Widow Murderer, how far will he go to protect his secret?
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Shadow of a Doubt is from a Thorton Wilder script and was sometimes pointed to by Hitchcock as his favorite film. he movie was nominated for Best Story (losing to The Human Comedy). Following Hitchcock’s Saboteur in 1942, the movie has been selected by the Library of Congress for the National Film Registry in 1991.
The story of Shadow of a Doubt is tight and dark. It also can flip between dark, dark crime and tongue-and-cheek comedy between Joseph Newton (Henry Travers) and Herbie Hawkins (Hume Cronym) who discuss ways to kill without being caught…something perfectly Hitchcockian. The movie goes lots of directions and it isn’t one that you can really pin down how it is going to end.
The dynamic between Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten is awesome. Teresa Wright is great as first someone who can’t believe that the man she’s grown up admiring could be a killer (which would destroy her mother). Like many Hitchcock women, she’s bright, clever, and likable. Once the switch is flipped and Charlie becomes the enemy, she becomes a great foil for the character as the only one who knows the truth of about him…and even better Uncle Charlie knows it.
Cotten on the other hand does a great job being charming. His character has to be since he can seduce widows and trick everyone. The guy also has to come off as a stone-cold killer who can murder her own flesh and blood…and namesake. Cotton succeeds in both. The worst part is that his character probably had some outs where he could have avoided killing, but instead he tries some pretty lethal attempts on Charlie.
Shadow of a Doubt is a great Hitchcock film and another perfect example of what made Hitchcock “Hitchcock”. The murder in a small town feel of the film makes it dark and American gothic. The movie is a great example of mystery, suspense, and a thriller. Shadow of a Doubt was remade in 1958 as Step Down to Terror, and Cotton reprised his role on radio a few times. Hitchcock followed Shadow of a Doubt with Lifeboat in 1944.