Sunday, February 17, 2013
CMBA's Fab Films of the 40's Blogathon: Shadow of a Doubt
Like countless classic film fans, I have spent a lifetime in love with the mystique of Hitch films. The man was no doubt a master in suspense and thrill. While many of the films in his library of work are better known, SHADOW OF A DOUBT should not be over-looked as a definitive classic and a 1940's treasure. (Be forewarned that spoilers may come out in the paragraphs to follow as I plan to discuss details of the plot...)
We are introduced to the warm and affable cast of characters of the Newton family, just as the surprising news breaks that Uncle Charles is soon to arrive. Young Charlie, her 2 younger siblings and father rush down to the train station to greet her mother's younger brother. Though they barely know each other as the elder Charlie has been absent from the Newton's family's life minus the occasional parcels of gifts from afar, younger Charlie feels a strange connection to her mysterious uncle that goes beyond a shared name. She adores her uncle because of the pedestal that her mother has built up of him over the years, but the mysteries begin from the moment he steps off the train. At the family dinner that evening, young Charlie tells her visiting uncle that she can see something in him no one else can. She knows he has "wonderful secrets." During dinner when Charlie starts humming a tune she complains she can't get out of her head, she starts to blurt out the song's title, "The Merry Widow Waltz..." but then her uncle tips over his wine glass as a distraction before she finishes saying it. Clear only to the audience, she's somehow hit a nerve.
The details of uncle Charlie's darkness and callous ethics are revealed in bits and pieces throughout the film. It slowly builds the tension as each occurrence tests Charlie's and the Newton family's loyalties. When Charles first settles into his new dwellings (young Charlie's room), he goes to throw his hat on the bed but is stopped by Joe Newton due to superstition: "I just don't want bad things to come." As soon Mr. Newton leaves, Charles casually tosses his hat on the bed; sealing the fate of what evil lurks in his heart. Another example is when uncle Charles mocks Joe Newton's bank job upon opening an account at his bank, coldly displaying disrespect. And yet another is when all are seated at the dinner table and he refers to widows and "silly wives" as fat, wheezing animals with no purpose... his face grows cold; his head turning a transparent icy gaze at young Charlie.
If you found it difficult to follow from time to time with the duality of Charlies, keep in mind that the name "Charlie" is said a whopping 170 times in this film. On a personal note, we have an ongoing little joke in our family about this film. My 12 year-old son starting watching this with me one day and ever since then, in quiet moments, we utter "Charlie" out loud to each other as our inside joke to mock how many times that name's repeated. Sorry Charlie...
CAST OF CHARACTERS:
Teresa Wright ... Young Charlie
Joseph Cotten ... Uncle Charlie
Macdonald Carey ... Jack Graham
Henry Travers ... Joseph Newton
Patricia Collinge ... Emma Newton
Hume Cronyn ... Herbie Hawkins
Wallace Ford ... Fred Saunders
Edna May Wonacott ... Ann Newton
Charles Bates ... Roger Newton