Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

written by Thornton Wilder, Sally Benson, and Alma Reville

based on a story by Gordon McDonell

directed by Alfred Hitchcock

In director Alfred Hitchcock‘s thriller Shadow of a Doubt, Joseph Cotten plays Charles, a man on the run who comes to hide at his sister’s family’s home in California. His doting teenage niece (Teresa Wright), named Charlotte (Teresa Wright) after him, is initially excited to see him. But after a while, she becomes suspicious. Why did he give her an emerald ring with somebody else’s initials? Where did he get forty grand? And who are those men trailing him? Charles is clearly guilty of something. Could it be he’s the notorious Widow Murderer the police are searching for?

The fun is not so much in finding out the truth, but in watching the battle of wits between Uncle Charlie and young Charlie. As usual with Hitchcock, there’s a lot going on between the lines: The camera compositions and cinematography are superb, shedding light upon the characters (just see the pic above), the underlying sexual tension between uncle and niece is played expertly by Cotten and Wright, and the climactic moments amp up the suspense slowly and deliberately. By this time in his career, Hitch was already a master provocateur. Just watch him push in on Charles at the dinner table as he complains about “faded, fat, greedy women.” Offscreen we hear Charlotte exclaim, “But they’re alive, they’re human beings!” Charles turns his face and softly says, “Are they?” Goosebumps.

Rating: ***

Carlos I. Cuevas