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Favorite Scenes: Shadow of a Doubt

August 21, 2010

Why Shadow of a Doubt (1943)? Well, I have always enjoyed the film, and I feel it is appropriate for me as I am traveling from east to west coast just as Uncle Charlie does.

Director – Alfred Hitchcock

Written by:

Thornton Wilder (Great America Play write of Our Town Fame) &
Sally Benson (Author of Meet me in St. Louis) &
Alma Reville (Hitch’s wife and constant collaborator)

The recipe for a perfect suspense film in small town America is: pictures by Hitchcock, words by Wilder and a pinch of humor from Sally Benson. Alma provided cohesion I’m sure.

My favorite scene (1:04 minutes into the film) in this often overlooked masterpiece is the second dinner table scene, where East Coast Serial Killer Uncle Charlie becomes a little too comfortable.  He drops his ‘sweet uncle Charlie’ facade, and the family gets a look at his real face, that of the “Merry Widow Murderer!” He goes on a disturbing diatribe about the worthlessness of the widows of the big cities.

Niece Charlie interrupts “But they’re human beings!”

With a dead and wonderfully inhuman gaze, Uncle Charlie replies “Are they?”

Shadow of a Doubt is one of a handful of occasions that Hitchcock told a story from the point of view of the killer.  This uncommon POV allowed for a suspense that audiences were not readily prepared for. In general, audiences want and expect a character who they can relate to.  How do you know this person?   He or she is the person with above average looks who faces an obvious bad Guy and must “save the day.” By placing a villain in the main role, Hitchcock was providing us a cracked mirror to gaze into. Hitchcock was known to have a macabre sense of humor. Perhaps he wanted to see it the audience could be swayed to cheer on a villain?

Other Hitchcock films about the VILLAIN:


Strangers on a Train – Bruno Antony is a deranged bored heir apparent who horribly misunderstands (or does he?) a conversation on a train, leading to murder, tennis, and the most intense carousel scene ever.

Rope – “Hey, lets kill our college friend, then hide the body in plain sight and host a dinner party.” “Okay!”

Psycho – Norman Bates is not the best hotel manager.  Although he is great at cleaning up messes that occur in the cabins…

An added Bonus for those that can stand to watch a film online, Shadow of a Doubt in it’s entirety:

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