Shadow Of A Doubt was Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite of his own films. Unless it wasn’t. He claimed it as such, then backtracked on that claim when François Truffaut brought it up in Hitchcock/Truffaut. Then, a few years later, he was back to calling it his favorite. Favorite or not, the 1943 film is certainly one of Hitchcock’s finest accomplishments, even if it tends to get pushed down the list of great Hitchcock films by the masterpieces that followed.
Set against the backdrop of Santa Rosa, California, the film allowed Hitchcock to use an all-American setting as the site for a lurid tale of murder, obsession, and the evil that hides beneath benign exteriors. Joseph Cotten plays the owner of one of those benign exteriors, and the source of the film’s evil, a smiling man named Charlie who reunites with his sister’s family, much to the delight of the niece and namesake (Theresa Wright). Charlie has a secret, however, one his niece becomes increasingly aware of, and later unwilling party to, as the film goes on.
As technically inspired as any Hitchcock film, it’s a work of slow-building tension that uses its setting brilliantly, presaging much of the film noir that followed, as well as David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, the Coens’ The Man Who Wasn’t There, and, most recently, Park Chan-wook’s Stoker, which often plays like a direct homage to Hitchcock’s film. Watching it gave us plenty to talk about, and we hope you’ll join the discussion next week.
Here’s a reissue trailer that doesn’t give away too much, even if it doesn’t quite capture the film’s tone and the deft way Hitchcock contrasts Shadow Of A Doubt’s sunny setting with its dark themes.
Also, a scheduling note: Movie Of The Week will be taking the week of September 2nd off, due to Labor Day. The feature will return September 9th with another story of uncomfortable family relations, The Celebration. Looking ahead:
September 9: The Celebration
September 16: Real Life
September 23: City Of God