100 Moments with Alfred Hitchcock Part 1

28 09 2010

Recently, Roger Ebert posted his list of “100 Great Moments in the Movies” on his Chicago Sun-Times blog. After counting how many of those movies I’d seen (58!) I thought it would be fun to do something like it for our own Mr. Hitchcock. Since I’m only up to 1947 in his long career, I thought I’d split the list and post the first half now.

Here, then, are the first 50 of 100 Moments with Alfred Hitchcock, with annotations below:

  1. A cad is haunted by visions of a dead girl in “The Pleasure Garden.”
  2. A young woman’s silent scream opens Hitchcock’s first great movie, “The Lodger.”
  3. The Lodger (Ivor Novello) arrives at his new home, startling his landlady.
  4. An angry mob tries to kill the Lodger.
  5. Amateur boxer “One-Round” Jack Saunder is beaten by boxing champ Bob Corby in “The Ring”
  6. Ivor Novello rides down an escalator as he falls from grace in “Downhill”
  7. Farmer Sweetland makes a list of potential new brides in “The Farmer’s Wife.”
  8. A young divorcee gives herself up to the press after being humiliated in court at the end of “Easy Virtue.”
  9. A detective watches his quarry through the stem of a glass in “Champagne.”
  10. Hitchcock brings the Isle of Man to life in “The Manxman.”
  11. Hitchcock teases actress Anny Ondra in the sound test for “Blackmail.”
  12. A woman is forced to kill her attacker in “Blackmail.”
  13. The blackmailer is chased through the British Museum in “Blackmail.
  14. A back-alley speech about Ireland’s freedom is disrupted by gunfire in “Juno and The Paycock.”
  15. A cross-dressing killer leaps from the high-wire to his death in “Murder!”
  16. At an auction in “The Skin Game,” nouveau riche Edmund Gwenn outbids wealthy aristocrats.
  17. A young couple books passage home on a tramp steamer after an unsuccessful cruise, only to nearly die when the ship begins to sink in “Rich and Strange.”
  18. Hitchcock revisits his German expressionist roots with “Number 17.”
  19. Johann Strauss outshines his father when he conducts “The Blue Danube Waltz” in “Waltzes from Vienna.”
  20. Peter Lorre’s surprisingly charming terrorist in “The Man Who Knew Too Much.”
  21. Richard Hannay tries to hide from the police by kissing an unwilling fellow traveller in “The 39 Steps.” Unwilling fellow traveller immediately gives him up to the authorities.
  22. “Am I right, sir?” With his dying breath, Mr. Memory reveals the secret of “The 39 Steps.”
  23. Peter Lorre shoves the wrong man — a suspected spy — off a cliff to his death in “Secret Agent.”
  24. A saboteur is killed by his former comrades in the explosive finale to “Sabotage.”
  25. The spectacular tracking shot that takes viewers from an overhead view of a hotel lobby across a crowded dance floor and into the eyes of a killer in “Young and Innocent.”
  26. The rush to secure rooms in a crowded hotel lobby at the start of “The Lady Vanishes.”
  27. The young lovers of “The Lady Vanishes” enter the Foreign Office to find old Mrs. Froy alive and well after all.
  28. Charles Laughton climbs a ship’s mast, then throws himself to his death to avoid capture in “Jamaica Inn.”
  29. Joan Fontaine opens “Rebecca” with the line “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderly again…”
  30. Mrs. Danvers drives Joan Fontaine half crazy while describing her late mistress in “Rebecca.”
  31. Mrs. Danvers refuses to leave her late mistress’s room as Manderly burns to the ground in “Rebecca.”
  32. An American reporter in Holland chases an assassin through an umbrella toting crowd, then hops into a car and continues the chase into the windmill-dotted countryside.
  33. “Mr. And Mrs. Smith” grill each other over breakfast, leading to a break in their marriage.
  34. John Aysgarth charms — and is charmed by — Lina McLaidlaw at the start of “Suspicion.”
  35. Lina imagines Aysgarth killing his best friend in “Suspicion.”
  36. Aysgarth brings his ailing wife a frightening looking glass of milk in “Suspicion.”
  37. Barry Kane and Patricia Martin encounter a troupe of circus freaks in “Saboteur.”
  38. A fifth columnist plummets to his death from the Statue of Liberty in “Saboteur.”
  39. Mr. Newton and Herbert discuss the best way to kill one another over a family dinner in “Shadow of a Doubt.”
  40. Uncle Charlie, “the Merry Widow Murderer,” momentarily thinks he’s off the hook in “Shadow of a Doubt.” Bounding up the stairs to get ready for dinner, he turns to see his niece framed in a doorway, still certain that he is a killer.
  41. A young pilot realizes that his naivete may have helped the enemy in “Bon Voyage.”
  42. Although imprisoned, a French Resistance leader struggles to secure escape for his friends in “Aventure Malgache.”
  43. Walter Slezak is hauled into the “Lifeboat,” only to mutter “danke schein,” revealing to his fellow passengers that he’s German.
  44. Slezak’s character, now revealed to be the captain of the U-boat that sunk his fellow survivor’s ship, exhibits what seems to be super-human stamina, rowing his fellow survivors toward a German ship.
  45. As Gregory Peck kisses Ingrid Bergman for the first time in “Spellbound,” a series of doors open, symbolizing Bergman’s icy doctor’s sexual awakening.
  46. Gregory Peck breaks through to the traumatic childhood memory of accidentally killing his brother in a shocking, silent moment of “Spellbound.”
  47. Hitchcock outfoxes the censors by having Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant kiss briefly and repeatedly in “Notorious.”
  48. “Oh Dev, they’re poisoning me.” Devlin finds Alicia half-dead at the hands of her own husband in “Notorious.”
  49. Devlin leaves Alicia’s husband to his ruthless comrades at the end of “Notorious.
  50. Mrs. Paradine tells her lawyer, Gregory Peck, that she despises him even though he’s won her freedom in “The Paradine Case.”

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Alfred Hitchcock Triumphs with “Notorious”

19 09 2010

“The story of ‘Notorious’ is the old conflict between love and duty. Cary Grant’s job – and it’s a rather ironic situation – is to push Ingrid Bergman into Claude Rains’s bed. One can hardly blame him for seeming bitter throughout the story, whereas Claude Rains is a rather appealing figure, both because his confidence is being betrayed and because his love for Ingrid Bergman is probably deeper than Cary Grant’s. All of these elements of psychological drama have been woven into the spy story.” – Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock reached a new peak in moviemaking with “Notorious,” released by RKO Pictures in 1946. Playing on fears that lingered in the new, postwar era, “Notorious” wraps together romance, espionage, suspense and glamor. As Hitch mentions above, the movie starred Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant and Claude Rains, with a script by Ben Hecht from a short story that had been set in World War I.

Hecht and Hitchcock moved the story into the days just after World War II. Bergman plays Alicia Huberman, whose German father is found guilty of treason against the United States as the story begins. As her father is thrown into prison, Huberman gets drunk with her houseguests, trying to forget that she, too, is under suspicion. When she awakens the next morning, one guest is left: T.R. Devlin (Grant), an FBI agent who needs her help. The agency has learned that some of her father’s German compatriots have relocated to Brazil, and they need Huberman to infiltrate the group and find out what they’re planning.

After Devlin says that her service could help her father, Huberman agrees, and they fly to Rio de Janeiro – but during the flight, Devlin tells Huberman that her father died in prison that morning. It’s this kind of manipulation that characterizes the whole film. Devlin and Huberman fall in love while waiting for her assignment to begin, and when her orders come through, Devlin is visibly disgusted, as she has been instructed to get close to one of her father’s friends by seducing him. Knowing her reputation for partying and sleeping around, Devlin turns cool, making snide remarks about how it will be easy for her to draw on past experience to get close to Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains). Sebastian will be easy prey, as he was in love with Huberman years before.

Devlin’s behavior could be a ploy to motivate Huberman into the assignment, or to protect her by pretending he never really cared about her – or he could just be lashing out, frustrated at what’s being asked of her and powerless to do anything about it.

Huberman, with Devlin at her side, meets Sebastian while horseriding, and soon Huberman and Sebastian are a couple. Sebastian is suspicious of Devlin, though, who keeps showing up wherever they go; he’s getting information from Huberman, but she tells Sebastian that he’s an old flame she now detests. Sebastian asks her to prove that he means nothing to her by marrying him.

After the wedding, Huberman reports to Devlin that the only place she hasn’t been able to search for evidence of the German group’s activities is the wine cellar. Only Sebastian has the key, so Devlin tells her to suggest a party, during which they can get into the wine cellar.

The tone of the movie shifts with the party; the romance (and romantic frustrations) of the first half of the movie give way to sheer suspense: First, Huberman must steal the key; then, during the party, they have to slip away to the wine cellar. The pressure escalates as the guests drink champagne faster than expected, which means Sebastian will have to get more bottles from storage.

Rummaging around in the wine cellar, Devlin knocks a bottle from a shelf, revealing that it holds not liquid but what turns out to be uranium ore. With Sebastian coming down the stairs, Devlin and Huberman kiss, then explain that he forced himself on her. Sebastian doesn’t believe him, and when he returns to the cellar for champagne, he finds the remains of the broken bottle – proof enough that Devlin and Huberman are against him.

Concerned that his comrades will kill him if they find out the truth, Sebastian wants to murder his wife, but his elderly mother says it has to be gradual. They begin poisoning Huberman, and when she misses her meeting with Devlin, he becomes concerned. He breaks into Sebastian’s home and finds her in bed, more dead than alive. Sebastian finds Devlin making his way out of the house with his wife, but because his friends are on hand, too, he can’t reveal what really happened. Devlin and Huberman make their escape, leaving Sebastian in the company of his ruthless friends, who have already figured out that there’s something strange about the situation.

The original ending of “Suspicion,” made five years earlier, was supposed to have Joan Fontaine write a detailed letter about Cary Grant’s crimes, then ask him to drop it in the mail. He was then going to kill her and go ahead and post the letter. That didn’t happen in the film, of course, but Hitchcock got to revisit that kind of sophisticated ending, in which the audience has to consider the outcome for the cast, in “Notorious.” We assume that Huberman will be cured, because Devlin said he’d take care of her; we assume that their love wins out, and we assume that Sebastian will be killed by his comrades. By implying all this rather than showing it, Hitchcock creates a more intelligent ending than, say, having the villain fall to his death as in “Saboteur.”

“Notorious” boasts a phenomenal cast, of course. Cary Grant is grim throughout – he almost never cracks a smile, except when he’s putting on an act, making the viewer wonder about his own past. Ingrid Bergman is desperate but determined to do right for her country and herself. The most chilling moment of the movie comes when Devlin finds Huberman sick in bed. Holding her close, he asks what’s wrong, and she whispers, “Oh Dev, they’re poisoning me.”

As a villain, Claude Rains is rather pathetic – he’s manipulated by Bergman and Grant, his friends, and, most of all, his mother. (One of my favorite moments in the film happens when Sebastian starts to tell his mother that he’s been betrayed by his wife. Before the wedding, she had warned him that Huberman was not marriage material; later, when Sebastian starts to explain the situation, his mother smirks at him, expecting him to say that Huberman is cheating on him. When he instead says that he’s married to a U.S. agent, his mother quickly turns off her “I told you so” look and takes control of things.)

Hitchcock tells this story in a sure, simple way, with few of the flourishes that had charaterized his earlier films, other than Huberman’s distorted vision on waking up after a night of drinking, and, later, when she’s succumbing to the poison. Ben Hecht’s script – which was sharpened a bit by Clifford Odets – crackles, although some of the patter might be hard to believe coming from non-American actors less talented than Bergman and Grant.

“Notorious” features a scene that’s famous for working around the production code while subverting it to his own ends. In a scene near the start of the movie, Bergman and Grant are shown in a hotel room, kissing and holding each other. As they continue to kiss – briefly, but continuously – they make their way across the room toward the ringing telephone. The quick kisses were Hitchcock’s way around the production code, which dictated that screen kisses could only last a few second. The finished scene conformed to the guidelines while creating a scene that was far more erotic than the Hays code had anticipated.

The uranium ore found in the wine cellar is among Hitchcock’s most famous McGuffins, one which was only decided upon late in the production. Selznick reportedly didn’t understand its significance, and probably assumed that audiences wouldn’t get it, either, but by the time the film premiered, radiation and atomic bombs were front page news.

This was the second to last film Hitchcock made with producer David O. Selznick, who sold distribution rights to RKO to help him finance his own over-budget “Duel in The Sun.” Although Selznick was distracted by “Duel,” he did have some input, notably making Sebastian’s mother a stronger character.

Hitchcock was credited as producer on “Notorious,” a role he’d play more and more in years to come. Also, as the trailer below shows, he’s now being called “The Master of Suspense,” a nickname that came into use in the late 1940s, which would stay with him for the rest of his career.

Hitchcock would still make one more film with Bergman and two more with Grant. Claude Rains would appear in several episodes of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.”

Next, we’ll take a look at the “Paradine Case,” starring Gregory Peck, Ann Todd and Charles Laughton.





Alfred Hitchcock Sails in “Lifeboat”

6 09 2010

“We wanted to show that at that moment there were two world forces confronting each other, the democracies and the Nazis, and while the democracies were completely disorganized, all of the Germans were clearly headed in the same direction.” — Alfred Hitchcock

In “Lifeboat,” Alfred Hitchcock presents a wartime parable that pits the essential good nature of ordinary people against a single, sly enemy. Released by 20th Century Fox in 1944, the film is set in the midst of World War II, entirely in a crowded lifeboat.

The film opens just after a Navy ship has been torpedoed by a German U-boat, with Tallulah Bankhead, as wealthy writer and photographer Connie Porter, sitting alone in the lifeboat as wreckage floats by. She’s soon joined by several workers from the ship, including William Bendix (“Gus”), John Hodiak (“Kovak”), Canada Lee (“Joe”), Hume Cronyn (“Garrett”) and Mary Anderson (“Alice”), as well as wealthy industrialist Charles Rittenhouse, played by Henry Hull. Another young woman and her baby join the group as well, but she is too shocked to realize that the baby is dead.

The final guest on the lifeboat is a member of the U-boat crew who seems to speak only German, played by Walter Slezak. His arrival sparks a heated debate among the rest of the group, with Hodiak insisting that they throw him overboard to drown. Cooler heads prevail, with Rittenhouse making the argument that the German, Willi, should be treated as a prisoner of war.

Rittenhouse takes command of the boat, but lacking nautical expertise, he relies on the others to help him reach the decision to make for Bermuda. Through Connie, who speaks German, Willi says the course they’ve chosen is wrong, but no one believes him. Gus, meanwhile, has his wounded leg examined by Alice, a nurse, who cleans up his wound. Everyone is assigned jobs, and they construct a mast to help them reach their goal.

After realizing that her baby is dead, the young woman slips out of the boat in the middle of the night and is never seen again. The tension continues to increase as it becomes clear that Gus’s leg is gangrenous. Claiming to be a former surgeon, Willi offers to amputate it. The operation takes everyone’s efforts, leaving Garrett alone to keep the boat steady in an increasingly rough sea.

A storm robs the survivors of their supplies, and things go from bad to worse. Kovac takes over as de facto leader for Rittenhouse, but Willi undermines his new role. The survivors learn in quick succession that Willi was the captain of the U-boat, that he speaks English, and that he was hiding a working compass. But after the storm, and after so much time going in the wrong direction, their chances of reaching Bermuda are slim, and so they go along with Willi’s scheme to rendezvous with a German supply ship.

Now free to speak English, Willi continues to manipulate the crew, watching and smiling as they bicker among themselves. Somehow, while they collapse in the heat, Willi rows endlessly. Only Gus, half hallucinating, is conscious enough to see Willi sipping from a water bottle. He begs Willi for a drink, but the threat of being discovered is too great, so Willi pushes Gus overboard.

The others wake up and see that Gus is gone; on questioning Willi they notice that he’s sweating, and find his water bottle, which immediately breaks. In a fury, the remaining survivors throw Willi overboard to die.

The survivors come up with a scheme to catch fish, using Connie’s diamond bracelet, but as they make a catch, Joe spots the German boat. Just as they’re about to be captured, the boat is sunk by an Allied vessel. As the friendly ship steams toward them, a hand reaches into the lifeboat. It’s a young German sailor from the supply ship, and as the survivors start to discuss what to do with him, he pulls a pistol on them. Kovac takes the gun away, and they await their rescue.

Hitchcock took a lot of criticism for “Lifeboat” for the portrayal of the German captain as smart and driven. While the others bicker, he conceives and enacts a plan, keeping his strengths and his scheme hidden. As Hitchcock explains in the quote above, he wanted to show that the Allies needed to pull together. This might have been a better message in 1942, when Hitchcock first conceived of “Lifeboat,” or in a more metaphorical way, as in the scene with the circus freaks from “Saboteur.” But by 1944, tolerance for criticism of the Allies’ efforts against the Axis was gone, and so Fox was pressured to keep publicity for “Lifeboat” to a minimum, diminishing its chances for success.

From the basic concept by Hitchcock, “Lifeboat” was shaped into a novella by John Steinbeck, in the style of “The Moon is Down.” Hitchcock and screenwriter Jo Swerling changed the original story enough that, combined with the criticism of the treatment of the German captain, Steinbeck distanced himself from the project. (It didn’t help that Steinbeck was already considered a radical in some circles for works like “The Grapes of Wrath” and “In Dubious Battle.”) The novella was never published.

“Lifeboat” is a gripping drama, and the performances by Bankhead, Slezak and Bendix are all strong. The technical achievement of setting the entire film in the boat is extraordinary, and was only possible due to extensive planning and storyboarding.

It’s also worth mentioning that “Lifeboat” contained Hitch’s trickiest cameo appearance. By now, the cameos had become a tradition, but in this case there were no opportunities to walk through a scene. Hitch considered floating by the lifeboat as a corpse, but didn’t like the idea of getting in the water. Instead, since he had recently lost a great deal of weight, he appeared in a “before and after” weight loss ad in a newspaper.

Next, we’ll look at “Spellbound,” a 1945 film that teams Hitchcock with yet another famous collaborator, artist Salvador Dali.





Alfred Hitchcock Goes to War

3 09 2010

As World War II wore on, a few members of the British film community began to openly criticize Alfred Hitchcock for his move to Hollywood, saying that he had deserted his nation. Of course, when Hitchcock came to the U.S. in 1940, the potential duration of the war was not very clear, and the blitz of London had not yet happened. Still, their words undoubtedly stung Hitchcock, who was in fact torn between his loyalty to England and to his family still living there and his new roots and responsibilities in Hollywood.

In 1944, Hitchcock stole out of the U.S. and travelled to England to make his own contribution to the war effort in the form of propaganda films. The two that are readily seen each run about half an hour; they were made in London, written or cowritten by Angus McPhail, who would work on several other Hitchcock projects. They focused on the French Resistance movement, and were filmed in French with members of the Molieres Players. Both are available for download from archive.org.

“Bon Voyage,” the slightly shorter of the two featurettes, concerns a young RAF officer and his escape with a fellow flier named Godowski from behind enemy lines in France. The officer tells his story to his superior on his arrival back in London, explaining how his friend arranged everything, from a rendezvous with members of the French Resistance to the final flight out of France, only to find out at the end that there was only room for one on the transport. The RAF officer wins the seat in a game of dice, and Godowski asks only that he deliver an envelope in London.

Of course, Godowski is himself a member of the Gestapo who used the pilot to flush out members of the Resistance and deliver a communique to another spy in London. The RAF pilot doesn’t believe it when his commanding officer explains the situation, but as the older man fills in the blanks, the young pilot realizes the truth — and is shocked to think that his actions doomed the attractive young woman of the Resistance who helped him escape.

“Aventure Malgache” is set in Madagascar, then a French colony that had been taken over by Germany. The story begins with a trio of actors getting ready to perform a play – but one of them is complaining that he can’t get a handle on his character. His friend, Clarousse, tells him a story of a similar person, hoping to provide some insight into the role. Clarousse had been the leader of the French Resistance in Madascar, and the person he describes was a member of the Vichy French in Madagascar called Michel. Michel was determined to stop members of the Resistance from escaping to freedom, and took underhanded steps to stop it, such as pretending to be a defense lawyer to win Clarousse’s confidence. Clarousse was not taken in, but managed to keep up communication while in prison, enabling many to make their way off the island.

The portrait of Michel, and the valor of the Resistance, builds up through “Aventure Malgache” until Clarousse escapes as well. He first becomes a pirate radio announce, then an actor, putting on stage plays about the Vichy’s treacherous ways. His friend, who needed guidance in his acting, is offended that Clarousse thinks he’s a natural to play Michel, and the film ends as they stop short of breaking into a fight, only to realize how foolish they’re being.

Legend has it that on review, the British Ministry of Information deemed these films too bluntly realistic to be released.

Hitchcock played a part in two other propaganda films as well. One is a 1944 war bond fundraiser called “The Fighting Generation,” starring Jennifer Jones, the actress with whom David O. Selznick was obsessed. Although the film reportedly still exists, it has been locked away in the Academy Film Archive in Los Angeles since the end of World War II. However, we do have a few images from it, and you can read more about the film here.

The fourth and final propaganda film Hitchcock worked on is “Watchtower Over Tomorrow,” released in 1945 and cowritten by Ben Hecht. Hitchcock is one of four directors to work on the 15-minute film, which spotlighted the Dumbarton Oaks conference that laid the groundwork for the United Nations. Whether this film still exists in any form is uncertain; I have not been able to find a trace of it beyond records at the Hitchcock wiki page or at IMDB.com.





Alfred Hitchcock Goes Suburban with “Shadow of a Doubt”

30 08 2010

“What it boils down to is that villains are not all black and heroes are not all white; there are grays everywhere.” — Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock often called his 1943 picture, “Shadow of a Doubt,” his favorite film, and it’s not hard to see why. It allowed him to work with a spectacular cast, to tell a quintessential Hitchcock story, and to collaborate with top-notch writers as well as a cast member who would become a close associate.

Critics have called “Shadow of a Doubt” Hitchcock’s first truly American film, and while “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and “Saboteur” are both set in the U.S., those both feel like a British director’s observation of the country; with “Shadow of a Doubt,” Hitchcock no longer holds the country at arm’s length. From the opening scenes filmed on the grimy docks of Newark, NJ, looking out at the Pulaski Skyway, we move to the idyllic town of Santa Rosa, California, Hitchcock demonstrates a new familiarity with the U.S.

The story revolves around the Newton family: Joe, the father, a banker played by Henry Travers; his wife, Emma, played by Patricia Collinge; young adult daughter Charlie, played by Teresa Wright, as well as two younger siblings. It’s summer, and Charlie, recently graduated from high school, is bored and wishing for adventure. Just as she decides to telegraph an invitation to her Uncle Charlie, played by Joseph Cotten, the family receives word that Charlie is planning a visit. She is thrilled, and takes the news as evidence of how close she and her uncle are.

Not long after his arrival, though, Charlie begins to wonder what’s going on with her uncle. His charming nature often turns moody; he shows a cynical side that almost frightens Charlie, launching into a dinnertime diatribe against idle, wealthy widows and the world at large. He’s also extremely wary of two men who come to visit, claiming to be conducting a survey for the government. The younger of the pair takes Charlie into his confidence, explaining that he is actually a detective on the trail of “The Merry Widow Murderer” — and that her uncle may be the murderer.

Charlie doesn’t believe it at first, but soon starts to see some clues, including a ring her uncle gave her with the engraved initials of one of the killer’s victims, and the Merry Widow Waltz, which seems to be stuck in several character’s heads as the film goes on. And when Uncle Charlie realizes that she is figuring out who he really is, he takes action, first by sawing through a step in an exterior stairway so that Charlie nearly falls to her death, and then trapping her in a garage with a running car.

After she survives both attempts, Uncle Charlie decides he has to leave town. He meets a train, but before it leaves Santa Rosa, he shows Charlie and her siblings his accommodations. The young brother and sister run back off the train, but Charlie is held back by her uncle until the train starts moving. They struggle in a doorway as he tries to through her out of moving train, only to fall himself into the path of another oncoming train.

“Shadow of a Doubt” was conceived by Gordon McDonnell, an employee of David O. Selznick, but much of its tone came from screenwriter Thornton Wilder, who captured the ordinary life of smalltown American as he had in his classic play “Our Town.” Hitchcock enjoyed the chance to introduce an element of evil into this idyllic setting, and the screenplay continued to develop after Wilder had joined the war effort under the guidance of Sally Benson, who wrote the story “Meet Me in St. Louis,” and Hitchcock’s constant collaborator, Alma Reville.

Teresa Wright also noted that Patricia Collinge, who played her mother, contributed to the screenplay. Collinge wrote for “The New Yorker,” and when Wright expressed concerns about a scene between Charlie and the detective in which they profess their love for each other, Hitch was happy to let Collinge rewrite the scene so that their affections were only mentioned, letting the threat of the Merry Widow Murderer remain their primary topic of discussion.

“Shadow of a Doubt” also marks Hitchcock’s first collaboration with actor Hume Cronyn, who would go on to appear in “Lifeboat” and episodes of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.” Cronyn cowrote the screenplays for “Rope” and “Under Capricorn,” and remained a close friend of Hitch’s through the director’s life. Here, he works primarily with Henry Travers, his coworker at the bank; the two share an obsession with murder mysteries, continually talking about the best ways to kill each other, providing darkly comic relief to Charlie’s ordeal.

The film contrasts the beauty of smalltown living with the threat posed by Uncle Charlie, and in fact he exposes his niece to darker parts of the town than she had seen before. At one point he drags her into a bar to try and stop her from exposing him. The place is full of rowdy sailors on shore leave, smoking, drinking and pawing at women; they are served by one of Charlie’s classmates, who seems beaten down and much older than her seventeen years.

Of course, the town of Santa Rosa itself is a character in the film, from the slightly dingy house the Newtons live in to the busy intersection presided over by a beat cop, from the local bank to the public library, it is all American towns, replate with gossip, provincialism and secrets. While the film idealizes the setting, Uncle Charlie and Emma Newton are nostalgic for their own childhood and the street where they grew up. Hitchcock enjoyed filming on location, capturing life in a small California town in a way that presages “The Birds.

Later, when the detectives receive word that their other suspect had been killed, Uncle Charlie assumes momentarily that he’s off the hook; he leaps up the stairs into the house, full of joy, only to realize halfway up the stairs that he is still under suspicion, slowing his ascent and turning to see his niece, framed in the doorway, looking up at him. Like Cary Grant in “Suspicion,” Joseph Cotten is convincing whether he’s being charming or menacing. Cotten would collaborate with Hitchcock again in “Under Capricorn.”

Up next, Alfred Hitchcock makes one of his strongest statements about war in “Lifeboat,” from a tale by another great American writer, John Steinbeck.








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