Shadow of a Doubt (1943) – If it ain’t Wright, it ain’t Right!


The name resounds. The man is a filmmaking engineer. The man is a pioneer. The man is, quite simply, Alfred Hitchcock. With yardsticks comprising an array of classic movies, the name Hitchcock has become synonymous with stylish, deep, and unbridled cinema. Dating a few years before the immortal Notorious, Alfred Hitchcock presented a family thriller capitalizing basic motions of storytelling in Shadow of a Doubt.

Charlotte “Charlie” Newton (Teresa Wright) is a happy, go-lucky, and angelic young girl who contemplates on the theory of soul, the value of family, and the idea of a utopian family. Dreaming of such chapters, the beautiful and innocent Charlie decides to call upon the perfect Uncle—Charlie Oakley (Joseph Cotton) to resolve the impending status of the family’s deformation.

Call it coincidence or telepathy, Uncle Charlie decides that it is time to meet his wonderful niece, Charlie and sends a telegram—informing them of his unexpected and imminent visit. Hearing this, the mood in the house, of niece Charlie and her Mom, Emma (Patricia Collinge) reflects the smile of the sun in the snowy month of January. Soon after the arrival of Mr. Perfect, things turn out not so perfect—especially for Charlotte, who begins to know more than she should have known.

Comparing Shadow of a Doubt to Hitchcock’s classics; Shadow of a Doubt is simplistic, with the characters holding the punch accompanied by an earnest setting and a methodical progression to a dramatic climax. The movie uses the element of empathy towards the beautiful Charlotte to advance the story, grip us to the point of confusion, and at last, feel for the predicament of Charlie—torn between her sense of righteousness and the emotions illuminating from the eyes of her mother.

The chemistry between the two Charlies draws this movie as a fine piece of sculpture, in what is a basic plot—filled with effective, but not always riveting exchanges. The glorious nuances of Teresa Wright—the sheen in her face of genuine beauty, the simplicity of her confusion—catapults this saga to a different level, while the mysterious serenity provided by Joseph Cotton and his changing colors, almost Chameleon-esque, does motion the viewers to get the best from the two focal points of the movie.

In what remains an honest effort in mystery and thrills, Shadow of a Doubt delivers the goods. Some may find the goods worth purchasing; others may consider other goods worthy of their effort, but this movie would not have achieved the glory it did—without the sincere performance of Teresa Wright, or the clench of Joseph Cotton.

Shadow of a Doubt may serve as a wonderful appetizer to the main dish that would come out in subsequent years from Hitchcock. It’s a noteworthy travel to a the classic age of cinema—beautified by glorifying performances and an honest effort. Alfred Hitchcock considered this as his finest movie. While one wouldn’t go that far, it certainly was the first of many to come.


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