Shadow of a Doubt
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Joseph Cotton star as Uncle Charlie, a calculating and charming killer who hides out in his relatives' small hometown. There, he befriends his favorite niece and namesake, Young Charlie (Teresa Wright). But she begins to suspect he may be the famed Merry Widow murderer. A deadly game of cat and mouse ensues as the psychopathic killer plots the death of his young niece to protect his secret.
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Joseph Cotten's performance as "Uncle Charlie" is wooden and even the dinner conversation about the fat widows "eating the money and drinking the money" of their dead husbands lacks conviction. Patricia Collinge, superb in "The Little Foxes" of 1941, is merely annoying here given the inane lines she is burdened with. Henry Travers and Hume Cronyn "humorously" and endlessly discussing different types of murder is silly. Worst of all are the fatal performances of the two child actors portraying Teresa Wright's younger sister and brother who manage to drag down every scene they appear in. All these are things Mr. Hitchcock should not have allowed to get away from him, especially when one considers the excellence of earlier pictures such as "Rebecca" and "Foreign Correspondent".
The scenes involving the missing newspaper page, Teresa Wright's race to get to the library before it closes and her close call with asphyxiation, all intended to generate great suspense, tend to fall flat. This picture betrays the same weaknesses as "Saboteur", made the year before for the same studio. The same weaknesses in acting and writing also show up, but to a lesser extent, in "Spellbound", "Rope", "I Confess" and "Stage Fright" the last of which is saved only by the droll performance of Alastair Sim.
Alfred Hitchcock really comes into his own in the early 1950's beginning with "Strangers on a Train" (1951) and ending with "The Birds" (1961) -- films which comprise a body of work that has deservedly won praise from movie-lovers throughout the world.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris Dauphine, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne & University Versailles Saint Quentin en Yvelines