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USA 1943
Directed by
Alfred Hitchcock:
115 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Shadow Of Doubt

Although the perennially proper Joseph Cotton is cast against type here as a mentally-disturbed strangler of widows he barely alters his inexpressive acting style and when he does it seems forced.

Scripted by Thornton Wilder, Sally Benson, and Hitchcock’s wife, Alma Reville, the film is based on a story by Gordon McDowell who was inspired by the real-life "Merry Widow" murderer, Earle Leonard Nelson, who was hanged in 1928. Cotton plays Charlie Oakley, on the run from New York detectives, who hides out at the home of his adoring older sister (Patricia Collinge) in the small northern California town of Santa Rosa. His teenage niece, Charlie (Teresa Wright), idolizes him but his odd behaviour and some quiet words of advice from the detectives, one of whom starts a romance of sorts with her (rather bizarrely given her supposed age) gets her doing a bit of amateur sleuthing.

Although apparently much liked by the director himself, Shadow Of Doubt is not distinctively Hitchcockian and might have been directed by any efficient studio journeyman of the time. If a low-key affair, it is however a well-crafted, slyly humorous film with nicely naturalistic settings (the film was shot on location in the actual town of Santa Rosa and used a real local house for the main setting). Teresa Wright shines as the feisty teen, Cotten is interesting in role that is for once more than bland and the leads are supported by a strong cast (with the exception of Macdonald Carey as Teresa's would-be beau) of character actors. Dimitri Tiomkin contributed the score including 'The Merry Widow' waltz which features in a couple of odd inserts of dancers at a ball.




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