The Strange Affair of Uncle Charlie

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“Are they?”

Maybe Hitchcock’s first perfect film? Maybe his most perfect, too? Oh yeah, you can’t have degrees of perfection, can you? But maybe Hitchcock can. Absolutes become relative…

SHADOW OF A DOUBT begins with the Universal globe, since like SABOTEUR this is a project made on loan-out to the free and easy Jack Skirball from the rigorous Selznick, and its brilliance should be enough to gainsay the suggestion that Hitchcock needed Selznick’s supervision to make mature films. In its light-hearted way, FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT is just as mature as REBECCA, and this one goes much, much deeper than either.

The Merry Widow Waltz — the return of the musical plot point — which was lightly touched upon in SABOTEUR, actually, but is much more fully developed here. The music and images of waltzing couples, slowly dissolving to skid row docklands in Newark, a striking incongruity that sets things in motion with a kind of lopsided unease.

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Joseph Cotten, as Uncle Charlie, is introduced as one of those serial killers who lie in bed and brood — see also David Wayne in Losey’s M. It’s the ’40s equivalent of the  trophy gallery, where news cuttings and other, weirder images attest to the resident’s disturbed state — see THE HOWLING for what Fiona reckons is the earliest version of this, and ANTICHRIST for the latest. I like Constance Purdy as the sympathetic landlady: one of these bit-part players who eked out a living playing landladies, society ladies, fat ladies.

Dream logic: two detectives have appeared at Cotten’s building, asking for an interview, yet when he leaves, rather than simply approaching him, they let him walk right past, then start following him. Why? Genre conventions seem to excuse this quite adequately. Cutting to high-angle “God shots,” Hitch seems to show us the whole chase, from a privileged position, but then Charlie vanishes behind a building, the cops emerge, looking baffled, and we pan around and discover Charlie watching from on high, right here with us, enjoying a triumphant cigar.

Charlie sends a telegram to his family, and when he mentions the address (Santa Rosa, California, not so far from the Bodega Bay of THE BIRDS) the next dissolve obligingly takes us there. Now we meet the Newtons, starting with little Ann, Edna May Wonacott, a sort of Pat Hitchcock substitute, and one of Hitchcock’s many fine local discoveries (Another is the heroine’s best friend Cath, played by Estelle Jewell in a wonderful one-note characterisation of quasi-lustful grinning). I adore everything about the family characters in this film, often credited to screenwriter Thornton Wilder (whose participation is loudly trumpeted in the opening titles) but also partly the work of Hitch, Alma, and especially Sally Benson and an uncredited Patricia Collinge, who plays Mom.

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Collinge’s Emma Newton is the most loving portrait of a mother in all Hitchcock’s work. He’s often accused of focussing exclusively on negative maternal figures, and while there are certainly plenty of these in his work, one could point to SHADOW as a refutation of all the charges of misogyny. Hitch’s own mother was called Emma. She was dying during the shoot. It’s a testimony to Collinge that she makes Emma more than a series of dopey/endearing characteristics — the character successfully stands for something far greater than that. And somehow we accept Emma’s vulnerability, so that when people start saying “This would kill your mother,” we totally accept it, even though there’s really nothing to hint at ill health in the script or performance. Collinge just has that quality of emotional fragility. It seems to be tied up with Emma’s desire for everything to be nice — if something shattered her cosy picture of the world, where would she be left? See also THE LITTLE FOXES for Teresa Wright and Patricia Collinge together again. Collinge is devastating.

Charles Bates, as little Roger, is the least heavily featured Newton, but he’s very good, and an interesting contrast with Ann. Both are rather intellectual kids, but Roger is more into statistics and hard facts: Ann has a romantic side in her literary choices, and insists that her books are “all true.” Hitch I think is slightly less interested in little boys, but he does craft a memorable little nutcase in THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY, the chronologically-challenged Arnie.

Henry Travers, as Mr Newton, is an endearing sort of stick, sufficiently mundane and simple to be baffled by his eldest daughter’s moods (which is important for keeping him in the dark later, when the plot thickens), but enlivened by his non-practicing enthusiasm for the murderous arts. And my God, Hume Cronyn is a joy as his best friend Herbie Hawkins, with whom he shares his half-baked plots. The shot of Herbie entering as the family have dinner always cracks me up:

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Proof that Hitchcock, like Keaton, could enlist the space around an actor for comic effect.

This homicidal hobby serves several purposes: it adds a believable quirk to the staid banker father, it’s a connection with Hitch himself, whom one can imagine having similar conversations at the dinner table, and it’s another way of building pressure on daughter Charlie, once she learns that there’s a real-life murderer in their midst.

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Ah, Charlie. Had the great pleasure of seeing Teresa Wright talk about her work at the Edinburgh Film Festival one year. A fine lady. She was quite defensive of Hitch, whom she found charming and well-mannered. She assumed any later bad behaviour on his part must have been down to age and ill-health.

We first meet young Charlie lying in bed brooding — exactly like her Uncle. It’s one of numerous connections drawn between them, and it’s fascinating to consider the similarities and differences in their characters. Also the telepathic link they seem to share, which hovers just below the level of narrative reality, tantalisingly refusing to declare itself as either real or imaginary: just like most real-life instances of “mental telepathy.”

Like her uncle, Charlie is intelligent, strong-willed, and restless — dissatisfied with her immediate circumstances, and yearning for something greater. Unlike him, she has a strong moral compass, not just by being well brought up, but also by having an inherent inner goodness. When she’s torn between helping Charlie and turning him in to the police, it’s two sides of her good nature that are at war within her, the desire to protect society versus the desire to protect her mother and a natural repugnance at the idea of betraying a family member. Charlie is a rare example of a fascinating character who is almost wholly good.

Uncle Charlie, by contrast, is one of the screen’s most convincing psychopaths. Hitch’s research allows for a portrait of a serial killer which is extremely accurate, without delving into spurious psychological portraiture. All of Charlie’s mistakes — and for an intelligent man he makes almost nothing but mistakes — can be put down to his psychopathic condition. Putting $40,000 into Mr Newton’s bank is rather a foolish move, since if he comes under suspicion he won’t be able to get at it, but it’s typical grandiloquence. Giving Charlie a ring with a previous victim’s initials etched in it is a bad blunder, but consistent with the true serial killer’s habit of trophy-taking. (The fact that the victim was a retired music-hall artiste makes me think of LADIES IN RETIREMENT.) And an incident from Uncle Charlie’s history is rich in suggestion: his bicycle crash, which nearly killed him, and resulted in a change of personality. Possible brain damage is a characteristic of many psychopathic case histories, but one of the film’s strengths is that it doesn’t seek to explain Uncle Charlie. It’s possible that his near-death experience simply changed his philosophy of life, rather than damaging him neurologically. For Charles Oakley is certainly a philosopher.

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The opening montage of Santa Rosa seems like the most obvious source for the opening of BLUE VELVET. And in this sleazy bar, we find an element of TWIN PEAKS, with an excellent Janet Shaw as waitress Louise Finch, the Ronette Pulawski of her day: “Yes sir, I’d just about die for a ring like that…”

Like his niece, Charlie has a good deal of family feeling, but unlike her, his only goes so deep: when the chips are down, he’s quite willing to sacrifice Charlie, the one person he cares about most in the world, in order to protect Number One. He kids himself when he suggests that only unimportant, useless people have anything to fear from him. His view of the world as a cesspit fully justifies his own ghastly behaviour in his eyes, but while Charlie is disgusted by the low dive he drags her to (Santa Rosa is part Bedford Falls, part Pottertown, and all Lumberton), there’s no indication that she’s going to be seduced by his view of the world.

Another bit of telepathy: Charlie discovers he’s no longer suspected by the police, and bounds up the stairs. But then he senses something that makes him stop. He turns and sees –

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The one person who knows his guilt.

I’m neglecting a character, and it’s one I always neglect: MacDonald Carey as detective Jack Graham. As a deliberately undeveloped potential romantic interest, he doesn’t really have any chance to flower into anything interesting, and Carey isn’t the most interesting actor, although he’s perfectly competent. It might help if he were pretty. But what really works about this figure is that he’s effectively the antagonist — Hitchcock’s much-vaunted fear of policemen neatly coincides with the thrust of the plot. Uncle Charlie isn’t, under normal circumstances, a threat to his family, and while the town does boast a flirtatious “merry widow” whom he may have his eye on, nothing is done to push this subplot forward to the point where we have to imminently fear for her life. No, it’s the presence of the police that creates jeopardy, and what young Charlie most fears is that her uncle will be caught and exposed and her mother will be destroyed.

Bill Krohn, in Hitchcock at Work, devotes an extra-large section to consideration if this film, and apart from his invaluable historical and contextual analysis (including the fact that wartime restrictions on set construction influenced Hitchcock’s decision to shoot on location, giving the film an unusual air of outward realism), he provides a fascinating reading of the film as political allegory. Since, of all the wartime Hitchcocks, SHADOW OF A DOUBT features the least propagandistic elements, apart from SUSPICION (which at one time in its development was going to have a flag-waving ending), this may seem perverse, but Krohn argues his case persuasively, and by the time we reach the film’s last lines, about the world “You have to watch it. It seems to go crazy sometimes, like your Uncle Charlie,” it seems inescapably right. To avoid dating the film, Hitchcock avoided overt references to the war, but Santa Rosa is full of soldiers, the bank is full of ads for war bonds, and the movie shares so much with Welles’s later film THE STRANGER that some of Welles’s anti-fascism seems to seep back in time into the Hitchcock.

Krohn is very strong on the Welles influence on Hitchcock here, suggesting that, since Welles had absorbed the same Germanic principles as Hitchcock, he was the perfect influence to guide Hitch towards making his first truly American movies. He gives several examples of the connections, from those Ambersonian waltzers, to the film’s use of overlapping dialogue, to the sentences which fade out in mid-stream. One powerful example of the last, which Krohn doesn’t cite, is when Patricia Collinge is sitting in the back of a car puzzling over the two accidents her daughter has recently suffered. Before she can reach any conclusion, the car bears her away. In some odd way, this seems to me terribly reminiscent of Major Amberson’s musings about the nature of life and afterlife, which are similarly interrupted by the intervention of a fade-out.

Krohn is also very good on the film’s relationship with Dracula… which sounds surprising when you first hear it, but believe me, he sells the idea. The vampire, of course, cannot enter your home unless invited…

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“You don’t look too well either.” Possibly the only Hitchcock cameo where another character addresses him with a spoken line? Hitch may not have a winning hand in this scene, but he’s holding aces with SHADOW OF A DOUBT.

Side-note: unhappy with his weight (“My ankles hung over my socks,” — possible water retention?), Hitch started dieting around this time, with results which can be seen in his next movie, LIFEBOAT.

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32 Responses to “The Strange Affair of Uncle Charlie”

  1. Excellent.

    This film was very very close to Hitch. It’s a thriller but not the usual one in any way for at its center is aperfectly lovely family — sady burdened with a murderous Uncle. The relationship between Uncle Charlie and Young Charlie is amazingly sophsiticated in narrative terms. We know she’d never so much as dream of doing the things he does, yet she’s attracted to the results he achieves. Her family may be lovely but like all young people at that point in life she wants to goe off on her own, finding home life dull. Uncle Charlie represensts all that’s exciting about the world outside Santa Rosa.

    Just not exciting in the way she’d hope.

    Thornton Wilder and Sally Benson’s contributions are facinating. Shadow of a Dount would make a perfect double-feature with Meet Me in St. Louis (which in some ways is almost as dark.)
    As for Wilder it show the one thing “Grovers Corners” lacked was a murderer.

    For a perfectly nice murderer see Demy’s The Young Girls of Rochefort

  2. Bill Krohn’s research seems to show that Wilder’s contribution had more to do with shaping the narrative than the final dialogue, which is surprising in a way. But Benson certainly had great form as a writer of believable and funny talk. And Collinge added some of the best bits too, including the rare restraint with which the MacDonald Carey romance is treated.

  3. Arthur S. Says:

    http://globetrotter.berkeley.edu/people/Jacobs/jacobs-con3.html

    The final parts of this Ken Jacobs Interview pertains to his opinion on Hitchcock and why he thinks Hitch is “fundamentally evil” and it has to do with that scene in the bar with the waitress which he specifically cites.

    Joseph Cotten is an amazing monster in this film. You can see a real American sense of brutality in him, he’ll seduce and kill wealthy widows yet cloth himself as a member of a loving family and take pleasure in both identities. He’s the harbinger of Rev. Harry Powell, Noah Cross, Hank Quinlan and even Daniel Plainview. Especially that dinner scene where there’s this close-up of his face as he turns sideways, he looks positivey bestial. Really great performance there from Cotten. Really brave.

    What makes SoaD especially fascinating is that its the only major Hitchcock film about a family at the centre, the only other film which touches on family as a theme is Psycho but this is about the family as a character and narrative drive. Oh and THE WRONG MAN, Vera Miles can be seen as a variation of Patricia Collinge’s fragile housewife. That must be why it’s so personal to Hitchcock since he was the exception in his own family, who made it big and got out of England. Little Charlie might be a Hitchcock surrogate I think. Or the younger Hitchcock at least, shy and lonely though far more physically attractive.

  4. Very curious observation from Ken — who as usual is a cinematic world unto himself. He wants to give Hitchcock’s toying with Evil a final push stright into the Dark Side. What’s great about Hitchcock is the way he forces you to the precipice — and makes you peer over the edge. As for that scene, I don’t think HE”S making sport of soldiers. The scene is about (as is much of the film) how Uncle Charlie views the world. His cynicism rises to the fore. The scenes of Young Charlie alone or with her family are quite different.

  5. Arthur S. Says:

    The disturbing aspect about the film is that Uncle Charlie’s world is more keeled on truth while Young Charlie’s world is hinged on idyll, ignorance and the final scene makes it clear that it can function as a kind of fantasy. Having Uncle Charlie become a phony martyr for the community’s fragile self-image.

    And Teresa Wright’s character herself says in the end that her Uncle believed that people like her didn’t know how the word worked and there’s no answer against that from her cop boyfriend. Yet her character knows the score now and is filled with that secret knowledge.

  6. The Jacobs thing strikes me as bizarre, and there’s a lot of projection going on there: somehow Jacobs wants Hitchcock to be evil, and he’s thinking, if *I* made that film, this is what it would mean about me. But I don’t think Hitchcock is at all motivated by the forces Jacobs ascribes to him. And his assumption that Hitchcock would be comfortable working under fascism — we just can’t know. Hitch was never tested in that way. He do know that he enjoyed putting some social critique into his films, and even his propaganda work is nuanced and often off-message. And he’d have found it very hard to make a film like Shadow of a Doubt in Germany.

    The bar scene is so striking because it does seem to give weight to Uncle C’s world-view, although in fact all we see is soldiers and girls drinking and having a good time. It’s hardly a “sty”. To Theresa Wright it’s dark and horrifying and Charlie exploits her revulsion to make her see things his way. But while she gains some understanding of his viewpoint, she never adopts it. As in Blue Velvet, she emerges from innocence but avoids corruption (more so than Jeffrey, in fact).

  7. Arthur S. Says:

    Ken Jacobs is obviously an artist working in unconventional aesthetics so when he’s accusing Hitchcock of being “evil” it might not be in the literal sense. Save that Hitchcock was working in Hollywood and so is already damned for his tastes. And of course he is politically committed on a level that Hitchcock would never ever consider or fathom.

    Little Charlie is free from corruption but she still has to maintain the sense of civilized hypocrisy at the end for the sake of her mother. The ending is quite brazen for its time, allowing a serial killer to be given a community funeral just so that the heroine’s mother won’t be upset. During the War, there was a lot of concern for Mom and Pop back in small towns(which is also the premise of Saving Private Ryan, an entirely different film) and this film allows us to empathise and emotionally collude for the most extreme form of that.

    There’s even a tortured Catholic bit to it. The way Uncle Charlie supports the inherent sinfulness of his fellow man, using that as his self-justification and how Little Charlie has to accept and bear that at the end. The ending feels a bit like the end of Graham Greene’s books where they all wonder how to retain their selves in the face of a flawed and open world.

  8. Ronald Reagan was given a huge state funeral and he was the embodiment of Evil. The United States has yet to come to rips with the wholesale genocide Reagan sponsored in Central and South America, including the “School For the Americas” where thugs were brought stateside and instructed how to rip open the stomachs of pregnant peasant women, pull out the foetus and stab it with their bayonets.

    This all brought to you by a government allegedly horrified by abortion.

  9. Tony Williams Says:

    What can I add to this stimulating review and the comments already made, especially David E. in the light of the fact that such practiices are still going on (as Information Clearing House, Counterpunch etc) abundantly document.
    Jacobs comments echo Spotoland but the films speak for themselves. In view of American images of positive mothers, I’d also cite SABOTEUR (1942) where the mother of the deceased factory worker does not blame Cummings for this and thus avoids the scenario of the mother condemning Melanie Daniels in THE BIRDS.

  10. That’s true, Tony. Of course, if the mother had been persuaded of Cummings’ guilt, that could have been dramatically very strong, and we couldn’t blame her, really, but it’s better that they avoided that cliche. It may not be coincidence that Hitch portrayed mothers at their most sympathetic when his own mother was nearing the end of her life.

    Thinking of families, they have certainly played a role in Hitchcock since The Pleasure Garden, but as Arthur says, this is the first time the family has been so central — it’s the film’s arena. The Lodger comes closest. The suspenseful or awkward dining scenes of Easy Virtue, Blackmail and Sabotage reach a climax here with the magnificent speech by Cotten, which has a kind of fascist edge to it: rich widows are to be classed as life unworthy of life, to use the Nazi term.

  11. Arthur S. Says:

    Another good mother in Hitchcock is Jesse Royce Landis in TO CATCH A THIEF and NORTH BY NORTHWEST. She’s more mischievous than domineering in the two films. Oh and Henry Fonda’s mother in The Wrong Man.

    In the films where the characters are single or living as a couple, mothers are a source for conflict because there’s a bit of a problem with them leading adult lives but still needing say, Mom, to save you from being arrested DUI(as in N. by N-W.). In PSYCHO, the entire family system has decayed and become monstrous but in MARNIE, there’s that beautiful final scene of reconciliation and compassion with the parents who struggle and make mistakes with you.

    One key cross-reference for SHADOW OF A DOUBT in addition to Meet Me in St. Louis is of course The Magnificent Ambersons…obviously Joseph Cotten is starring but also the use of overlapping dialogue in many of the domestic scenes shows the clear influence of the Welles.

  12. Also the waltzing figures.

    Jessie Royce Landis is a sort of comic nuisance, not that far removed from Bruno’s mother in Strangers on a Train, although she’s obviously been much more successful keeping her son on the straight and narrow…

  13. And she’s not crazy.

    I love her especially in North by Northwest, dismissing Cary Grant’s story of being kidnapped with a derisive laugh.

  14. Christopher Says:

    I just love the Henry Travers/Hume Cronyn scenes in this! :o))
    I have a friend who claims to have grown up next door to the Home used by the Newtons in Santa Rosa..says its still there..I think this may have been the film that started Hitch’s love affair with that area of the California coast..

  15. I suspect Hitch may have filmed quite a bit of California coast in Rebecca, standing in for France and Cornwall, and Suspicion. His films are quite full of coastal roads, aren’t they? I wonder what that means? Better ask the shrink from Psycho.

  16. Tony Williams Says:

    It may be that as an urban Londoner he admired the coast and wanted to put as much of it into his films.

    I’ve visited Santa Rosa and found it completely changed now but I’m glad to hear that the house is still there. Northern California is such a beautiful areea.

  17. There’s that nice story about the weathered-looking house Hitch felt was perfect, but when they came back to shoot, the owners had repainted everything and made it look perfect. So they had to get permission to dirty it up again.

    This even found its way into the script, slightly altered, with Patricia Collinge refusing to let the “survey men” take photos of certain parts of the house. (All this courtesy of Hitchcock at Work.)

  18. Arthur S. Says:

    I heard it that Hitchcock liked the house and paid the owners money to rent it only to find out that they used the money to repaint the house. The reason Hitchcock liked was because it was so dirty so he had to pay them money to filthy up the place again.

  19. Blake Lucas Says:

    Very interesting to read about a film that, I agree, is one of Hitchcock’s masterpieces.

    The scene in the Till Two bar is my favorite in the film, for all its elements, like the waitress, but especially for Uncle Charlie’s little speech to young Charlie which even tops the dinner table one earlier. It’s just wonderful in its bracingly negative, cynical view of the world.

    And what really makes that so is that there is an element of truth in Uncle Charlie’s words. It doesn’t mean it’s the whole story–it doesn’t mean there isn’t another side, which young Charlie especially so well represents despite her Uncle’s scornful words to her at this point. But there is a part of any honest viewer that will take pleasure in what he says.

    Part of the beauty of art is to provoke in this way, and that’s what is great about this, and this is where Ken Jacobs is completely in error. Because Uncle Charlie’s words have such power in Hitchcock’s realization, the exactness of the mise-en-scene, and Cotten’s performance, Jacobs assumes Hitchock himself must have this view, or why make it on any level so attractive and compelling?

    It is naive to put an artist into a work in this way–rather the word and the artist should be read from everything. Hitchcock has this side at times, but he also has a balance in his view of the world that the film as a whole shows no less. And in his full body of work, if there are films that seem more misanthropic than even Uncle Charlie might imagine (FRENZY), there are also supremely personal films that rank among his very greatest–even to the extent of seeming payoff films for Hitchcock–and it’s especially true of THE BIRDS and MARNIE.

    So I have to say of Jacobs, it is naive to put a filmmaker into a film or scene in that way, just because a character and his or her world view is made vivid. It’s part of the job of the filmmaker to do that, isn’t it?

    I want to add this note about the Till Two bar scene and Cotten’s speech, as well as the dinner table one about the “foolish women.” These speeches were written by Thornton Wilder. I asked Bill Krohn about it after reading HITCHOCK AT WORK and he was very clear on the point. And after all, with all due respect to the excellent Sally Benson as well as to Alma Reville and to Hitchcock himself as well, these Uncle Charlie speeches are way beyond most writing. They needed a great writer and got it. Hitchcock partly prized the film because of working with Wilder, and Unce Charlie indeed makes the film the other side of OUR TOWN, and its perfect complement. And I say this as an ardent admirer of Wilder who considers that play every bit as great as its reputation.

  20. Blake Lucas Says:

    I had meant to say of THE BIRDS and MARNIE as payoff films not only that are deeply personal but supremely compassionate. That was my main reason for evoking them in this comparison and somehow I missed it so sorry if that was confusing.

  21. That’s OK! Thanks for a great contribution to the discussion. Good to know that about Wilder. He wrote a letter saying he and Hitch would come up with plot turns and then gaze at each other, appalled, as if asking “Do you think the audience can stand it?” Those speeches are incredible.

    It’s not as good a film at all, but King’s Row is also like an opposite number to the movie of Our Town, and has the same director, Sam Wood, and designer, James Cameron Menzies. They make a great Fever Dream Double Feature.

  22. What you identify, Blake, is what makes the film so powerful. There IS “an element of trth” in what Uncle Charlie says — throughout the film. But it’s just “an element.” Stretchign it to a general principle is where the horror comes in. Young Chrlie is clearly tempted by the “element” but resists being morally seduced by Uncle Charlie.

  23. In a way Uncle C has exaggerated the respectable mores of his hometown — he regards the noisy bar with the same repugnance as Charlie, and extends that emotion to the wider world. His logic – “The world is a sty: what does it matter what you do in it?” is impeccable, if you accept his judgement.

    MacDonald Carey’s character offers the voice of experience, admitting that the world has many problems, but is not beyond all hope. In which case, what we do in it matters a great deal.

  24. kittypackard Says:

    Absorbing post and absorbing comments on what is one of Hitch’s most absorbing films. Might I focus on your intriguing comment on Hitch’s ability to “enlist space around an actor for comic effect” like Keaton. Most perceptive. Keaton’s expert command of space, gravity and symmetry are unparalleled, and I fear that I am going to spend the rest of today NOT working, but reflecting other moments of similar Keatonesque skill in Hitch’s films …

    …. you have created a monster and she is very grateful. ;)

  25. Oh, I like creating monsters. Hitchcock is brilliant at compositions which make dramatic points, and he has a puckish sense of humour, so there was bound to be room for him to use the frame comically. The discovery of the body by the little kid in The Trouble With Harry is probably the broadest comedy shot in Hitchcock.

    The director whose silent work strikes me as quite Keatonish in a weird way: King Vidor.

  26. kittypackard Says:

    What a surprising choice—Vidor!

    I can understand that with films like The Patsy and Show People.

    But I wouldn’t be surprised if there was Keaton in the sprawling Big Parade (channeling The General, maybe?) Please do elaborate…

  27. I was thinking of the Marion Davies films — he has a matter-of-fact deadpan framing that enhances the comedy.

  28. kittypackard Says:

    Oh yes, like in The Patsy when she’s imitating the likes of Lillian Gish and Mae Murray! Spot-on dead-pan perfection!

  29. great post + discussion here!

    David–I’ve actually done that small town double-feature TWICE in my life (both times sans fievre, alas)

    Let me tell you, it pays hefty dividends–after a few of these films, you understand that the American filmgoers were quite comfortable with the idea of a “heartland” on the verge of cardiac arrest (no matter how willing they were to grant Frank Capra his conceit re: the country as a site of innocence–and, of course, in the only Capra film that is actually SET in a small town, he brings a bit of the sty with him)

    Cotten is amazing in this movie–but I think Wright is even better (or, at least, more distinctive within the context of the oeuvre–are there any other women (any characters period?) in Hitchcock that are as strong, compassionate, perceptive and resourceful as she is… could any other actress in Hollywood have pulled this off, without coming off as an impossible paragon?

    I’m inclined to doubt it

    Dave

  30. YES, Teresa is incredible. (Now to go back and fix my misspelling of her first name). It’s striking how little she’d done before, three movies, two of them with Wyler. I guess after surviving WW, she was ready for anything!

  31. Help! Can’t find a biography for Estelle Jewell (Catherine, young Charlie’s friend)

  32. Can only suggest researching in the Santa Rosa area, we’re told she was a local girl.

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