Festival explores radio, film career of composer Bernard Herrmann

Film composer Bernard Herrmann is mostly known for a film that he originally disliked.

“When we left the screening of ‘Psycho,’ he said, ‘Wasn’t that the biggest piece of crap you’ve ever seen?’” said the film composer’s eldest daughter, Dorothy Herrmann. “Daddy had no use for Psycho until it became a cult classic.”

However, those shrieking, staccato violins that played during a rather violent shower scene is may be what he’s best known for.

Rehearsal of The Free Company radio drama with conductor Bernard Herrmann. Image dated April 6, 1941. Copyright © 1941 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Credit: CBS Photo Archive.

Rehearsal of The Free Company radio drama with conductor Bernard Herrmann. Image dated April 6, 1941. Copyright © 1941 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Credit: CBS Photo Archive.

Dorothy Herrmann spoke last weekend during a Bernard Herrmann festival—from April 15 through April 17—in Washington, D.C. The PostClassical Ensemble, Georgetown University, AFI Silver and the National Gallery of Art co-hosted one of few festivals that celebrates the composer’s life and career in film, radio and symphony.

Along with the weekend celebration, AFI Silver screened films scored by Herrmann throughout the month including “Hangover Square,” “Vertigo” and “The Bride Wore Black.”

Along with myself, fans and Herrmann’s family traveled from Kentucky, New York, Mississippi, North Carolina, California and Pennsylvania, to pay tribute to the composer. During the weekend festival, Herrmann historians and musicologists delved into the composer’s work.

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Why Bernard Herrmann left the Academy

Actress Mary Astor presents Bernard Herrmann with the Academy Award for Best Score for "All That Money Can Buy."

Actress Mary Astor presents Bernard Herrmann with the Academy Award for Best Score for “All That Money Can Buy.”

Bernard Herrmann is a name most avid film lovers know.

Even someone with little film knowledge is aware of his Psycho (1960) score.

You might hear film historian Robert Osborne mention his scores in an introduction to a film on Turner Classic Movies, or read an article where a musician discusses Herrmann’s influence on their album. But for someone highly revered today, Herrmann didn’t feel well respected by his contemporaries during a radio and film music career that spanned from 1934 to 1975.

Bernard Herrmann came to Hollywood in 1940 with a bang. In a time when the flowery and lilting film scores of composers like Max Steiner and Erich Wolfgang Korngold were king, Herrmann provided something different.

His first two films—Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane (1941) and William Dieterle’s All That Money Can Buy/The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941)—yielded Academy Award nominations for Best Score. Herrmann won his first and only Oscar for All That Money Can Buy.

Some of Herrmann’s film scores included Jane Eyre (1943), The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), his personal favorite; and The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) but they also were overlooked by the Academy.

His third Academy Award nomination was for the 1946 film Anna and the King of Siam. For this film, Herrmann did extensive research on Siamese scales and melodic phrases to capture the geographic tone of the film, according to “A Heart at Fire’s Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann.”

Bernard Herrmann with director William Dieterle looking over the Academy Award winning "All That Money Can Buy" score.

Bernard Herrmann with director William Dieterle looking over the Academy Award winning “All That Money Can Buy” score.

But the Academy Award for Best Score that year went to Hugo Friedhofer score for the post-World War II drama Best Years of Our Lives. It was 29 years before Herrmann was nominated again for an Academy Award, and then it would be posthumously.

Some of Herrmann’s most famous scores include those he created when he teamed with director Alfred Hitchcock for Vertigo, Psycho and North by Northwest. This proved to be Herrmann’s greatest artistic collaboration. However, none of those were every recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Hitchcock himself was nominated five times, but never received an Academy Award for Best Director. The only Academy Award Hitchcock received was the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1968.

While he worked as a film music composer, Herrmann perceived himself as a failure, because he never felt he reached his full potential by being a world-class symphony conductor. Film music was low-brow to Herrmann. However, he did see the value in film music.

“Movies need the cement of music: I’ve never seen a movie better without it,” he said. “Music is as important as photography.”

As his career advanced into the 1960s, Herrmann started to distance himself from Hollywood. Herrmann and Hitchcock had a disagreement and parted ways, never to work together again. More films were calling for pop standard-like film scores to sell records, and Herrmann wasn’t willing to lower his artistic standards to make a buck.

“If I were starting my career now, I’d have no career in films,” Herrmann said. “I don’t like the new look in film scores. They have nothing to do with the movie.”

Composer Bernard Herrmann with director Alfred Hitchcock, one of his top artistic collaborators who he later had a falling out with.

Composer Bernard Herrmann with director Alfred Hitchcock, one of his top artistic collaborators who he later had a falling out with.

All of these changes moved Herrmann to resign from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1967, because he “did not approve of music being listed as a technical credit,” according to Smith’s book.

“There’s no point to belonging to an organization in which one is judged by one’s inferiors—not one’s peers,” Herrmann was quoted in the Los Angeles Times. “It was Tolstoy who said ‘Eagles fly alone and sparrows fly in flocks.’ But I’m afraid we eagles of the world are being pushed into sanctuaries.”

Herrmann experienced a career resurgence in the 1970s, when new directors like Brain De Palma and Martin Scorsese sought him out. He passed away on Christmas Eve in 1975 after completing recording for Taxi Driver.

In 1977, Bernard Herrmann was posthumously nominated for Academy Award for Best Score for the films Taxi Driver and Obsession. Jerry Goldsmith won the award for The Omen.

“I remember Charles Ives (composer and Bernard Herrmann’s friend) saying ‘Prizes are for boys, and I’m a grown-up,” said Bernard Herrmann’s daughter, Dorothy in Smith’s book. “I believe Daddy had that same attitude.”

Dorothy said many years later when her father came across his Academy Award, he looked surprised “as if he had forgotten he had even won it.”

Listing of Herrmann’s Academy Award nominations: 

Year Award Film
1942 Nominated for Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic Picture Citizen Kane (1941)
1942 Won for Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic Picture All That Money Can Buy (1941)
1947 Nominated for Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture Anna and the King of Siam (1946)
1977 Nominated for Best Music, Original Score Taxi Driver (1976)
1977 Nominated for Best Music, Original Score Obsession (1976)

To learn more about Bernard Herrmann, follow the upcoming documentary Lives of Bernard Herrmann on Twitter and Facebook

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Life of groundbreaking Hollywood composer explored in new film

Ever wanted to get involved with a documentary or see your name in the credits of a film? Learn more about how you can get “Lives of Bernard Herrmann” closer to completion through their crowdfunding campaign.

What would the shower scene of “Psycho” be like without his piercing, staccato strings? Would the theme from “Vertigo” be as dizzying without those swirling woodwinds?

Rehearsal of The Free Company radio drama with conductor Bernard Herrmann. Image dated April 6, 1941. Copyright © 1941 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Credit: CBS Photo Archive. File X4467_2

Rehearsal of The Free Company radio drama with conductor Bernard Herrmann. Image dated April 6, 1941. Copyright © 1941 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Credit: CBS Photo Archive. File X4467_2

Forty years after his death, composer Bernard Herrmann’s still hasn’t stopped playing. His themes constantly appear in pop culture; whether it’s looped into mainstream music, used in a commercial or reworked into another composer’s score. Examples of these include Quentin Tarantino’s use of the whistling “Twisted Nerve” theme in “Kill Bill,” or the Lady Gaga using a portion of “Vertigo” in her “Born this Way” music video.

But Herrmann’s influence doesn’t stop at pop culture. You can hear traces of his impact in the scores of 20th and 21st century composers such as John Williams, Danny Elfman and Michael Giacchino

To highlight his work and continuing relevance, New York-based director Brandon Brown is directing a new full-length documentary, “Lives of Bernard Herrmann,” on the composer who worked with Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, Ray Harryhausen and Martin Scorsese. In February, Brown interviewed actor and former co-host of TCM’s “The Essentials” Alec Baldwin, who called Herrmann an equal to all of those artists.

Comet Over Hollywood spoke with Brown about what inspired the project and when his love for the composer began:

“Lives of Bernard Herrmann” director, Brandon Brown

COH: What made you decide to make the documentary? What is your goal?

BB: The documentary is my dream project; I want to make a film that I would like to watch on Bernard Herrmann. Herrmann was not only an amazing composer but he was also an interesting person. I think his music and story deserve to be more closely examined in a longer film with new interviews. My goal is to introduce people to Herrmann’s music and also sympathize with him not only as a composer, but as a character in the documentary.

COH: What inspired the title?

BB:  In an interview from 1970*, Herrmann said, “There’s no one performance of a piece [of music] that can ever reveal the whole piece… It’s not finished. It goes on and on and on. Each performance reveals something new about it again.”

When I decided on a title for this film, I had that quote in mind and applied it to Herrmann’s life. To me, a documentary on Bernard Herrmann’s life would in fact need to be a documentary on many lives. It’d be a documentary examining Herrmann’s life before music, his life of composing music, his life as a husband and father, and, finally, how his music has lived on long after his passing.

This interview is available through the Film Music Society.

COH: When did your love for Bernard Herrmann begin? What started it?

BB: It started when I was 12 or 13 after I heard the score from “Vertigo.” Up until that point, I had a general love of soundtracks that started with my love of movies and it evolved from there. John Williams was my favorite composer before Bernard Herrmann. As I got more interested in Herrmann, I learned that Williams was influenced by Herrmann and that he knew him personally. It was interesting to connect my two favorite composers.

COH: Do you remember the first time you were introduced to Bernard Herrmann? What was the score and when was it?

BB: The first score I ever heard was “The Trouble with Harry,” which was also my first Alfred Hitchcock film. I was six or seven years old.  The score that later made me aware of Herrmann was “Vertigo.” I saw how Hitchcock’s direction, the visuals of Robert Burks, the acting of Stewart and Novak and Herrmann’s music all paralleled each other.

Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann.

Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann.

BB: What is your favorite Herrmann score? What makes it memorable?

COH: “Obsession” (1976). It’s a genuinely haunting score through his use of organ and strings and how his themes reflect the characters. “Obsession” is really the same story as “Vertigo,” which has more of a romantic score. The score for “Obsession is much more haunting and eerie than “Vertigo,” and Herrmann’s finale makes the film.

COH: Though you are still in the early stages, when do you hope for the documentary to be complete?

BB: Summer 2016.

COH: What do your viewers have to look forward to? (Interviews, new information)

BB: The documentary will include interviews with Herrmann’s family, people he worked with and people who know his music well. Most of these are interviews that haven’t been conducted before on film. We’ll be revealing more information as the interviews are filmed.

COH: Why is it important that we remember Bernard Herrmann and his work today?

BB: First and foremost, Herrmann wrote some of the greatest music of the 20th century, ranking with any celebrated classical composers. Writing music wasn’t just a job for Herrmann, it was his life. He saw it as an art form and was dedicated to preserving that art form.  He demonstrated this by conducting the music of Ives, Ruggles and other great but generally unknown composers.

Orson Welles and Bernard Herrmann

Orson Welles and Bernard Herrmann

COH: How has Herrmann influenced pop culture, contemporary composers and scores?

BB: You hear his music everywhere, whether it is being reused or parodied, people are constantly finding new uses for his music. Try to think of any slasher movie that doesn’t pull inspiration from the shower scene in “Psycho,” or an outer space film that doesn’t use musical techniques from “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” Herrmann’s music was a foundation for horror, thriller and sci-fi film music. You always hear it. Every time you hear the theme from “Jaws,” you will hear traces of Herrmann.

COH: What interested you in film making and documentaries?

BB: There are plenty of stories to tell about people who made a significant impact in the world. I want to help tell these stories of people who are no longer around or left their mark on history.

Classic films in music videos: “Last Cup of Sorrow” by Faith No More

This is April’s edition of Comet Over Hollywood’s film references in music videos.

The band Faith No More, categorized as alternative metal and experimental rock, pays homage to the Alfred Hitchcock directed film, “Vertigo” (1958) in their music video “Last Cup of Sorrow.”

The band, formed in 1981 and who is coming out with a new studio album this year, released in 1997 “Last Cup of Sorrow” on their sixth album called “Album of the Year.”

FNM_-_Last_Cup_BlueThe video doesn’t just reference “Vertigo” like many music videos do, but actually plays out various scenes from the movies but in a silly, satirical manner. The single’s album art also copies the film poster’s artwork.

In the video, lead singer Mike Patton is dressed as James Stewart’s character, Scottie Ferguson, while actress Jennifer Jason Leigh is dressed as Kim Novak’s character, Madeleine. Some of the camera angles and zooms also try to mimic the cinematography by Robert Burks under Hitchcock’s direction.

Here are a few scenes from “Vertigo” with Kim Novak and James Stewart that are directly referenced in the video:

Vertigo-1958

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veritgo 2

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“I didn’t care about the movies really. I was tall. I could talk. It was easy to do.” -Joseph Cotten

Joseph Cotten

Joseph Cotten

I have two huge classic Hollywood crushes, both highly underrated: Joseph Cotten and Joel McCrea.

But it is Cotten who we celebrate today at Comet, born on this day in 1905 in Virginia, making Mr. Cotten even more appealing to your southern writer.

But if his smooth voice, wavy hair and good looks aren’t enough for you, Cotten is a darn good actor.

He stars in two of my favorite films “Since You Went Away” (1944) and Alfred Hitchcock’s “Shadow of a Doubt” (1943) as well “Citizen Kane” (1940), which the American Film Institute has named the greatest film of all-time.

He was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles.

Some of his leading ladies include Bette Davis, Ingrid Bergman, Loretta Young, Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones, Ginger Rogers, Joan Fontaine and Barbara Stanwyck.

Before films, he performed in the stage version of “Philadelphia Story” with Katharine Hepburn.

Here are a few anecdotes from Cotten’s 1987 autobiography “Vanity Will Get You Somewhere.”

Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten in Citizen Kane

Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten in Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane (1940)

The film was originally set to open in Radio City Music Hall in February 1941, until Hearst stepped in, said Joseph Cotten, who played Jedediah Leland in the film.

“Of course I knew we’d been treading on thin ice with the obvious similarities between Kane and William Randolph Hearst. I also knew that Mr. Hearst was a powerful man. I was to discover just how powerful,” said Cotten. “The Radio City Music Hall turned down Citizen Kane because Louella Parsons, Hearst’s right hand, had threatened the theater.”

The executive producer, George Schaefer, was offered money to destroy the picture and the negative.

“The whole motion picture industry was threatened if they showed the movie,” Cotten said. “Hearst’s newspapers would bring skeletons out of the closets, and there were many.”

Schaefer refused to be bullied and was able to get bookings for the film in a couple of independent movie houses, Cotten said.

“Although people who sneaked in to see the picture raved about it, none of our names were mentioned in the Hearst newspapers or mentioned in Louella Parson’s column,” he said. “What I found personally rather baffling, after Kane, I made several movies in which my name was above the title but Hearst’s newspapers always managed to review these pictures without mentioning my name. It was quite a feat to tell the entire story of a film and leave out the leading man.”

 Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

Cotten told Hitchcock that he was nervous to play a murderer and wasn’t sure how they behaved, he wrote in his autobiography.

“Uncle Charlie (Cotten’s character) feels no guilt at all. To him, the elimination of his widows is a dedication, an important sociological contribution to civilization,” Hitchcock told him.  (67)

As Uncle Charlie in “Shadow of a Doubt”:

Her’s to Hold (1943)

While Cotten filmed “Her’s to Hold” with Deanna Durbin, a misunderstanding occurred.

Cotten was out late and had an early morning call for a radio show. He left a message with his wife Lenore that he would be staying in his dressing room (69).

Cotten and Durbin in a scene in "Her's to Hold" with Murray Alper in the background.

Cotten and Durbin in a scene in “Her’s to Hold” with Murray Alper in the background.

When he left his dressing room that morning, he found a security guard waiting outside who greeted him good morning. When Cotten met Durbin that morning in the commissary, he found out she had also stayed overnight in her bungalow.

Hedda Hopper got a hold of the story.

“The item that appeared in Hedda’s column was not the personal kind of reference that one would clip for a scrapbook, or care to preserve in any of those elaborate, leather-bound gift journals inscribed ‘Golden Memories,’” Cotten wrote (71).

After the incident, he called Hopper up and said if his name was mentioned again, he would kick her in the behind. She did and he did.

“The Kick was not a boot that would have carried a football over the crossbar, but neither was it a token tap,” he wrote. “…the contact was positive enough to disturb the flower garden on top of the outrageous hats she was renowned for.”

Since You Went Away (1944)

Cotten on the set of Since You Went Away with Jones. The two starred in four films together. He remained friends with Jones and Selznick.

Cotten on the set of Since You Went Away with Jones. The two starred in four films together. He remained friends with Jones and Selznick.

“Claudette (Colbert) was one of the most complete, humorous, hard-working and delightfully, almost shockingly, honest creatures I’ve ever worked with, Cotten said in his autobiography.

During the filming, Robert Walker and Jennifer Jones were going through a divorce and it was rumored Jones would marry David O. Selznick after the divorce was final.

“Claudette and I, each thinking that we were sitting on a powder keg, remained silent. The picture was not in any way affected by their romance.

The only person on our set who behaved in a rather furtive and giggly fashion was young Shirley Temple. Years later she told me that she had a schoolgirl crush on me.” (56)

Cotten said Temple had tried to convince the director to let her kiss him in the film. But in the movie, it was Jones’s character who had the crush on Cotten.

“The poor girl had to gaze at me adoringly non-stop,” he said.

Niagara (1953)

Cotten and Monroe on the set of Niagara

Cotten and Monroe on the set of Niagara

“I enjoyed her company. I enjoyed working with her,” Cotten said about working with Marilyn Monroe in her first starring role (110).

He said she had an appetite for laughter and was aware of her sense of humor describing her as a “pretty clown.”

Cotten recalls hearing about her death and receiving a phone call from the Associated Press for a comment.

“At first I was sure it had to be an accident. Such buoyancy of spirit, such sparkling anticipation, such a happy and comic attitude would deny support to any theory,” he wrote. “But she had such moments of fear and insecurity….As to all the other furtive theories-cover-up, murder, etc. – I have no knowledge or interest in such sordidness. I knew and acted with Marilyn Monroe. I am proud of having that privilege.”

Medina and Cotten in 1962

Medina and Cotten in 1962

Cotten was married to his first wife from 1931 to 1960 when she passed away from leukemia.

He married Patricia Medina from 1960 until his death in 1994. Cotten said she was the most beautiful woman in the world.

“If Helen of Troy’s face launched a thousand ships, Patricia’s could launch a million,” he said. “She is possibly the only truly beautiful woman ever to exist who is not disliked by one single person.”

“We are ordinary, extraordinarily lucky people,” Cotten wrote. “For that, all I can say is ‘Amen.’”

Happy birthday, Joseph Cotten, one of the best actors of classic film.

Happy birthday, Jo

Happy birthday, Jo

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Turner Classic Film Festival: MacMurray, Harlow, Hitchcock, Bow and Wayne

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Friday (April 26) is the first full day of the Turner Classic Film Festival and it has been amazing.
Above is a photo of Kate MacMurray, daughter of Fred MacMurray and June Haver introducing “Suddenly It’s Spring” (1947).
The next photo is the ceiling of the Egyptian Theater where I saw “Notorious” (1946) and “It” (1927).
Today’s films that I saw:
-Libeled Lady (1936) starring Jean Harlow, William Powell, Spencer Tracy and Myrna Loy. I’ve seen it several times and can say its a favorite comedy of mine.
TCM’s Scott McGee introduced the film and said, “Screwball comedy is a lost art” which I would agree with.
Libeled Lady was advertised the first “all-star cast” since Dinner at Eight, McGee said.
It’s really amazing to sit in a theater where people applaud when Harlow comes on screen and die with laughter during Powell’s trout fishing scene.
-Suddenly It’s Spring (1947) starring Paulette Goddard and Fred MacMurray.
I LOVED this one. A really fun comedy about a couple who decides to get a divorce in 1941 but both serve during WW2. When they return, Goddard, who’s career as a WAC is giving marriage advice, isn’t so sure about the divorce but MacMurray already has a new bride picked out.
MacMurray’s daughter Kate spoke before the movie and told wonderful stories such as:
-John Wayne set up her parents June Haver and Fred MacMurray at a costume party. MacMurray’s previous wife had passed away as did Haver’s boyfriend.
“Mother was dressed as a saloon girl, maybe that’s what did it,” MacMurray said.
-MacMurray, a saxophonist and also once a singer for a jazz band, played the saxophone for the My Three Sons TV show theme song.
-After making The Apartment-where he plays a cad-the MacMurray family was at DisneyLand. A woman approached him and hit him with her purse because she had taken her family to see the movie. “That wasn’t a Disney movie,” she told him. MacMurray felt uncomfortable playing his roles in Billy Wilder films “The Apartment” and “Double Indemnity” since they weren’t his customary nice guy, comedic roles.
-Carole Lombard got him a raise at Paramount
-Haver met MacMurray before the costume party while making a film. Haver said he was so sweet and would bring his lunch, usually a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

-Notorious (1946) starring Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant. Rose McGowan spoke before the film and said it was a favorite of her’s. Hitchcock’s creative shots looked excellent on the big screen, but I must confess I dozed off. Not because I was bored but the 3 hour time change and lack of food (there’s literally no time to eat) made me tired.

-It (1927) starring Clara Bow. This was the first time I had seen a silent film with a live orchestra accompanying and it was AMAZING. Biographer David Stenn who wrote “Clara Bow: Running Wild” spoke before the film and called her a “great natural talent of movies.”
It is a really fun silent film, which coined Bow as the “It” girl. But as a dachshund owner, my favorite line is “I feel so low I could walk underneath a dachshund on stilts.”

-Hondo (1954): starring John Wayne and Geraldine Page. This was the first 3D movie I’ve EVER seen. It was amazing. I’ve always said She Wore a Yellow Ribbon was my favorite Wayne film but seeing Hondo for a second time may have changed my mind. The film is a perfect example of Wayne’s ruggedness and western appeal as he fights off the Apaches. In short, John Wayne is my ideal man.

That’s all for tonight! I opted to skip out on the midnight showing of Plan 9 from Outer Space to gear up for tomorrow’s films.
For updates during the day: check me out on Twitter @HollywoodComet or @StarJPickens. If you don’t have a twitter account, you should still be able to find me even by googling my name and Twitter.
Apologies in advanced for any typos. I’m using WordPress on my phone which is slightly cumbersome.

Birthday Blogathon: Film #2 Shadow of a Doubt

For my second evening of birthday favorite films I chose:

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

From LIFE: Stroboscopic multiple exposure of Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten talking and struggling as characters from Alfred Hitchcock's film "Shadow of a Doubt."

Brief plot: Charlotte “Charlie” Newton is bored with her small town life and feels her family isn’t living to their full potential. She wants a miracle to come along-it does in the form of her namesake- Uncle Charlie Oakley. However, her beloved uncle has a dark secret. The film stars Teresa Wright, Joseph Cotton, Henry Travers, Hume Cronyn,  Patricia Collinge, MacDonald Carey and Edna Mae Wonacott.

 Why I love it:

I’ve seen 40 of Alfred Hitchcock’s 57 films that he directed. I like almost all of them, particularly those from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s but “Shadow of a Doubt” is by far my favorite.

It’s much different than most of his more famous films like “North by Northwest”, “Psycho” or “The Birds.” I feel like the danger of the characters in those films is a little far-fetched. Not many of us steal money from our boss and flee, are chased by an airplane or live in a town inhabited by crazed birds.  The terror of “Shadow of a Doubt” is more realistic and obtainable to the average person.

Most of the cast, receiving gifts from Uncle Charlie.

The Characters: Though Charlie considers her family “average” they are actually pretty quirky. Dad (Travers) and his buddy (Cronyn) get together each night and harmlessly discuss ways to murder people without getting caught. Young Ann (Wonacott) is nosy, intelligent and is reading “Ivanhoe” while her father is reading dime store mysteries. The mother (Collinge) isn’t the grounded, serious type of mother you’d expect from a small town-she’s no Emily Hardy. She’s flighty, clueless and never shuts up. They are not what I would consider your typical small town, 1940s family.  All of the actors in this film are prefect as well. Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotton are two of my all time favorite actors-not to mention Cotton is a huge heartthrob of mine.  Henry Travers and Hume Cronyn are adorable and Edna Mae Wonacott is hilarious.  Edna Mae hadn’t had any acting experience prior to this film, Hitchcock discovered her in her hometown of Santa Monica where the film was shot. You can read more in an excellent post The Lady Eve wrote about Edna Mae.

Location: It’s fun to see small town America in 1930s and 1940s films. I don’t know what Santa Monica looks like now, but I think it looks so beautiful in this movie. It’s also different than the locations we see in lots of other Hitchcock films.  “Rear Window” is in the city, “To Catch a Thief” is on the Rivera, “Foreign Correspondent” is in London,  “Lifeboat” is in the middle of the ocean.  Several of these film settings aren’t where your average American is going to be, but small town Santa Monica looks like the sort of place most Americans were familiar with during the 1940s.

Teresa Wright at the bottom of the stairs while Joseph Cotton looks down.

Camera Shots: This movie has some shots that are competitors with one of my all-time favorite shots-the strangling scene in “Strangers on a Train.”  Scene I love in “Shadow of a Doubt” include Joseph Cotton pacing back and forth and Hitchcock shoots up from the floor.  During another scene, Cotton is giving a rather powerful speech at the dinner table and we are looking at Cotton’s profile. Throughout the speech the camera gets closer and closer to his face until he looks straight into the camera and says the last word. So haunting and perfect. Another shot  interesting  is so simple but excellent. Joseph Cotton is walking up the stairs and turns around half way. We look down the stairs at Teresa Wright who is standing on the front porch with the door open looking back up at him. The angle along with the light coming in from outside and her shadow hitting the entry way floor is perfect.

Here is the scene with the speech I discussed-also my favorite part of the movie: 

Script: For a thriller, there are several funny, clever little lines in the film. One part that always makes me giggle is when Ann Newton (Edna Mae) is saying her prayers, “God bless mama, papa, Captain Midnight, Veronica Lake and the President of the United States.”

Another Ann Newton/Edna Mae line to Teresa Wright who is humming the Merry Widow Waltz: “Sing at the table and you’ll marry a crazy husband.” Younger brother Roger Newton says, “Supersticions have been proven 100% wrong.”

I also giggle when the father/Travers finds out they got a telegram: “I knew there’d be trouble if your Aunt Sarah got her license.”

But aside from the goofy little lines, there are some very powerful lines as well, such as the speech Cotton gives at the table about fat old widows and their money and later when he tells Wright that she is a silly, ordinary, small town girl.

Simple yet appropriate gown for Wright's character.

Fashion: This might seem silly, but I’ve always loved the clothes in this movie. The scene where Charlie is walking quickly, almost running away from her Uncle Charlie in downtown Santa Monica always sticks out for one main reason-Teresa Wright’s spectator pumps. While re-watching this, I thought about Wright’s clothes in this film and other movies she’s in like Mrs. Miniver. They dress her in very similar outfits: tailored suits and wide shoulders with white accents on the jacket or dress.  Even the evening gown she wears at the end is great. It’s not very glamorous, but it suits Wright’s personality and is appropriate for a small town high school girl. Joseph Cotton also looks severely handsome in every suit he wears. The only thing that bothers me in MacDonald Carey’s hair. What’s with that?

To Review: This has always been my number one favorite Hitchcock film-“Sabatuer”, “Foreign Correspondent” and “Strangers on a Train” following close behind. It pleased me very much that this was also Hitchcock’s personal favorite film. I think I like it so much because it’s simple and not very flashy. It gets overlooked by Hitchcock fans for this very reason but it has more meaning than most of his films-not to mention some of the best performances from all of these actors.

Here is the second speech I discussed about “ordinary girl in a small town”: 

 This concludes Night 2 of Birthday Blogathon Week. Please stop by again tomorrow for another favorite film of mine!

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