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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Just like the prince and the pauper…

Do you ever watch a movie and think, “Man, those actresses could be sisters.” or  “It’s hard to tell those two men apart because they look so similar.”   These actors could maybe even switch places just like Billy and Bobby Mauch did in “The Prince and the Pauper” (1937).

Younger movie viewers of today may say that all old actors all look the same. This isn’t true of course, but there are some that certainly look very similar. This is a result of being groomed by movie studios to have glamour and charm.

Actors and actresses also are given names that sound similar and can cause confusion.

Here is a list of actors who look similar and have confusingly similar names.

Look-a-likes:

Joan Leslie, Joyce Reynolds, Teresa Wright

Joan Leslie, Joyce Reynolds, Teresa Wright
-Joyce Reynolds emerged in the 1940s in the movie “Janie” with a clean Joan Leslie appearance and a squeaky Teresa Wright voice.  Warner Brothers must have thought that Joan and Joyce looked similar as well, since Joan Leslie played Janie in the sequel to “Janie”: “Janie Gets Married.”

Vera Miles, Vera-Ellen, Mitzi Gaynor

Vera-Ellen, Vera Miles, Mitzi Gaynor
– I think the thing that is funniest is that two of the women have the same first name.  I can tell the difference between them, but you have to admit they all look very similar. All three women are very thin, blonde and rather tan. Vera Miles had one of her first acting roles on the TV show “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and looked very similar to Vera-Ellen because she was thinner than I had ever seen her.   However, all three women had different careers.
Vera Miles stared mostly in dramatic roles, and occasionally in bit parts on TV (like a romantic interest for Fred MacMurray on “My Three Sons“) .  After Grace Kelly, she was Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite actress, according to IMDB. Unfortunately, she had to turn down roles because she was pregnant. Miles is still living.
Vera-Ellen was a ballet dancer and was in several musicals. In earlier movies like “On the Town,” Vera was thin, but looked healthy. In later movies, like “White Christmas,” she was almost dangerously thin, because she was anorexic. She had the smallest waist in Hollywood in the 1940s and 1950s and suffered from early aging because of anorexia ,according to IMDB, so you will notice that she wears turtle necks to cover it.  After she retired she had severe arthritis and was practically a recluse, dying in 1981.
Mitzi Gaynor is best known for her role in movie musicals like “South Pacific.” Though she didn’t have a tremendous career, she was very successful with her comedic, musical variety TV specials in the 1960s and 1970s. Currently, Mitzi is performing a one woman show. 0

Anne Shirley and Olivia de Havilland

Anne Shirley and Olivia de Havilland
-Anne Shirley  never had the same star power or acting skills as Olivia de Havilland, but you can’t deny their similar appearance. Particularly the way Anne Shirley looks in “The Devil & Daniel Webster.” The two starred together in the irritating comedy “Government Girl” (a movie that de Havilland hated and had to make because of contractual agreements. She purposefully acted ridiculous in the movie).

 
 
 

John Carroll and James Craig

John Carroll and James Craig
– Both men played small romantic roles in the 1940s when most of the lead actors like Clark Gable and Robert Taylor were fighting in World War II. Carroll starred with Esther Williams in “Fiesta ” (1947) and “Flying Tigers” (1942) with John Wayne. Craig was in several “feel good” movies in the 1940s like “Our Vines Have Tender Grapes” (1945) with Margaret O’Brien and “The Human Comedy” (1943) with Fay Bainter.

Joan Blondell and Ann Sothern

Joan Blondell and Ann Sothern
-In the 1930s, Joan Blondell had a curvy, sassy look of her own; pretty but also comedic. In the 1940s, Blondell was a bit more curvy and switched from the tight 1930s hair styles to long and wavy. Her 1940s look was similar to Ann Sothern, who also was a bit curvy. Both actresses can be found in light comedic roles.

Names that confuse:

-Reginald Gardner, Reginald Owen, Reginald Denny (I’m still not sure which is which sometimes)

-Eleanor Parker and Eleanor Powell

-Margaret Sullivan and Maureen O’Sullivan

-Connie Stevens and Stella Stevens

What actors do you confuse? What names can you not remember?  Let me know!

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