AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
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Shadow of a Doubt
Director: Alfred Hitchcock through the courtesy of David O. Selznick Productions, Inc. (Dir)
Release Date:   15 Jan 1943
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 12 Jan 1943
Production Date:   3 Aug--early Nov 1942
Duration (in mins):   106 or 108
Duration (in feet):   9,766
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Cast:   Teresa Wright (Young Charlie [Newton])  
    Joseph Cotten (Uncle Charlie [Oakley, also known as Mr. Spencer and Mr. Otis])  
    MacDonald Carey (Jack Graham)  
    Henry Travers (Joseph Newton)  
    Patricia Collinge (Emma [Spencer Oakley] Newton)  
    Hume Cronyn (Herbie Hawkins)  
    Wallace Ford (Fred Saunders)  
    Edna May Wonacott (Ann Newton)  
    Charles Bates (Roger Newton)  
    Irving Bacon (Station master)  
    Clarence Muse (Pullman porter)  
    Janet Shaw (Louise [Finch])  
    Estelle Jewell (Catherine)  
    Alfred Hitchcock (Man playing cards on train)  
    Minerva Urecal (Mrs. Henderson)  
    Isabel Randolph (Mrs. Margaret Green)  
    Earle S. Dewey (Mr. Norton)  
    Eily Malyon (Librarian)  
    Edward Fielding (Doctor on train)  
    Vaughan Glaser (Dr. Phillips)  
    Virginia Brissac (Mrs. Phillips)  
    Sarah Edwards (Wife of doctor on train)  
    Ruth Lee (Mrs. MacCurdy)  
    Grandon Rhodes (Reverend MacCurdy)  
    Edwin Stanley (Mr. Green)  
    Frances Carson (Mrs. Potter)  
    Byron Shores (Detective)  
    John McGuire (Detective)  
    Constance Purdy (Mrs. Martin)  
    Shirley Mills (Young girl)  

Summary: Serial murderer Charles Oakley is forced to flee Philadelphia when the police come to suspect him in the strangulations of three rich widows. Charles escapes to his unsuspecting older sister Emma Newton's home in the small town of Santa Rosa, California. At the train station, Charles is met by his brother-in-law Joseph, his young nephew Roger and his two nieces, Charlie and Ann. Charlie is especially elated by the arrival of her uncle, as she was named after him and the two have a seemingly telepathic relationship. At dinner that night, Charles, who is viewed by the Newtons as a sophisticated adventurer, gives Charlie an emerald ring, and she begins to hum the "Merry Widow" waltz, the same tune of which Charles had just been thinking. The next day, Emma tells Charles that a questionnaire man for a national poll named Jack Graham, along with photographer Fred Saunders, is conducting a survey of the Newton family, but Charles refuses to be interviewed or photographed. After spending the day with the Newtons, Jack takes Charlie on a date, and she learns that he is actually a police detective investigating her uncle. Jack tells her that Charles is one of two suspects, and Charlie agrees not to divulge his secret to her family. After Jack takes her home, Charlie rushes to the library, where she discovers that Charles had earlier destroyed her father's newspaper because it contained an article about the nationwide search for the "Merry Widow Murderer." She also learns that the third victim's name matches the engraved initials on the ring her uncle gave her. At dinner the next night, Charlie's suspicions are confirmed when Charles openly expresses his hatred of widows. She rushes out of the room when Joseph and his old friend, Herbie Hawkins, a mystery buff, discuss various forms of murder, and Charles chases after her. He forces Charlie to go into a bar and tells her that she knows nothing of the real world. Returning home, Charles promises to leave town in a few days if she will help him. Later, Fred tells Charlie that he secretly photographed Charles and they are now waiting for him to be identified by witnesses on the East Coast. Charlie then agrees to force her uncle to leave town, in order to avoid a scandal, and tells the detectives how he will be leaving. Meanwhile, Charles hears that the second murder suspect has been killed attempting to avoid the police and assumes he is safe, but soon realizes that Charlie knows the truth. After telling Charlie that her uncle has been cleared of the crimes, Jack proclaims his love and promises to return to her. Later, Charlie is almost killed when she trips on a broken step on the back stairs. She then demands that her uncle leave and threatens to kill him if he does not go. Soon thereafter, Charlie is almost killed again when she becomes trapped in the garage with a running car engine. That night, after speaking before Emma's women's club, Charles announces that he is leaving for San Francisco, on the same train as the widowed Mrs. Potter. Charles makes one last attempt to kill Charlie by throwing her off the moving train, but she pushes him into the path of an oncoming train instead. Charles is then given a grand funeral, as Charlie and Jack agree to keep his murderous nature their secret. 

Production Company: Jack H. Skirball Productions, Inc.  
  Universal Pictures Company, Inc.  
Distribution Company: Universal Pictures Company, Inc.  
Director: Alfred Hitchcock through the courtesy of David O. Selznick Productions, Inc. (Dir)
  William Tummel through the courtesy of David O. Selznick Productions, Inc. (Asst dir)
Producer: Jack H. Skirball (Prod)
Writer: Thornton Wilder (Scr)
  Sally Benson (Scr)
  Alma Reville (Scr)
  Gordon McDonell (From an orig story by)
Photography: Joseph Valentine (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: John B. Goodman (Art dir)
  Robert Boyle (Assoc)
Film Editor: Milton Carruth (Film ed)
Set Decoration: R. A. Gausman (Set dec)
  E. R. Robinson (Assoc)
Costumes: Vera West (Cost)
  Adrian (Teresa Wright's gowns)
Music: Charles Previn (Mus dir)
  Dimitri Tiomkin (Orig mus score)
Sound: Bernard B. Brown (Dir of sd)
  Robert Pritchard ([Sd] tech)
Production Misc: Adele Cannon (Set cont)
Country: United States

Music: "The Merry Widow Waltz" by Franz Lehár.
Composer: Franz Lehár

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Universal Pictures Co., Inc. 31/12/1942 dd/mm/yyyy LP11785

PCA NO: 9011
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Recording

 
Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Suspense
 
Subjects (Major): Family relationships
  Murder
  Nieces
  Small town life
  Uncles
 
Subjects (Minor): Aliases
  Attempted murder
  Bank clerks
  Barmaids
  Chases
  Clubs
  Depression, Mental
  Escapes
  Funerals
  Landladies
  Libraries and librarians
  New York City
  Philadelphia (PA)
  Photographs
  Police detectives
  Rings
  Restaurants
  Santa Rosa (CA)
  Telegrams
  Telepathy
  Train stations
  Trains
  Undercover agents
  Widows

Note: In the opening credits, a special acknowledgment notes: "...the contribution of Thornton Wilder to the preparation of this production." According to NYHT , the plot of Shadow of a Doubt was based on an actual event that took place in Hanford, CA in 1938, when a man from New York arrived in town to visit his sister's family, only to be arrested for the murders of numerous rich women on the East Coast. Writer Gordon McDonell read a newspaper story about the event and went to Hanford for twelve days, with the idea of writing a play on the subject. Three years later, McDonell met Hitchcock, and sold him a six-page story idea, which was titled "Uncle Charlie." Hitchcock then brought in noted playwright Thornton Wilder to write the screenplay, because of his work on the classic small-town play Our Town . According to modern sources, after Wilder enlisted in the Psychological Warfare Division of the U.S. Army, Hitchcock boarded a train to Florida (where Wilder was to begin his military training) with the writer in order to help him finish the screenplay. Universal press materials state that Sally Benson, who wrote the novels Meet Me in St. Louis and Junior Miss , was brought on to the project in Jul 1942 to write additional dialogue, but received a full screenwriting credit, along with Wilder and Alma Reville, Hitchcock's wife. According to modern sources, actress Patricia Collinge, who played "Emma Newton" in the film, wrote a love scene for Teresa Wright and Macdonald Carey at the behest of Wright.
       Production on Shadow of a Doubt began in Apr 1942, soon after the breakup of the producing team of Frank Lloyd and Jack Skirball, who had produced Universal's 1942 Hitchcock picture Saboteur (see entry above). According to HR , Skirball signed a one-picture deal with Universal in May 1942, with Hitchcock attached once again as director. HR news items and Life report that background shots for Shadow of a Doubt were done in Newark, NJ, while the main production began shooting on 3 Aug 1942 in the small city of Santa Rosa, CA. According to NYT , Skirball and Hitchcock had some difficulty getting permission to film in Santa Rosa, as the city had been embezzled by an unknown independent film producer, who came to town in 1925 promising to build a studio there, but ended up selling $25,000 worth of useless stock and disappearing in the dead of night. Charles Dunwoody, the secretary of the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce, was able, however, to convince the citizens that the Universal production was legitimate, and the city saw an influx of $100,000 to the community during filming. In addition, a local girl, Edna May Wonacott, was signed to play the featured role of "Ann Newton." According to HR news items, location filming ended on 26 Aug 1942, with the company returning to Universal for four more weeks of interior shooting. NYT reports that additional background shots were made in a parking lot near the Manhattan waterfront in New York.
       HR news items include thirteen-year-old Ruby Henderson in the cast, but her appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. HR news items also announced Bernard Herrmann as the film's musical director, though that position was held by Charles Previn. In published interviews in modern sources, Hitchcock proclaimed Shadow of a Doubt as a favorite among his own films. The director makes his customary cameo by appearing as a man playing cards on the train, near the beginning of the picture. The film marked the motion picture debut of actor Hume Cronin (1911--2003).
       McDonell received an Academy Award nomination for his original story, but lost to William Saroyan's work on the M-G-M production of his novel The Human Comedy . William Powell and Teresa Wright appeared in a Lux Radio Theatre production of McDonell's story on 3 Jan 1944, and Joseph Cotten and June Vincent starred in an Academy Award Playhouse adaptation broadcast on 11 Sep 1946. Two television versions of the McDonell story have also been made: a 24 Mar 1955 Lux Video Theatre production, starring Frank Lovejoy and Barbara Rush, directed by Richard Goode; and a 1991 production directed by Karen Arthur, starring Mark Harmon and Margaret Webb. Shadow of a Doubt was remade by Universal in 1958, under the title Step Down to Terror , starring Colleen Miller and Charles Drake, under the direction of Harry Keller.  

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
American Cinematographer   Apr 43   p. 135.
Box Office   16 Jan 1943.   
Daily Variety   31-Jul-42   
Daily Variety   8 Jan 43   p. 3.
Film Daily   8 Jan 43   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Apr 42   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   18 May 42   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Jul 42   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   31 Jul 42   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Aug 42   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Aug 42   p. 22.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Aug 42   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Oct 42   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Nov 42   p. 24.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Dec 42   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Jan 43   p. 5.
Life   24 Jan 1943.   
Motion Picture Daily   8 Jan 1943.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   16 Jan 43   pp. 1114-15.
New York Herald Tribune   13 Dec 1942.   
New York Times   23 Aug 1942.   
New York Times   1 Nov 1942.   
New York Times   13 Jan 43   p. 18.
Variety   13 Jan 43   p. 8.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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