Review: Shadow of a Doubt (1943)


I doubt a lot of things, no shadows need be involved!

Screenplay By: Sally Benson, Alma Reville, & Thornton Wilder
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock made a career out of showing us that which we did not want to see. He loved to make us go into those dark places that we barely traverse and generally try to avoid. Shadow of a Doubt is perhaps his greatest achievement in that regard, because it attacks suburban life at a time when suburban life was considered beyond reproach. The image of suburbia in the 1940′s was one of simplicity, honesty, and good people. The crime and drama was confined to the big cities in the minds of most people. We all know this wasn’t the case, but it took Sir Hitchcock to show us in movie form what the truth really was, suburbia was just as messed up as the big city. It wouldn’t be until John Carpenter brought Halloween to the big screen in 1978 that the image of suburbia would be attacked as viciously.

Shadow of a Doubt is also a very astute allegory for the times the world was entering in 1943, specifically America. The Second World War was already in full swing by this time, but America was now involved and in very subtle ways Shadow of a Doubt was an attack on allowing evil into your homes and the actions that were being propagated because of the War. America was being painted as the land of the free and the brave, yet we had allowed evil into our hearts with our actions against Japanese citizens in America. Uncle Charlie enters the quaint suburban life of the Newton’s and brings evil for everyone to see, only for that evil to be ignored even after his death. In the same sense the evil of the Second World War was seeping into the American consciousness, only to be ignored by everyone in favor of the idealized version of America. In that respect Shadow of a Doubt is Sir Hitchcock’s most socially relevant film as well as possibly his most allegorical film.

Like most Alfred Hitchcock works the direction and cinematography in Shadow of a Doubt is superb and some of the best you will ever see in cinema. The acting is also top notch, a young Hume Cronyn almost steals the show as the death obsessed neighbor Herbie. Joseph Cotten is perfectly blasé as the common killer, the right person to blend into suburbia. Teresa Wright is able to hit all the right notes and drive the suspense along with her well timed and adroit performance. But, the movie is too abrupt with Charlotte’s change in attitude towards her Uncle and the love connection between Charlotte and Jack feels tacked on and completely unnecessary. Small quibbles for sure, but they are what stop Shadow of a Doubt from being a near perfect movie.

Shadow of a Doubt is one of Sir Hitchock’s many great works, as well as the only time you will get to see Joseph Cotten play a bad guy. For that reason alone Shadow of a Doubt is worth seeing, but it is also a tremendous allegorical take on the world at the time, and the suburban life style. Shadow of a Doubt is a movie I would make the time for.



Bill Thompson


3 responses to “Review: Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

  1. Now, if you just could learn to spell Joseph Cotten’s name correctly!

  2. E, O, it’s all the same to me 🙂

  3. Pingback: Postulating & Pontificating: Horror Bonanza! | Bill's Movie Emporium

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