Filmsite Movie Review
Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
Pages: (1) (2) (3) (4)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

During dinner in a shot from Emma's point of view, Charles has been centrally placed at the head of the table as the family's beloved guest. He speaks of his wealthy trappings in a far-away place, and his button-pushing, manipulative control of his environment:

It wasn't the biggest yacht in the world, but it had a nice little fireplace in the library and the bar was paneled in bleached mahogany. You pushed a button, and...(He pauses and speaks directly into the camera - to Emma) What am I talking about? That's all over. Let's talk about you.

Rapidly, he changes the subject and compliments Charlie on her dress, forgetting that it was a gift he had once sent her: "That's the prettiest dress I ever saw." He presents everyone with darkly-wrapped gifts:

  • To Ann: a stuffed animal (elephant) - he still looks upon her as an infant
  • To Roger: a toy pistol with holster
  • To Joe: his first wristwatch, to which he responds: "The fellows at the bank will think I'm quite a sport."
  • To Emma: "I've two for you, Emmie. One old and one new."

The new item is a black fur stole/collar. Charlie happily adds: "Mother, it's exactly right. It's what you should have." The old, sentimental gift is a pair of photographs of their parents that he's had "all along...all these years, safe in a deposit box no matter where I was." Roger is amazed at the date: "1888, fifty-three years ago." Charlie admires her own grandmother: "My, she was pretty!" Then, Uncle Charles talks about his nostalgic memories of the forgotten past that were, to his recollection, idyllic and romanticized when compared to the corrupted modern world. Both give misleading interpretations - Charles of the past, and Charlie of the present:

Uncle Charles: Everybody was sweet and pretty then, Charlie. The whole world. A wonderful world. Not like the world today. Not like the world now. It was great to be young then.
Charlie: We're all happy now, Uncle Charlie. Look at us! For once, we're all happy at the same time.

The scene builds up to Uncle Charlie's special gift for his intelligent niece (a gift that will be "more in the end" than "what she's hoping" for!) - it is presented to her in the privacy of the kitchen. [The word "crazy" is interpreted from various perspectives]:

Uncle Charles: Now for your present, Charlie.
Charlie: Oh I don't want anything. Right now, I have enough. Before you came, I didn't think I had anything, but now (she walks behind him, and his shadow casts its darkness over her as she walks into the kitchen) I don't want another thing.
Roger: She's crazy.
Ann: She doesn't mean it, really. If you ask me, I think she's putting on like girls in books. The ones that say they don't want anything always get more in the end. That's what she's hoping.
Joe: She's not crazy. The smartest girl in her class in school. Won the debate against the East Richmond High School single-handed. She's got brains.

After Uncle Charles follows her into the kitchen, Charlie keeps insisting that she's just happy to have him there. She ironically pinpoints exactly what he will be giving her - nothing: "Please don't give me anything." And she foreshadows that his psycho-sexual gift "would spoil things." Significantly, she speaks about their twin-ness, their closeness beyond niece and uncle, their similarly secretive natures and their special relationship to one another:

Charlie: I can't explain it but you came here and Mother's so happy and I'm glad that she named me after you and that she thinks we're both alike. I think we are too. I know it. It would spoil things if you should give me anything.
Uncle Charles: You're a strange girl, Charlie. Why would it spoil things?
Charlie: Because we're not just an uncle and a niece. It's something else. I know you. I know that you don't tell people a lot of things. I don't either. I have the feeling that inside you somewhere, there's something nobody knows about. (The camera slowly tracks toward him)
Uncle Charles: Something nobody knows?
Charlie: Something secret and wonderful and - I'll find it out.
Uncle Charles: It's not good to find out too much, Charlie.
Charlie: But we're sorta like twins, don't you see? We have to know.
Uncle Charles: Give me your hand, Charlie.

In a scene of perverted courtship and marriage, she places her hand trustingly in his as he 'weds' his twin with his gift of an emerald ring. [Emeralds are traditionally considered bad luck.] [Are they opposites, enemies, mirror images, or complementary characters?] After placing the gem on her finger, she graciously and quickly accepts it without hardly looking down. After she scrutinizes it more closely and notices its mysterious, engraved inscription, he is taken aback and wishes he hadn't encouraged her to accept it (and inspect it!). She doesn't mind the engraving, thinking that it's still "perfect the way it is" if it gave previous owners happiness:

Charlie: Thank you.
Uncle Charles: You didn't even look at it.
Charlie: I don't have to look at it. No matter what you gave me, it would be the same.
Uncle Charles: Here, let me show you. It's a good emerald, a really good one. Good emeralds are the most beautiful things in the world.
Charlie: You've had something engraved on it that's different.
Uncle Charles: (denying the truth) I haven't, but I will if you like it.
Charlie: Yes you have, Uncle Charlie, it's very faint. [The Merry Widow Waltz begins to play on the soundtrack.] 'TS from BM' - those must be someone's initials.
Uncle Charles: Well I've been rooked. The jeweler rooked me.
Charlie: Oh it doesn't matter, really it doesn't.
Uncle Charles: Here, give it back. I'll have it taken off.
Charlie: No, no, I like it this way. Someone else was probably happy with this ring. It's perfect the way it is.

As Uncle Charles returns to the dining room with Charlie, visions of the waltzing couples in the ballroom from the beginning of the film (and from the idealized past) are superimposed over him - mysteriously marking and linking him. As she serves coffee, Charlie compulsively hums the Merry Widow Waltz, causing her younger sister to intuitively note that she has been 'betrothed' to a crazy man: "Sing at the table and you'll marry a crazy husband." However, Roger presents another, more logical and rigid point of view about superstitions: "Superstitions have been proved 100% wrong."

Uncle Charles proposes transferring some money ("thirty or forty thousand, just to start things off right") from the East and putting it in Joe's bank the next morning after opening up an account. Roger's skeptical opinion of the real world is that "the government will get it." Emma's off-screen voice laments with a sense of wonderment: "Goodness, the way men do things!" as Charlie still hums the contagious waltz:

I can't get that tune out of my head. Maybe if somebody tells me what it is, I'll forget it...You know, it's the funniest thing. Sometimes I get a tune in my head like that, and pretty soon I hear somebody else humming it too. I think tunes jump from head to head.

Charlie's mother identifies the tune as a 'Victor Herbert' waltz. To obscure the facts, Uncle Charles recalls it as the Blue Danube Waltz. When Charlie actually remembers its real name ("No, it isn't, Uncle Charlie. I know what it is. It's the Mer-..."), Uncle Charles deliberately tips over his water glass (in full-screen close-up) to distract attention and interrupt her thought. Emma suggests that Charles relax in the living room and read the evening paper: "You never were much on helping."

Joe's intrusive, 'literary critic' neighbor, an effeminate, odd-ball Herbert Hawkins (Hume Cronyn) (a mama's boy whose infirm and invalid mother is "just middling") arrives with a bundle of pulp murder mysteries under his arm (Unsolved Crime Stories, Murder Mysteries, etc.) to enjoy his favorite ghoulish occupation - discussing with Joe different means of committing murder. Emma removes the seat cushion from beneath Herb and the newspaper from her husband's hands and prepares a comfortable nesting place for her brother: "There now, lead a life of luxury." Displaced as head of the house and banished from the living room to the porch with Herb, Joe rationalizes: "Wife's brother from the East. New York man. Good for the children...He takes himself very seriously."

On the front porch, the avid murder mystery lovers/detectives, bored by small-town life, obsessively discuss "the best way to commit a murder" and then solve their hideous, fictional crimes while sublimating their own hostility. [Herb exhibits hidden aggression toward his invalid mother.] The potential pulp authors, not realizing that a real murderer is in their midst, confuse the writing of a homicidal book with their own playful imaginings of murder. While Joe seems to be more interested in getting away with murder, Herb shows greater attention to planning, the planting of detailed clues and elaborate killing methods:

Herb: I know. Hit him on the head with a blunt instrument.
Joe: ...Listen, if I wanted to murder you tomorrow, do you think I'd waste my time on fancy hypodermics? Or on Inni?...Indian arrow-poison. Listen, I'd find out if you were alone, walk in, hit you on the head with a piece of lead pipe or a loaded cane...
Herb: What would be the fun of that? Where's your planning? Where's your clues?
Joe: I don't want any clues. I want to murder you. What do I want with clues?
Herb: Well, if you haven't got any clues, where's your book?
Joe: I'm not talkin' about writin' books. I'm talkin' about killing you!
Herb: Well, if I was gonna kill you, I wouldn't do a dumb thing like hitting you on the head. First of all, I don't like the fingerprint angle. Of course, I could always wear gloves. Press your hands against the pipe after you were dead and make you look like a suicide. Except it don't seem hardly likely that you'd beat yourself to death with a club. I'd murder you so it didn't look like murder.

After the mention of the word 'murder,' the film abruptly returns to Charles who is hidden behind his newspaper and clouds of cigar smoke. He lowers Joe's sacred newspaper and folds it up after reading a self-revealing section - presumably on the subject of real murder. To rip out the offending piece of the paper without drawing attention to himself, he deceptively offers to have Ann watch a make-believe game that involves tearing up the paper: "Did you ever see a house made out of newspapers?" She disdains his inferior form of entertainment, thinking it beneath her. In fact, all three children notice how he has obliterated "papa's paper." (He is able to successfully remove two pages that contain the objectionable article.) As Charlie reassembles the pages in order to restore the paper for her father (and mask its imperfection), she notices that pages three and four remain missing: "If I fold it very neatly, maybe he won't notice." Meanwhile, her words are associated with her uncle's actions - he has secretively folded and concealed the newspaper page behind his own back.

Charlie climbs the stairs that evening, with shadows from the vertical stairway banister casting imprisoning bars on the hallway wall. After she leaves a tray with a pitcher of water in his room and he wishes her "pleasant dreams" while rubbing and shining his shoes, she spots her uncle's coat pocket bulging with part of the evening's newspaper. [Sexual connotations can be meaningfully read into this scene.] To reveal her knowledge of his hidden secret, she closes the door and triumphantly announces how she has penetrated into his concealment and knows he is hiding something:

Charlie: Uncle Charlie. I know a secret about you you don't think I know.
Uncle Charles: What secret?
Charlie: Well, remember I said you couldn't hide anything from me because I'd find it out? Now I know there was something in the evening paper about you.
Uncle Charles: About me in the evening paper?
Charlie: About you, and that's why you played that game with Ann and Roger. You didn't want us to know, and you wanted to tear the paper. But now I know, you might as well tell me.
Uncle Charles: Well, you've got me there, Charlie. Only it wasn't about me, it was about, uh, someone I used to know.

She grabs the missing newspaper page with a gaping hole and triumphantly holds it up to him: "There!" He suddenly rises and denounces her: "It's none of your business." After snapping at her, he marches quickly toward the camera (and toward her), grabs and grips her wrists tightly, and violently wrenches down on them - causing her fearful shock, pain, and anguish: "Uncle Charlie, you're hurting me." Still holding her hands, he tenderly apologizes in a sincere tone and tells her he was just fooling to protect her sensitivity and to have her mind her own business: "It was nothing. Just some gossip. And not very pretty about someone I once met up with. Not for you to read." As she leaves his room, he bids her: "Goodnight young child," and she reciprocates his "pleasant dreams." He picks up the newspaper and folds it while smiling to himself. The scene ends with an outside, night-time view of the Newton's house. A clock chimes.

Charlie must share a room with her younger sister Ann - both give up their "privacy" to allow Uncle Charles to have a room to himself. As Charlie rests her head on her pillow for "pleasant dreams," she begins humming the Merry Widow Waltz - and thinking of her beloved Uncle. Likewise, he is propped up on his bed's pillow, smoking a cigar. He blows a perfect smoke ring into the air - it is a unifying symbol of their marriage [the ring is also the one object that will ultimately sever their relationship]. A train whistle sounds in the distance.

[Friday] The next morning at 10:30, Uncle Charles is served breakfast in bed by his pampering sister. While unpacking his bags, she also informs him that the family will soon be "in the limelight" - they are being interviewed and photographed as a typical or representative American family by the local newspaper, and that the Women's Guild club she belongs to wants him to give a lecture. (Meanwhile, Charlie is "running around the house as though she'd lost her mind. She thinks everything needs fixing.") Indirectly calling her a 'fool,' Uncle Charles disapproves that she gave permission for "two strangers" to interview them and take pictures of their "typical American family" life - exposing them "to a couple of snoopers":

Emma: You're not the only celebrity in this town. The whole Newton family is going to be in the limelight...A young man called this morning. Said his name was Graham (Uncle Charles calmly tears his toast) and he wants to interview everybody in this house...He's being sent around the country by some kind of institute or committee or something. He has to pick representative American families and ask them questions. It's a kind of a poll. It's called the 'National Public Survey.'...He said he wanted a typical American family. I told him we weren't a typical American family.
Uncle Charles: Well if he's going to ask a lot of questions, he can leave me out of it.
Emma: Oh, but you could tell him so much more than any of us could. He's gonna take our pictures too.
Uncle Charles: Pictures...
Emma: You see, there were really, there were really two young men. One of them takes the pictures.
Uncle Charles: (suspiciously) Oh, there were two.
Emma: Yes, Mr. Graham was the nicest. Oh, he doesn't want us to dress up or anything. He just wants us to act the way we always do.
Uncle Charles: Emmie, women are fools. They'd fall for anything. Why do you let two strangers come into your house and turn the place upside down? Why expose the family to a couple of snoopers? (He gestures with his knife toward her, exhibiting disguised hostility) You ought to have better sense.

When Charlie joins them, he tells her that Emma has "the Newtons being picked for all-American suckers." Emma insists that the effects of the government survey will be harmless:

The way Mr. Graham told it, it wasn't like snooping at all. It was our duty as citizens. It's something the government's for the public good.

Uncle Charles rebukes her and is vehement about not participating in the survey due to his visitor status: "My advice to you is to slam the door in his face." He is particularly sensitive about being photographed, even though Charlie explains that they'd receive free photographs. He insists that he would have remembered if his picture had ever been taken in the past - he tells them that he's never been photographed. [His clouded memory of "all the old things" illustrates his false perception of himself. Also, his insistence that he not be photographed is another allusion to his vampirish character.] In another disclosure, Charlie fetches and produces an old photograph of him as a child, as Emma (functioning as her brother's surrogate mother) remembers his nature as a "quiet boy, always reading" [likewise, Charlie is the intellectual in the Newton family]. She also recalls that the picture was taken the day her brother suffered a terrible bicycle accident and skull fracture that nearly killed him. As he sits passively in bed, she makes him endure the memory and relive the suffering of the life-altering incident that utterly changed him forever. Afterwards he would regularly "get into mischief" - the main excuse for his aberrant behavior:

Uncle Charles: I've never been photographed in my life and I don't want to be.
Emma: But Charles, how can you talk that way? I had a photograph of you. I gave it to Charlie.
Uncle Charles: I tell you there are none.
Emma: I guess you've forgotten this one...It was taken the Christmas you got your bicycle, just before your accident.
Charlie: Uncle Charlie, you were beautiful!
Emma: Wasn't he, though? And such a quiet boy, always reading. I always said Papa never should have bought you that bicycle. You didn't know how to handle it. Charlie, he took it right out on the icy road and skidded into a streetcar. We thought he was going to die.
Charlie: I'm glad he didn't.
Emma: Well he almost did. He fractured his skull. And he was laid up so long. And then - when he was getting well, there was no holding him. It was just as though all the rest he had was, well, too much for him, and he had to get into mischief to blow off steam. He didn't do much reading after that, let me tell you. It was taken the very day he had his accident. And then a few days later, when the pictures came home, how Mama cried. She wondered if he'd ever look the same. She wondered if he'd ever be the same.
Uncle Charles: What's the use of looking backward? What's the use of looking ahead? Today's the thing. That's my philosophy. Today.
Emma: Well, if today is the thing, then you'd better finish your breakfast and get down to the bank because Joe will be waiting.

Charlie joins her uncle (sporting a fancy black and white outfit with a white carnation in his lapel and a white Panama hat) arm in arm to the bank where her father works - they are enviously eyed by two of her friends, Shirley and Catherine: "I bet they wondered who you are. Oh, Uncle Charlie, I love to walk with you. I want everybody to see." Inside the bank's lobby at Joe's teller window, he loudly teases Joe about embezzling and hiding the crime in the "stuffy atmosphere":

Can you stop embezzling a minute and give me your attention?...What's a little shortage in the books at the end of the month? Any good bank clerk can cover up a little shortage, isn't that right, Charlie?...We all know what banks are. They look all right to an outsider, but no one knows what goes on when the doors are locked.

For the only instance in the film, Joe suggests that his joking about embezzlement isn't appropriate in front of the bank manager, and Charlie thinks he's being "awful - everyone can hear you." Arrangements are made to see the appropriately-named bank president Mr. Green (Edwin Stanley), who "doesn't care much for jokes about banks," so that Uncle Charlie can open an account and deposit his funds: "$40,000 is no joke, not to him, I bet. It's a joke to me. The whole world is a joke to me." In Mr. Green's office while opening up an account for his deposit, Joe's brother-in-law admits to being a successful "promoter - I've done a little bit of everything."

Charles: The only trouble I find is that once I make the money, I'm not interested in it.
Mr. Green: (incredulously) Not interested in money?
Charles: You know as well as I do, there's plenty of money lying around waiting for somebody to pick it up. [Recall the first scene in his boarding house room.] I thought I'd put some of my loose cash away for safe-keeping.

When Mr. Green labels his customary practice of keeping loose cash around "a dangerous habit," Charles disdainfully replies - as he counts out numerous bills: "I've never lost a penny in my life, Mr. Green. I guess heaven takes care of fools and scoundrels." [Charles' self-deprecating remark could place him in the company of scoundrels - where he should be placed - rather than in the company of fools.] Charles signs a deposit slip, commenting: "Ah details, I'm glad to see that you're a man who understands details, Mr. Green. They're most important to me. Most important. All the little details."

As they are about finished, Mrs. Margaret Green (Isabel Randolph) and a middle-aged woman friend Mrs. Potter (Frances Carson) interrupt from behind, with the words: "Oh dear. I'm sorry." Suave and charming, Charles flatters the vain Mrs. Potter during his introduction, assuming that she is single: "There was something about you that made me think..." Unlike Mrs. Green who must ask her husband for money, Mrs. Potter flirtatiously admits to being a rich widow (a "merry widow"?) who delights in spending her late husband's money. After finishing up business, Charles leaves with a daring suggestion to Joe: "Keep your eyes open. You may have his job in a couple of years."

After lunch in town, Charles and Charlie return to the Newton home in a streetcar, and are spied upon by two men sitting in a car in front: "Here he is." Charlie recognizes them as the government survey-takers or "questionnaire men" - Jack Graham (Macdonald Carey) and photographer Fred Saunders (Wallace Ford). They are an hour early and Uncle Charlie is immediately wary of them, but Charlie promises to protect him: "Don't worry. You don't have to if you don't want to. I'll see that you don't." To avoid them, Charlie retreats up the back stairs, while they begin taking pictures in the house and insistently asking questions of young Charlie and Emma. Charlie attacks their violation of her uncle's privacy and makes them agree to restrict their questioning and exclude him:

Graham: And there are, uh, six in your family?
Charlie: Five.
Graham: Five? But...
Charlie: My uncle's just visiting.
Emma: I told you about him. He's here from the East on a little visit.
Charlie: (combatively) Just put down five, because my uncle doesn't want to be bothered with a lot of questions...He's not interested in the survey and I promised him he wouldn't be bothered.
Graham: Well, we'd like it if we could get all of you. You know, your opinions, what you do or what you want to do.
Charlie: My uncle's opinions aren't average, and I'm afraid they wouldn't help you a bit. Besides, I think when someone asks for privacy, they should have it...Mr. Graham, perhaps you'd better choose another family.
Graham: We'll do anything you say, of course. But this family seemed right and...
Emma: It is a nice family. Charlie, why don't you let the young men go ahead, so long as they're here?

As they move to the kitchen for pictures - with Emma complaining about being unprepared with her baking for the guests, Charles is viewed at the top of the stairs (in a low-angle shot) - obviously having listened to the proceedings downstairs. For part of the photographic documentary on their family, an exasperated Saunders instructs Emma on candidly posing for some typical 'cooking' shots, but she confrontationally insists on following her own timing and sequence of steps in baking a cake [with Emma as his mouthpiece in the scene, director Hitchcock illustrates how difficult it is, with stubborn actors, to shoot scenes out of sequence]. She demands to impress them with how she is a 'typical American housewife' in a fulfilled and happy marriage - although she is posing (as the pollsters are):

Saunders: Now, if you'll start by breaking an egg, Mrs. Newton.
Emma: Oh - but you don't start a cake by breaking an egg. You have to put the butter and sugar in first. You see, after all, survey or no survey, I'm not going to start by breaking an egg. I thought I'd make a maple cake. My brother Charles loves maple cake.

After her reference to her brother, Graham shows further interest in Uncle Charles and pumps her with a question about him: "What does your brother do?" She answers:

Oh, he's just in business. You know the way men are.

When Charlie agrees to show the men the upstairs, Saunders has an opportunity to photograph Charlie's empty room - because Uncle Charlie has mysteriously disappeared. While he is busy inside behind a closed door, Graham (who begins to show a personal interest in the young girl) speaks to Charlie: "Might as well let him work in peace. Besides, I'd like to talk to you." His cool reaction to her enthusiasm about her uncle's arrival is disturbing to her:

Charlie: You know, your picking us as an average family kind of gave me a funny feeling...I guess I don't like to be an average girl in an average family.
Graham: Average families are the best. Look at me. I'm from an average family.
Charlie: As average as ours?
Graham: Sure. Besides, I don't think you're average.
Charlie: That's because you see me now instead of a few days ago. I was in the dumps, and then Uncle Charlie came and everything changed.
Graham: But your mother said he only got here last night. Maybe you just think that...
Charlie: I don't think, I know. It's funny, but when I try to think of how I feel, I-I always come back to Uncle Charlie. Are you trying to tell me I shouldn't think he's so wonderful? [In close-up, she grasps her right wrist and rubs it - an involuntary memory of the violent wrenching that Uncle Charlie gave her hands.]
Graham: No, I...
Emma: (interrupting from downstairs and off-screen) Mr. Saunders. I'm ready for the eggs.

Charlie's worried concern about Saunders ("I hope Mr. Saunders doesn't move anything in there. My uncle's awfully neat and fussy" - really?) coincides with Uncle Charles' approach on the back stairs and Graham's loud warning to his partner to vacate the room: "Is this your uncle you were telling us about?" Saunders poises himself for another photograph in the hall - a picture of their forbidden and unwilling subject. The flash bulb momentarily whitens the frame as Saunders' camera captures Uncle Charlie's image. He angrily and hurriedly confiscates the roll of film to his niece's troubled consternation. Her eyes trace the length of his beckoning arm held out for the exchange of film, and she realizes "he wasn't joking about not wanting to be photographed." [The shot cuts away as Saunders stoops down and opens the camera - does he surreptitiously substitute one roll of film for another?]

Emma's flustered voice from downstairs calls again: "Mr. Saunders, I'm ready to fold in the eggs. I can't let them stand another minute." The photo session has to be postponed, actually scrapped, because Saunders is out of film. Graham asks Emma's permission to "borrow" Charlie for the evening as a guide around town ("look around the town a little"). Emma confirms the request (from the "nice young man") and Charlie eagerly assents. She decides to feign illness to break her movie date with her girlfriend Catherine (Estelle Jewell).

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