EXTRA CREDIT “Parallel Scenes from HITCHCOCK’s SHADOW OF A DOUBT”


What happens when a cold hearted serial killer and thief comes into the quiet idyllic Californian of Santa Rosa, california? A Hitchcock masterpiece! For those of you who have not seen it, the story centers around an unlikely pair, “Charlie” the uncle, and “Charlie” his teenage niece, who is named after him. Uncle Charlie is visiting the latter’s mother’s (his sister’s) family which includes her father, younger brother and younger sister.

Uncle Charlie is a wanted fugitive, with his true name unknown to the press who write articles about his murders and larcenies.

Historically the story takes place in a prewar America (according to wikipedia). I think the most important idea one can draw from that within the context of this film, is that this story took place during peacetime. Before the violence of the Great Wars. So in certain sense, America was less a military superpower and more ‘innocent’ so to speak. However, in this movie that innocence, or at the least the innocence of one pleasant town is broken when an intruder came in on the train one day…

In this scene he finds himself on the run once again, and decides to hide at his sister’s. This happens concurrently while his niece Charlie also happens to thinking it would be good for her Uncle Charlie to pay her family a visit.

Coincidence? Nope, Hitchcock uses Teenage Charlie’s character to bring the audience’s attention to a “Psychic link” the pair of Charlie’s share. Although it does often seem one-sided, and Teenage Charlie is often more perceptive to her Uncle’s thoughts.

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Uncle Charlie is introduced in bed. Perhaps pondering his next theft. Or worse… But actually he is probably pondering his next getaway.

If you continue to the end of that clip we see Teenage Charlie’s initial characterization. She is also introduced while lying in bed. Also pondering. The scene continues here:
watch?v=1qM4euUBEVQ&feature=related

“I don’t believe in good intentions anymore.” The Teenage Charlie says. She is upset with her family life. It is too plain, too safe. She seeks something more. Perhaps these were the same thoughts her Uncle had, when he was her age. Interestingly enough, the two scenes involving both Charlie’s have the similar Closeup profile shot while each is lying in bed.

This is the basic setup of the story. The parallel between the pair becomes our focus. Will Charlie find out the truth and expose her Uncle? Or will she conform to his ways?

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One Response to “EXTRA CREDIT “Parallel Scenes from HITCHCOCK’s SHADOW OF A DOUBT””

  1. Amy Herzog Says:

    Fantastic comparison– this is one of my very favorite Hitchcock films!

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