Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

;">Shadow of a Doubt
Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten

'Shadow of a Doubt' is a psychological thriller made by Alfred Hitchcock in 1943, and starring Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten. Although released to great critical acclaim, the film was nominated for only one Academy Award - for Gordon McDonnell's Original Story and won none. It was selected in 1991 by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. In several interviews Hitchcock named 'Shadow of a Doubt' as his favorite film.

The screenplay for the movie was by Thornton Wilder, Sally Benson and Hitchcock's wife, Alma Reville. the film's score was by Dimitri Tiomkin, the first time he had worked with Hitchcock and is based on the 'Merry Widow' Waltz by Franz Lehár.

Search Amazon for 'Shadow of a Doubt'


Teresa Wright plays "Charlie" Newton, a young girl, living a routine existence in an idyllic small American town. She receives a visit from her favorite uncle, Charlie Oakley, played by Joseph Cotten. Gradually the girl begins to suspect that her uncle may be a criminal called the "Merry Widow Murderer" wanted by the police for strangling several rich widows, and her feelings toward him change markedly.


Alfred Hitchcock had arrived in Hollywood in 1939 and by 1943 had already made five movies in his new country, including the highly successful 'Rebecca' in 1940 and 'Suspicion' in 1941. He was approaching the height of his creative powers but was finding difficulty in obtaining suitable projects. With 'Shadow of a Doubt' he found an ideal storyline - one which brings the audience uncomfortably close to the murderer, and which allowed plenty of the dark humour which he loved.

He was originally told of the story by an employee of producer, David O. Selznick, one Margaret McDonnell, whose husband, Gordon had been researching a real-life criminal, Earle Leonard Nelson, called the "Gorilla Murderer", who was hanged in 1928 for the murder of a series of women during the 1920's. Hitchcock liked the story and McDonnell was given full credit. He, in fact, received the film's only Oscar nomination, for Best Story.

For the screenplay, Hitchcock was pleased to bring in the highly regarded playwright, Thornton Wilder, three times winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author of the classic small town play 'Our Town'. The co-authors were Sally Benson, who had written the 'New Yorker' stories which were made into the classic musical, 'Meet Me in St. Louis' in 1944, and Hitchcock's own wife, Alma Reville, who was a successful film editor in her own right. She worked closely with Hitchcock on all his movies and 'Shadow of a Doubt' is one of the few for which she received a credit. Hitchcock himself worked most days with Wilder on polishing the script.

One of the essential features of the film is how a typical American small town reacts to evil hidden in its midst. The town selected for filming was the picturesque Santa Rosa (population 13,000) in Northern California.

Production on the movie began in April 1942 and principal photography began in Santa Rosa on July 31, 1942 , completing on August 26, 1942. The company then returned to Universal for another month of interior shooting. Additional background shots were made near the New York Manhattan waterfront. In total the film cost a modest $813,000 to produce.

Main Cast

Hitchcock was able to assemble a superb cast, each member ideal for his or her role.

Teresa Wright ... Charlotte "Charlie" Newton
Joseph Cotten ... Charlie Oakley
Henry Travers ... Joseph Newton
Patricia Collinge ... Emma Newton
Macdonald Carey ... Detective Jack Graham
Wallace Ford ... Detective Fred Saunders
Hume Cronyn ... Herbie Hawkins

Joseph Cotten (1905-1994) Cotten was borrowed from David O. Selznick. His honest, handsome features made him the perfect choice for the gentle family member whom no-one would suspect. His innocent demeanour makes a riveting contrast to the evil inner demons which he later displays. He first achieved fame on the Broadway stage and then appeared in a series of top quality classic movies during the 1940's, including 'Citizen Kane' in 1941 and 'Gaslight' in 1944. In all he appeared in more than 60 movies over his 40 year career.

Teresa Wright (1918- 2005) This was her fourth film and, uniquely, she was nominated for Oscars for each of her first three, including winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for 'Mrs Miniver' in 1942. Hitchcock borrowed her from Sam Goldwyn and she did not let him down, giving a convincing portrayal of a warm-hearted young girl whose innocent idealism is gradually eroded by her evil uncle, and who has to grow up very quickly.

Both Cotten and Teresa Wright praised Hitchcock for the relaxed way in which he guided them during filming.

Henry Travers (1874-1965)After beginning his acting career in his native Britain , he emigrated to America and began his Hollywood career in 1933. In 1942 he received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in 'Mrs Miniver'. His best known role was as the angel Clarence in 'It's a Wonderful Life' in 1946.

Hume Cronyn (1911-2003) This is Cronyn's debut film and he went on to appear in Hitchcock's 'Lifeboat' in 1944 and then again with Hitchcock on 'Rope' in 1948 and 'Under Capricorn' the following year.


Director ... Alfred Hitchcock
Producer ... Jack H. Skirball
Screenplay ... Thornton Wilder, Sally Benson, Alma Reville
Original Story ... Gordon McDonell
Music ... Dimitri Tiomkin, based on Franz Lehár
Cinematography ... Joseph A. Valentine
Distribution Company ... Universal Pictures
Release date ... January 12, 1943
Running time ... 108 minutes

Academy Awards

No Wins:
One Unsuccessful Nomination:
Best Original Story ... Gordon McDonell