SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943) : “We’re no ordinary uncle and niece.”

SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943) – Universal Studios – Rating: ★★★★½

B&W – 106 mins. – 1.33:1 aspect ratio

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Principal Cast:  Teresa Wright (Charlotte “Charlie” Newton), Joseph Cotten (Charlie Oakley), MacDonald Carey (Jack Graham), Henry Travers (Joseph Newton), Patricia Collinge (Emma Newton), Hume Cronyn (Herbie Hawkins), Wallace Ford (Fred Saunders), Edna May Wonacott (Ann Newton), Charles Bates (Roger Newton).

Produced by Jack H. Skirball

Written by Thornton Wilder & Alma Reville & Sally Benson, from a story by Gordon McDonell

 Director of Photography:  Joseph A. Valentine

 Film Editing:  Milton Carruth

 Original music:  Dmitri Tiomkin

Charles Oakley lies on his bed in a nondescript boardinghouse.  He is a picture of ennui, and everything about him suggests carelessness, from the recumbent way he smokes his cigar to the money scattered on the floor.  He stirs from his lassitude when the landlady informs him that two gentlemen asked about him;  he then gathers his things and leaves, giving the “gentlemen” the slip.  Suddenly a man of determination, he sends a telegram to his sister and her family in Santa Rosa, California, informing them of his intention to visit.

Dissolve to Santa Rosa, a picturesque American town.  Oakley’s niece, “Charlie”, is lying on her bed, in much the same state as her uncle.  She is in the dumps, and wants to do something to shake up the family.  Suddenly an idea occurs to her, and she rushes to the telegraph office to invite her Uncle Charlie to visit.  She arrives just in time to receive the telegram from her uncle announcing his impending arrival.  It’s almost as if they were reading each other’s minds, speculates Charlie.   

Soon thereafter Uncle Charlie arrives, descending from the train under a plume of dark smoke that presages the arrival of something sinister in sleepy Santa Rosa.  At first the family is delighted to see him, from sister Emma Newton, to brother-in-law Joseph and the three children.  Uncle Charlie brings fine gifts for everyone, including an emerald ring for his favorite niece, his namesake Charlie.  The ring inexplicably has in inscription, initials that Uncle Charlie insists were not put there by him.  She does not care, saying that makes the ring more precious, because somebody happy had worn it before her.

Two men arrive at the Newton home who claim to be conducting a survey.  They wish to ask questions of the household and take photographs.  Uncle Charlie is evasive, refusing to be involved and bordering on rudeness when he encounters the two men in the home.  Could these be the same “gentlemen” who were inquiring after Charlie at his boardinghouse?  Soon enough niece Charlie learns from one of the men that they are police, and are indeed on the trail of her uncle, who may be involved in some pretty nasty crimes, namely the murder of several widows and the theft of their money.  Charlie does not want her mother to know, for it would break her heart.  She begins an investigation of her own, and soon discovers the answer to the question of her uncle’s guilt or innocence.   This portion of the story involves a cat-and-mouse interplay between uncle and niece, with the rest of the family ignorant of the  situation and implications.  At the same time Charlie begins an awkward romance with the detective who had tipped her to her uncle’s situation.

The contest of wills between the two Charlies seems to be won by niece Charlie, and her uncle agrees to leave Santa Rosa.  On the train that will take him away, he tries to silence his niece’s suspicions, with deadly consequences.

Performance:  This is arguably one of the best casts in any Hitchcock film, from top to bottom.  Joseph Cotten is perfect as Uncle Charlie, creating one of Hitchcock’s greatest villains.  Teresa Wright as niece Charlie has the most difficult part in the movie, as her character undergoes a dramatic transformation when she learns several truths about her uncle, and the world.   Henry Travers, who will forever be known to movie lovers as Clarence the angel in Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life, is pleasant and likeable as the Newton family patriarch.  His primary job is to provide occasional comic relief.  But the most memorable, and most moving performance in the film belongs to Patricia Collinge as Uncle Charlie’s sister Emma.  Emma’s fondness for her younger brother is palpable, as is her fondness for childhood recollections.  If there is one performance that is not entirely perfect it is that of MacDonald Carey as Detective Graham.  He seems out-of-place in some of his onscreen interplay.

Writing:  Thornton Wilder, who wrote the quintessential American idyll Our Town, was the principle screenwriter.  Hitchcock charged Wilder with creating another slice of small-town American life, and introducing menace into it.  And Wilder’s writing is pitch perfect. His tone ranges from the charming and occasionally comic portrait of the Newton family, to Uncle Charlie’s almost shockingly dark monologues about modern big-city life.  Hitchcock was so impressed that he gave Wilder a special acknowledgment in the opening credits, in addition to his screenwriting credit.

The doppelgänger effect:  The central relationship in this movie is that of the two Charlies, uncle and niece.  The idea of the characters as doubles appears frequently.  First as they both appear sprawled on a bed in their respective opening scenes.  Later in several lines of dialogue.  Teresa Wright as Charlie tells her uncle “We’re sort of like twins, don’t you see?”Later Uncle Charlie accosts his niece outside a bar called “Til Two”, finally taking her inside.  There are no overt incestuous signals in this relationship, but it is a very odd relationship for an uncle and niece.  She gazes at him longingly in their opening scenes together, and when she walks through town with him, arm in arm, she is delighted when her friends look at him in awe, almost as if she wants them to think he is her beau.  What Uncle Charlie doesn’t foresee is that his niece has an inner mettle that has remained hidden, and it only comes to the forefront as she is forced to confront him.  They are indeed very much alike, and it is this that allows her to best him in their game of wits.

“Shadow of a Doubt” house as it appears today, Santa Rosa, CA, photo by author.

The precocious girl:  Women in Hitchcock movies are often the dominant partner in a relationship.  They are often more intelligent and resourceful than their male counterpart.  This also applies to young girls.  In this film, the younger daughter Ann Newton, (played delightfully by Edna May Wonacott) is wise beyond her years.  She is constantly reading and repeating things she has learned in her books.  She is also the only member of the Newton family that is never taken in by Uncle Charlie.  She is suspicious of him from the first moment she lays eyes on him, and although she never learns the nature of his crimes, she is not fooled.  Wonacott gives the best performance by a child in the entire Hitchcock canon, in my opinion.  Meanwhile the young boy Roger (played by Charles Bates) is a typical boy child, who does have one great reaction shot, played for comic effect, when Patricia Collinge says the youngest child is always spoiled.

Merry widow waltz:  This waltz plays over the opening credits, along with footage of waltzing couples, which looks like stock footage but Hitchcock said he filmed specifically.  The waltz features prominently in a dinner table scene, and Hitchcock uses the dancing couples footage as a transitional shot at a couple of key moments in the film.  This is a very interesting expressionistic touch.

Dark humor:  Hume Cronyn provides some dark humor as Herbie Hawkins, friend to Joe Newton.  Hawkins and Newton read whodunits, and discuss the best way to kill each other, not realizing that they are only a few feet away from someone with practical experience!  There is also perhaps a subtle indication that Herbie would like to do away with his mother, yet another charming mother/son relationship.

Emma Newton as Emma Hitchcock:  Alfred Hitchcock’s mother Emma passed away during production of this film.  There is much speculation that the character of Emma Newton (the name can be no coincidence) was inspired in part by the director’s own mother.  Certainly Emma Newton, as played so wonderfully by Patricia Collinge, is allowed a sentimentality that is seldom if ever seen in Hitchcock films.   Her emotional response to the news that her brother will be leaving is so genuine, that it almost moves the viewer to tears, particularly because of the things we know about her brother Charlie that she does not.

What Joe said:  Joseph Cotten, in his 1987 autobiography Vanity Will Get You Somewhere, said of this film that “it is certainly mentioned to me as often as Citizen Kane and The Third Man.”  He also complimented Thornton Wilder’s screenplay, saying “I cannot remember any shooting script that suffered so few alterations during production.  All the actors agreed that the author’s words were not only easy to learn, but a pleasure to speak.”

Academy awards:  Gordon McDonell received a nomination in the now defunct “Best Writing, Original Story” category.

Recurring players:  Joseph Cotten would star later in Under CapricornHume Cronyn would appear in Hitchcock’s next film, LifeboatWallace Ford would turn up in Spellbound, as would Irving Bacon. Frances Carson appeared in Foreign Correspondent and Saboteur.  Edward Fielding was also in Rebecca, Suspicion and Spellbound.  Constance Purdy also appeared in Spellbound.   Byron Shores was in Saboteur.   And Eily Malyon, the perfect spinsterish librarian, had earlier played the perfect spinsterish hotel desk clerk in Foreign Correspondent. 

Where’s Hitch?  Alfred Hitchcock’s cameo appears at about 16:26.  He is seen from a right rear profile as a passenger on the train.  He is playing cards with a doctor and his wife, and the camera shows that his hand is the entire suit of spades!

 

Legacy:  Universal remade this movie in 1958, as a noirish B-movie called Step Down to Terror.  It was also remade for TV in 1991, with Mark Harmon in the Uncle Charlie role.

Hitchcock moment:   For the most part this movie was shot in a very straightforward manner, with Hitchcock’s usual economy of shots.  The shot in the library where the camera pulls back from a close-up looking over Teresa Wright’s shoulder, high up to the ceiling, is impressive.  Production designer Bob Boyle said that Hitchcock wanted the camera movement to be almost like a gasp, or sudden intake of breath.  There is also the shot of Teresa Wright coming downstairs with her hand on the bannister, as the camera slowly zooms in on her hand, and the emerald ring plainly visible on it.

What Hitch said:  Numerous critics say that this was Hitchcock’s favorite among his own films.  His daughter Patricia states it unequivocally:  “It was my father’s favorite picture.”  One would think she would know.   When pressed on this point by Truffaut, Hitchcock answered:  “I wouldn’t say that Shadow of a Doubt is my favorite picture; if I’ve given that impression, it’s probably because I feel that here is something that our friends, the plausibles and logicians, cannot complain about.”  (In referring to the “plausibles” Hitchcock was talking about people who dismissed the plots of his films because they were not plausible).  “But that impression is also due to my very pleasant memories of working on it with Thornton Wilder.”

Definitive edition:   The best edition of this movie available for purchase today is Universal’s 2012 blu-ray release, (also available as part of the Masterpiece Collection box set).  The picture quality is not quite as sharp as the blu-ray remaster of Saboteur, being a little grainy at times, but it still looks spectacular for a movie that is over 70 years old.   The audio track (2-channel mono) also sounds quite good.  Extra features include a 35-minute making-of documentary, which has interview footage with Hume Cronyn, Teresa Wright, Patricia Hitchcock, Robert Boyle, and Peter Bogdanovich.  Also included are production drawings, production photographs, and the original theatrical trailer.

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SABOTEUR (1942) : “Just a guy from Glendale.”

SABOTEUR (1942)  – Universal Studios  – Rating:  ★★★½

B&W – 108 mins. – 1.33:1 aspect ratio

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Principal cast:  Robert Cummings (Barry Kane), Priscilla Lane (Patricia Martin), Otto Kruger (Charles Tobin), Alan Baxter (Mr. Freeman), Norman Lloyd (Fry),  Alma Kruger (Mrs. Sutton), Vaughan Glaser (Phillip Martin).

Produced by Frank Lloyd & Jack H. Skirball

Written by Joan Harrison & Peter Viertel & Dorothy Parker

Director of Photography:  Joseph A. Valentine

Film Editing:  Otto Ludwig

Art Director:   Robert Boyle

Poor Barry Kane, hard-working American patriot, doing his part to support the war effort in a Los Angeles airplane factory.  When a fire erupts in the factory, he is one of the first on the scene, and through the machinations of a suspicious man named Fry,  Barry’s good friend dies in the fire, and Barry himself is suspected of sabotage.  Armed with only one small clue, Fry’s name and an address briefly glimpsed on an envelope, Barry must track down the real saboteurs while staying one step ahead of the police.  This is Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite motif, which he used many times:  the innocent man, falsely accused.

The address leads Barry to a California ranch run by a Charles Tobin, who is the mastermind of the saboteurs.  Charming and urbane, he is the quintessential Hitchcock villain,  a man who can calmly play with his granddaughter while plotting the deaths of innocent people.  Barry has his first run-in with the police at the ranch, and after escaping, acquiring a  pair of handcuffs for his troubles,  he winds up at the woodland house of a kind old blind man.  Soon the blind man’s niece arrives and is instructed to drive Barry to the blacksmith to have the handcuffs removed.

The movie continues as a series of set pieces, and truly the individual strength of many of the pieces is greater than the strength of the movie as a whole.  Barry and Patricia move from West to East, from Los Angeles to New York, and Patricia’s feelings about Barry move from doubt to trust, while the nest of saboteurs grows and the pieces begin to fit together.

Eventually the couple find themselves in a mansion in New York City, surrounded by socialites at a charity event being hosted by the saboteurs.  With all the exits guarded, they are literally trapped in a crowded room.  This is a familiar theme in the works of Hitchcock; oftentimes his protagonists feel alone precisely when they are surrounded by people.

Our couple is separated and imprisoned separately at this point, both using ingenuity (rather implausible in one case) to earn their freedom.  Barry Kane finally runs into his nemesis Fry, the man behind the fire at the airplane factory, and a chase ends atop the Statue of Liberty, with Fry literally hanging by a thread from liberty’s torch.

Overall, this is a very entertaining film; the action maintains a steady pace as the setting  moves from one location to another.   The performances of the leads are a bit uneven.   There is a reason that Hitchcock loved to cast stars in his leading roles:  they were generally very good at what they did, and they had an easy time holding the audience’s attention.  Neither Robert Cummings nor Priscilla Lane was an A-list actor,  and they were both known for more lighthearted material.  Their performances are not bad, but their golly-gee style of delivering dialogue, while very much in vogue in the 40’s, seems somewhat dated today.  Contrast this with the performance of Otto Kruger, the mastermind of the saboteurs, whose  characterization seems very real even by today’s standards.

It is the very lack of star power that has kept this film from getting greater recognition.  It is a hidden Hitchcock gem,  well worth viewing for casual fans, and a deeper exploration by Hitchcock scholars.

Writing:   The screenplay is of paramount importance in any discussion of this movie, which came out at a time when many of America’s great writers were trying their hand at penning a Hollywood screenplay or treatment.  Everyone from Raymond Chandler to William Faulkner to Aldous Huxley gave it a try.  And Hitchcock himself collaborated with Robert Benchley, Thornton Wilder, John Steinbeck, and in the case of this film Dorothy Parker.

This screenplay, along with Thornton Wilder’s for Shadow of a Doubt, are the most literary of all Alfred Hitchcock’s movies.  Dorothy Parker’s influence can be felt throughout this screenplay.   First of all in the sequence with the blind man, which clearly was inspired  by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and is written and acted superbly.  Such warm, tender and likeable characters are seldom found in a suspense film.  There is also a fine sequence that takes place in a circus caravan, in a bus filled with circus freaks.  Our starring couple find themselves surrounded by Siamese twins, a bearded lady and several other strange characters, and the dialogue manages to combine warmth, comedy and suspense, all wrapped in a World War II allegory.   (More about the war in a moment.)  Later the film features one of the most head-scratchingly bizarre monologues in the entire Hitchcock canon, which is almost surely Dorothy Parker’s writing.  This is the moment when the saboteur Mr. Freeman, apropos of nothing, states to Barry Kane that he wishes his boy children were girls, and proceeds to describe how as a child, he had long golden locks that people would stop to gaze at!  A very creepy moment indeed.

There are even more subtle moments that show Parker’s fine touch, such as the billboards Barry Kane passes in his travels, each one with a message that has a deeper significance to him:  “You’re being followed”, “She’ll never let you down”, and “the final tribute.”  There is also a scene that takes place in the library of the Sutton mansion, in which the visible book titles are carefully chosen;  beyond the ones pointed out by Barry Kane (Escape), and Charles Tobin (Death of a Nobody), some of the other visible titles  could relate to the plot of the movie.     There is also a great self-referential moment in the screenplay.  When Barry and Pat are dancing in the ballroom, Pat says that she wishes she had met him somewhere else, like the North Pole, and Barry replies “We might end up there yet, too”, a nod to the continually changing locations in the film. And finally, the sequence in Radio City Music Hall features a film within a film, which has dialogue that works for both the onscreen and off-screen characters in the theater.

Propaganda:   This film was released in 1942, and its subject matter was used as a form of propaganda to arouse American sympathies for the European cause against the Nazis.  There are two monologues in particular that are being addressed directly to the movie-going public.  Hitchcock had done the same thing  in his earlier film Foreign Correspondent.

Guilty as charged:  The theme of guilt and innocence, both real and perceived, factors heavily in this movie as it does in almost all Hitchcock movies.  When Barry Kane is hitching a ride with the truck driver, he is fleeing from a crime that he did not commit.  And yet he does feel a level of guilt for his friend’s death.  After all, he had the fire extinguisher in his hands, before he passed it off to Ken..  The rattling fire extinguisher inside the truck cab serves as a reminder.  And the truck driver narrates a story where a fellow driver used an extinguisher to save his friend’s life, saying that if he didn’t have a fire extinguisher he would have seen his friend fried right before his eyes.  Which is of course exactly what Barry Kane did observe.  And the use of the word “fries” serves a double purpose as it reminds Barry Kane of Frank Fry, the real culprit.

Keystone cops:  It’s worth pointing out that the police in almost all  Hitchcock films are bunglers bordering on incompetence, who generally do arrive just in time to arrest the villain; but the villain is often caught in spite of them, not because of them.  This film is no exception, although in this case the police have no plausible evidence to believe Barry Kane’s story of innocence until very late in the film.

Where’s Hitch?   Alfred Hitchcock’s original cameo in this movie was rejected by the censors.  It featured him walking down the street with a young lady, talking to her in sign language.  After a couple of seconds, the young lady looks indignantly at him and slaps him on the face.  This was considered a misrepresentation of deaf people, and was cut, the footage long since lost.  Quite a pity,  because as a result of this Hitchcock just threw in another cameo, almost as an afterthought.  It occurs at about 1:04:33, with Hitch as a patron in front of the Cut Rate Drug store.  It is one of the least noticeable and most forgettable of all Hitchcock cameos.

 

Recurring players:  Robert Cummings would also appear as Grace Kelly’s love interest  in Dial M for MurderIan Wolfe, who played Robert the Butler, played a very similar character in Foreign Correspondent.   Charles Halton (the uncredited second sheriff) and Emory Parnell (the husband in the film within a film) also appeared in Foreign Correspondent  and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Vaughan Glaser (the charming blind man) appears in one scene in Shadow of a Doubt, in a non-speaking and uncredited role.  Murray Alper (the truck driver) has very small uncredited parts in Strangers on a Train and Mr. and Mrs. Smith.  Frances Carson also appears in Foreign Correspondent and Shadow of a Doubt.  Al Bridge and Charles Sherlock also appear in Strangers on a Train.  Dale Van Sickel and Harry Strang were also in North by Northwest Ralph Brooks, Ralph Dunn, James Flavin, Jack Gardner and Sayre Dearing were also extras in Mr. and Mrs. Smith.  Art Gilmore, the voice of the radio broadcaster, also lent his voice to Rear Window and the trailer of To Catch a Thief Alexander Lockwood was also in North by Northwest and Family Plot.  Jeffrey Sayre is in Notorious, Vertigo and North by Northwest.   Sam Harris was an extra in Foreign Correspondent, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, The Paradine Case and Dial M For Murder Henry Norton and George Offerman, Jr. were also in Foreign Correspondent Frank Marlowe was also in Notorious and North by Northwest.  And Norman Lloyd would later play the psychiatric patient Garmes in Spellbound.

Hitchcock moments:  Hitchcock was a master technician,  and most of his films contain scenes that are memorable for the groundbreaking storytelling techniques employed.  In this film the standout scene is the climax atop the Statue of Liberty.  This scene employs live action shots, small scale reproduction, matte painting, and black screen (the b&w precursor to today’s green screen), all put together in a way that holds up very well after nearly 70 years.

What Hitch said:   In the Truffaut  interviews, Hitchcock spoke of his displeasure with the leading actors in this film, with the exception of Norman Lloyd as Fry.  His final analysis is that “…the script lacks discipline.  I don’t think I exercised a clear, sharp approach to the original construction of the screenplay…I feel the whole thing should have been pruned and tightly edited long before the actual shooting.”  – Truffaut – Hitchcock, p. 151, 1983.

Definitive edition:  Universal’s 2012 blu-ray release (which can be purchased as a stand-alone or as part of the Masterpiece Collection box set), is far and away the best quality edition of this movie on the market.   For a movie that is over 70 years old, in standard format, the picture quality is astonishing.  There is amazing clarity and depth of focus, so it is definitely worth an upgrade if you own the DVD.   The sound is 2-channel mono, and sounds as good as it ever has for home video.  Extras include a 35 minute making-of documentary, which features interviews with Norman Lloyd and production designer Robert Boyle.  Also included are storyboards, a photo gallery, and the original theatrical trailer.

Yet another blog about Hitchcock.

And why not?  Alfred Hitchcock is arguably the most inflential director in the history of film.  In one of the longest and most prolific directorial careers, Hitchcock directed 53 films in just over half a century, averaging around one  per year.  At least ten of those pictures are bona fide classics, routinely appearing on “best-of” lists around the world.  As of today, Alfred Hitckcock has 11 entries on imdb.com’s top 250 films list.   Alfred Hitchcocks movies, themes and directorial style have influenced countless directors, from Scorsese to Spielberg.  And most importantly, his best films are as entertaining today as they were upon their initial release.

But this is all old news, isn’t it?  I am not writing here to build a case in support of Hitchcock as “The Greatest Director Of All Time.”  Nor do I wish to influence your opinion of his work.  Many enjoy his movies, some do not.  What I will endeavor to do here is review all of Hitchcock’s films, not chronologically or by some best-to-worst ratings system, but simply however I am moved to.   Although I have seen all of Hitchcock’s movies before, I will view them all again for the purpose of this experiment.  My intent is not to write a simple synopsis, but a detailed exploration of the major themes of each movie.  This is aimed primarily at an audience that is familiar with Hitchcock’s pictures on at least a basic level, although I hope to engage newer fans and students of Hitch as well.

I will provide a brief biographical background here;  if you are interested in learning more about the life of Hitchcock, there are numerous biographies available.

Alfred Hitchcock was born in 1899, in a working-class London family.  He was raised a strict Catholic, which may have a bearing on some of the major recurring themes in his films.   Hitchcock joined the film industry around 1920, beginning as a drawer of scenery and title cards. By 1925 he was a full-time director, and would remain so for over 50 years.  He made his mark in the silent film era with films like “The Lodger” (1926).  In the 1930’s came the talkies, and Hitchcock made many remarkable films during this decade, gaining notoriety outside his native England.  In 1940 he was enticed to Hollywood by producer David O. Selznick.  By the late 40’s, Hitchcock had gained creative control of his films, and the 1950’s marked a period of unparalleled critical and commercial success.  The 1960’s saw Hitchcock move from Paramount to Universal, and by the end of the decade Hitchcock’s health and that of his wife Alma Reville, was beginning to fail.  Hitchcock’s last film was 1976’s “Family Plot”.   Alfred Hitchcock died in April, 1980.

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(image source: http://www.ovationtv.com/files/large_image_videos/0000/0026/alfred_hitchcock_372×495.jpg)

MAJOR THEMES OF ALFRED HITCHCOCK

Guilt:  The concept of guilt features prominently in virtually every Hitchcock film.  Of course, most all of Hitchcock’s movies deal with the commission of a crime, usually involving murder, so it is not surprising that guilt and innocence would figure in the plot.  But of much greater significance than criminal guilt is psychological guilt:  whether real, imagined or assumed, Hitchcock’s characters often carry this burden, which affects the way they act, and interact.  Hitchcock’s favorite motif is that of the innocent man falsely accused, who must elude capture while trying to find the real perpetrators of a crime or crimes.  The concept of guilt is a theme which works well in movies, because it is universal; even if the specific plot devices are outrageous,  the theme of guilt creates an objective correlative which everyone watching can relate to.

Relationships between men and women:   While you will find a romantic pairing in virtually every Hitchcock film, the characters never have an idyllic Hollywood romance.  Hitchcock tended to emphasize the disparate qualites of the sexes;  there is a always a struggle of some sort occuring between the male and female characters, and only through compromise will they ever find happiness.  The male protagonists in Hitchcock’s movies often find themselves at the mercy of, or dependent upon, their female counterparts, for at least a portion of the action.  The men are emasculated through physical injury, or handcuffs, or by being imprisoned.   By the movies’ climax, the wheel has turned, and our hero will be in a position to help the heroine, or they will be working together to nab the culprits and save the day.   Hitchcock employs much humor in portraying the relationships of his principal characters.

Sex:  Now that I have your attention…sex could easily fall under the male/female realtionship heading, but I make brief mention here because Hitchcock did have sexual references in virtually every film.  Of course these references were seldom overt;  not only because of a strict moral code imposed in earlier times, but because Hitchcock preferred subtle entendre to direct reference.

Voyeurism (audience as voyeur):   Hitchcock was always keenly aware of the role of the audience member as active spectator; the very reason he is called the master of suspense, rather than mystery, is because he liked the audience members to have more information than the protagonist.  Rear Window is almost certainly the greatest film ever made on the subject of voyeurism.

Various:  There are numerous minor themes or motifs that others have noted, that I will mention only briefly here, because I do not see them of great significance.  They may pop up later during discussions of specific films.   Mothers:  usually controlling and cantankerous (with the exception of Patricia Collinge in “Shadow of a Doubt”.  Gentleman scoundrel:  the antagonist is often civilized and genteel, primarily to elicit sympathy from the viewer.  Stairs:  Freudian implications aside, staircases figure prominently in many movies.

So there we have it, a brief overview.  My first movie overview will be posted soon.  What movie shall I start with?