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

[Sunday] The next morning, after the conclusion of church services, Graham and Saunders (from across the street) summon Ann to relay a message to Charlie that they want to speak with her. Graham delegates his official authority to Saunders to avoid a conflict of interest. As Graham, Catherine, and Ann walk ahead [and Ann tells Catherine "the story of Dracula"], Charlie learns that the picture of Charles (on Saunders' sleight-of-handed roll of film) may identify her uncle as "the man":

I, uh, want to talk to you about that photograph we took...I gave him the wrong film. Yes, we got the picture alright. We wired it East, and we've got witnesses in the East who could identify the man we want from that picture...The minute the witnesses see that picture we know whether or not Oakley is the man. We're waiting for the wire now.

Saunders suggests that she encourage her uncle to leave town "within a couple of hours" and she vehemently agrees: "I'll make him leave. I'll make him." She also decides, in a "bargain" that she'll let them know how and when Uncle Charles will go: "I'll tell you...but you can't ask me to spy on him and come running to you. We've made a bargain now. I'll get him to leave. That's all I'll do...I'll keep it. I'll let you know when he leaves."

Walking in their final block toward home, Ann plays a superstitious sidewalk game, smartly warning as she skips and hops from paving stone to paving stone: "Step on a crack, you'll break your mother's back." She happily tells Jack Graham that she's already broken her "mother's back" three times that day.

Charlie asks Ann to pick flowers to decorate the Sunday dinner table:

Charlie: Why don't you pick some flowers for the dinner table?
Ann: Simple flowers are the best.
Charlie: I didn't ask for orchids. [An abrupt camera cut to Charles on the porch links him to her comment about orchids - she had summoned or 'willed' him to come.]

As she approaches the porch, Charles ominously appears with a mischievous look, while puffing (and rolling) his cigar and provoking her with blasphemous, anti-religion comments about dwindling church attendance [with a sly comment by the director on the length of the film itself]:

Uncle Charles: How was church, Charlie? Count the house? Turn anybody away?
Charlie: No, room enough for everyone.
Uncle Charles: (tongue-in-cheek) I'm glad to hear that. Show's been running such a long time, I thought maybe attendance might be falling off.

The next sequence is a meticulously-choreographed progression of facts that turn the film upside-down - making a "good ending." In amazement, both Charlie and Uncle Charles follow with their eyes and overhear a conversation between Herb and Joe as they turn the corner around the house and walk by them. The two are discussing a noon broadcast and the death of the Merry Widow Murderer in the state of Maine - and obviously relishing the details of the murderer's death. [The other murder suspect, actually innocent, died a horrible death at an airport.]:

Herb: The fella said they caught that other fella, the one they call the Merry Widow Murderer...State of Maine, Portland. Didn't catch him, exactly. He was runnin' away from the police and they were just about to nab him at the airport, and he ran - plunk - right into the propeller of an airplane...Cut him all to pieces. Had to identify him by his clothes. His shirts were all initialed. C, O, apostrophe H.
Joe: Well, it makes a good ending. I couldn't have done better myself.
Herb: I guess that closes that case good and final.
Joe: Sure does. I never cared much for that case.

Joe and Herb are blissfully ignorant of the criminal murderer in their own midst. Feeling freed and relieved now that the case against him may be dropped, Uncle Charles' appetite is whetted by the news: "I can eat a good dinner today." Exultantly, he leaps up the stairs, two at a time. At the top of the hall stairs, he senses that Charlie - still nightmarishly real and threatening with her presence - is powerfully positioned below him. She has been looking at him from the outside porch. He slowly turns and faces the camera. He notices her framed in the doorway and matching his look. [From the outside, she looks into him - knowing and still possessing his murderous secret]. She is the only remaining threat that won't let him off the hook. The scene fades to black.

A sharp, diagonally-angled shot of Uncle Charles in his upstairs room finds him pacing the floor - possibly contemplating the murder of his niece to strip her of the power she carries over him. As he voyeuristically watches her standing on the sidewalk in front of the house outside his window, his hands involuntarily clench in a strangling gesture. The power of his homicidal impulses causes him to let go of his phallic cigar. He sees Jack Graham drive up, hold Charlie's hand, and tell her about some "great news" - he strains to watch them as long as possible until they walk beyond his line of sight.

Jack and Charlie saunter to the side of the house and to the inside of the garage for privacy. Jack announces, with some relief, that after a wire from Maine, the search is over ("we can call off the job"). To Charlie, her uncle has been one big nightmare: "I'd like to pretend the whole dreadful thing never happened." [Each stand in bright sunlight, although there is a large void of darkness - Uncle Charles - between them.] With shyness and self-deprecation, Jack discusses his intentions as her well-intentioned suitor [in contrast to her venal, psychopathic uncle]. He professes his love for her: "Who'd want a detective for a son-in-law?"

Jack: I guess I like you whatever you do. I guess I like you.
Charlie: I'm glad. I like you too.
Jack: Funny how you happen to meet someone and like them and - like them. Charlie...I suppose it couldn't ever really happen some day that you'd tell your father, you know, about marrying someone, a detective, I mean.
Charlie: I don't know.
Jack: I didn't mean to tell you. I wanted to wait until you'd forgotten all the mess we've been through together so you could stop thinking of me as something unpleasant and frightening. I wanted to wait and come back and then tell you. But I can't help it. I want to tell you now. I love you, Charlie. I love you terribly. I know it's no time to tell you now and I'm sorry. Do you mind?
Charlie: I don't mind.
Jack: Do you think you could think about it?
Charlie: About your loving me?
Jack: And perhaps your loving me?
Charlie: I'd like us to be friends. I know that. Well, we are friends. I'd like to have that to think about.
Jack: And nothing more?
Charlie: I don't know, Jack, I-I just don't know yet.

She encourages him to "please come back," and they take each other's arms, but he sidesteps hugging and kissing her in his arms. The shadow of the garage door as it slams shut from the wind moves over them [clueing the audience that the door malfunctions] - they struggle together and push it open and emerge into the sunlight again. Uncle Charles, who has been pacing in the driveway and on the lawn, insinuates improper intentions on Jack's part: "What are you two locking yourselves in the garage for? When I was young, we sat in the parlor." After saying goodbye to Graham (who mentions that he'll "be back...not on business though"), Uncle Charles affectionately (and hatefully) grabs Charlie's jaw in a strangling gesture of his love/hate for her:

I can understand your coming back. Charlie's a fine girl. She's the thing I love most in the world.

Graham reminds Charlie to write: "You have all the addresses." She calls out "Jack!" as he pulls away, but his motor drowns out her cry as she is left alone with her uncle. She slowly turns to her right and sees him staring at her from the front porch. To avoid him, she takes the circuitous route around to the side entrance.

Later, on the back porch, Charlie asks her mother if there are additions to the grocery list she is taking on a shopping errand. As she descends the back stairs, she trips on a broken step and falls midway, grabbing the railing to stop her momentum. For a brief moment, Uncle Charles appears in the foreground and intently peeks through the lower banister, undetected by her. Emma aids her daughter and fears: "Oh darling, you might have been killed." Charlie looks back at the fragmented piece of wood and suspiciously up toward the second-story of the house - a cut to Uncle Charles ascending the stairs (pausing and listening) implicates him in the 'accident'. That evening with a flashlight (to the tune of the Merry Widow waltz), Charlie inspects the broken stair for evidence of tampering. Uncle Charles' footsteps are heard on the back porch, and she climbs up to his level.

In dark, profiled silhouettes, they confront each other with a clash of wills. He blackmails her by threatening to smear the family (that he ironically wants to "be a part of"), while she counter-attacks with threats to kill him, now that the returned emerald ring (that he now claims was misplaced) no longer symbolizes their connectedness. She asks him when he intends to leave, but he responds that he has no intentions to depart but rather intends to "settle down." He makes it clear that her suspicions about him would break her mother's heart and endanger her father's job at the bank - and furthermore, she no longer has the ring as evidence:

Charlie: When are you leaving, Uncle Charlie?
Uncle Charles: Oh come now, Charlie. That other business - it's all over. I'd like to forget it. We're all happy here.
Charlie: When are you leaving?
Uncle Charles: I'm not going, you see. Not yet, I'm not going. I want to settle down. Live in a place where people know me. Have some money in the bank, some sort of business. Be a part of this family.
Charlie: Oh, I see.
Uncle Charles: The most sensible thing for you to do is to be friends with me. I can do a lot for you, Charlie. A lot for all of you.
Charlie: No, not you. We don't want anything from you. I wish I'd told my mother about you. I wish I had.
Uncle Charles: Oh, I know what you've been thinking. How do you think your mother would have felt? What would it do to her now? How about your father's job at the bank? What would become of all of you if everything came out?
Charlie: I know. You needn't be afraid. I can't tell them.
Uncle Charles: I'm not afraid, Charlie. What would you tell? Who would believe you? A waltz runs through your head. You don't like the initials in a ring and you connect it all up with a newspaper clipping. And now you haven't even got the ring. I don't know what became of it.
Charlie: You have it.
Uncle Charles: I? I gave it to you.
Charlie: (resolutely) I don't want you here, Uncle Charlie. I don't want you to touch my mother. So go away, I'm warning you. Go away or I'll kill you myself. See, that's the way I feel about you.

That evening, the night of Uncle Charlie's lecture to Emma's women's club, Uncle Charles emerges from the garage where he has left the car running (after removing the key). He closes the garage door to enclose the poisonous carbon monoxide gases spewing from the car's exhaust pipe. The family is preparing to leave - Joe is uncomfortably dressed in a tuxedo, accented with a feminine, lavender-perfumed handkerchief. Underlining Joe's impotence as head of the family, Emma declares: "Oh Joe, I wish you could drive a car." "It's all arranged," says Uncle Charlie (with double meaning) - manipulatively, he insists that the rest of the family take a taxicab, while he drives in the family car with Charlie. He argues that he has to rehearse his speech on the way for his niece - his "severest critic." Sensing a catastrophe, Charlie grabs her mother's wrists [a gesture likening her to her uncle] while pleading with her to ride with them. Exasperatingly, Joe delays the family [and creates excruciating suspense] by climbing the stairs to get his overcoat.

Charlie finds the dark, smoky garage filled with exhaust fumes - and there's no key in the car ignition. As she struggles to turn the car off, the garage door shuts and traps her on the inside. As part of the "arranged" pre-lecture 'entertainment,' a cool-looking Charles descends the stairs, mentions that it's cold, shuts the window and turns up the volume on the radio broadcast (to drown out screams): "I guess we'll have a little music while we wait." Suddenly, Herb rushes in the front door, agitated about hearing someone "caught in the garage...There's something the matter with the door." After the sounding of alarm, everyone rushes to the garage, where Charles kicks a wedged stick from under the door, re-inserts the car key into the ignition, turns off the engine, and returns to pick up Charlie and carry her to the lawn. When he kneels to help her and clasps her hand, she regains consciousness and firmly tells him: "Go away." Herb congratulates himself for his "quick-thinking" and for luckily passing by at the right moment. Emma praises Charles' bravery: "She might have died. You saved her. You kept your head. You knew just what to do." Charlie elects to stay behind and prepare for the after-lecture party for the guests. On the way to the lecture in the car's back seat, Emma is uncomprehending of the 'accidents' around her:

I just don't understand it. First the stairs, then...

After everyone has left, Charlie frantically phones Jack unsuccessfully at a few locations - but she is unable to reach him. Angled camera shots imprisoning her behind stair banister shadows emphasize her frantic, upset, and trapped condition: "Mr. Graham isn't there?...And you don't expect him?...Can you tell me where I can reach him?" In a dramatically-lit sequence, Charlie rushes up to her uncle's room [where the camera remains stationary on the outside], opens the door, turns on the light, and rummages through his dresser drawer and other things. She is interrupted by the arrival of people from the lecture just as she finds the ring in her grasp. Noting that she needs to help, she calls out: "I'll be right down." Uncle Charles pours champagne for the guests and gives one glass to the widowed Mrs. Potter. Emma prefaces a tray of sandwiches to Mrs. Potter [a potential 'Merry Widow' murder victim] with a prophetic, tomato (blood)-soaked caution:

Oh, don't take that one. I don't know why I make tomato. They always soak through the bread when they've been standing. Try one of these. It's just whole wheat bread and cream cheese. It's the paprika makes it pink.

Mr. Green from the bank toasts "distinguished visitor" Mr. Oakley for the "best speech heard in this town for years" - he believes Charles would make a fine addition to the community. Basking in the praise, Uncle Charles glances toward the stairs, noticing with some delight that his beautiful niece, the very-much alive Charlie is making her dramatic entrance - and coming down another set of stairs. As he raises his glass with a smile: "Ah, here she is. Now for my toast," he stops short. The camera takes his point of view as he recognizes the emerald ring on her right hand as it glides down the stair railing - the shot tracks toward the offensive, condemning object, framing it in a gigantic closeup. [The ring also symbolizes their 'wedded' natures of the bride and bridegroom.] His face sours, he lowers his glass, composes himself, and then raises his glass toward her for a different, conciliatory, surrendering toast:

Charlie, you're just in time for a farewell toast. Hate to break the news to you like this, but tomorrow I must leave Santa Rosa. Not for ever.

Coincidentally, Mrs. Potter offers herself to Charles to be his next victim: "I was planning to go to San Francisco myself tomorrow morning." Emma is devastated by the unexpected announcement of her brother's departure, but he softens the blow to her and the audience with a sentimental appeal to the town:

Uncle Charles: Oh Emmie, darling, I didn't mean to spoil your fun tonight. I got a letter today and I've got to catch the early morning train. I'll miss you, Emmie. (He tenderly kisses her.) But I want you all to know that I'll always think of this lovely town as a place of hospitality and kindness. And homes. Homes.
Emma: But I can't bear it if you go, Charles.
Uncle Charles: Oh Emmie, I'll be back. (He glances at Charlie)

Uncle Charles explains that he has arranged with Dr. Phillips (Grandon Rhodes) for a philanthropic memorial to the town's children. Awkwardly losing control of her emotions in front of everyone (only Mrs. Potter acknowledges Emma's grief by not being embarrassed and looking away), Emma sobs and poignantly laments the loss of her brother and the freedom that she had before marrying. [Young Charlie's earlier shrewd diagnosis that her family was suffering is now given voice here]:

It isn't any of the things you've done. It's just the idea that we were together again. I'm sorry to see (her voice cracks and she pauses) - we were so close growing up. And then Charles went away and I got married and... But then you know how it is. You sort of forget you're you. You're your husband's wife. (Charlie empathizes and begins to weep for her mother as the scene fades to black.)

[Monday] At the train station, community leaders (the Greens and the Phillips) bid Uncle Charles farewell. They commend him on his character, generosity and one-ness with them: "...We feel you're one of us...And bless you for your gift to our hospital. The children will bless you too in all the years to come." Charles takes his sister's hands as the train pulls into the station behind her. Entranced by his farewells to the family, Charlie is dressed in mourning garb as a widow - a black dress with a shiny black purse. Charles invites Roger and Ann to come onto the train with him to see his cabin ("to see the "rooms...the private ones"), and Charlie "to see that I get off." Inside the train, Charlie's back is to the camera as she watches Roger bouncing on the seat in Uncle Charlie's compartment. As her uncle walks up the train corridor, he waves directly at the camera - Mrs. Potter waves back from the far end of the car. [She will undoubtedly be his next victim once the train leaves the station.] Ann is distressed about being left on the train once it starts: "I don't want to get carried away."

Taking Charlie aside, he admits that she was right to tell him to leave. But then, just after the children step off, he maneuvers to hold onto Charlie's arm in the tunnel-like corridor of the train and detain her:

Uncle Charles: Charlie, just a minute. I want you to know I think you were right to make me leave. It's best for your mother. Best for all of us. You saw what happened to her last night. She's not very strong, you know. I don't think she could stand the shock. I remember once when she was a little girl... (The train begins moving faster, but he seizes her as she panics and tries to break away.) No, listen Charlie, I want you to forget all about me. Forget that I ever came to Santa Rosa.
Charlie: (With a horrified look on her face, she looks down) Your hands! (His face is absolutely monstrous as he advances on her) Let me go, Uncle Charlie. Let me go.

In this exciting climax to their relationship - one of continual battle for knowledge and dominance, she struggles into the space between the cars, while he grips her mouth and throat and opens the door to fling her onto the tracks. He explains his homicidal intentions: "I've got to do this, Charlie, so long as you know what you do about me." He twists her around in his tight embrace, as she grapples with him. He lifts her off the ground - her legs dangle in the air. Her black-gloved hand grips the door handle and then loses its hold. Both watch the passing blur of landscape and tracks (two parallel railway tracks become one), delaying the inevitable plunge into death. Uncle Charles prepares her by waiting for the right moment of lethal speed and exhilaration (and sexual receptiveness), educating her to the monstrous world that he earlier said she must learn - as his twin:

Not yet, Charlie, let it get a little faster! Just a little faster! Faster! Now!

She reverses positions on him, upsets his balance and pushes him away - he falls headlong into the path of an oncoming, speeding train on an adjacent track. Her act frees him from his (and her) nightmares and from his curse to kill - she fulfills her earlier threat ("I'll kill you myself"), aiding her uncle to embrace death. The image dissolves to the one of dancing couples twirling to the Merry Widow Waltz.

A huge funeral procession on the spectator-lined streets of Santa Rosa leads to the church, where Charlie stands at the front door with Jack Graham. Awkwardly joined together by tragedy and death (and not by romance), the couple are the only ones who share a secret bond - the knowledge of the true, diabolical story of a pathological killer, Charles Oakley. Earlier, she "did know more" about his unquestionable guilt yet remained silent with a "shadow of a doubt," becoming his accomplice and allowing him to have an opportunity to be free and kill again [his next victim would undoubtedly have been Mrs. Potter]. They listen to organ music and Dr. Phillip's ignorant eulogy, where Charlie's uncle is praised for his many civic contributions to Santa Rosa - his gifts of money and forthright character. Charlie keeps her uncle's murders a secret to the very end.

Their conversation (an extremely contrasting point-of-view about Uncle Charlie compared to the one inside the church delivered by a conventional clergyman) drowns out the service in the background and criss-crosses back and forth with it as an ironic counterpoint. Charlie's view of the world is no longer idealistic after the horrors of the world were revealed to her through her evil uncle's view of the world. Jack's similarly skeptical view of the world echoes Uncle Charlie's cynicism - "it needs a lot of watching" because "every now and then," "crazy" types may corrupt it. [Jack's explanation of evil in the world is no better than Emma's description of her brother's childhood accident as the reason for his getting into "mischief"]:

Charlie: I'm glad you were able to come, Jack. I couldn't have faced it without someone who knew. I did know more. I couldn't tell you.
Jack: I know.
Charlie: He thought the world was a horrible place. He couldn't have been very happy ever. He didn't trust people. He seemed to hate them. Hated the whole world. You know, he said that people like us had no idea what the world was really like.
Jack: Well, it's not quite as bad as that, but sometimes it needs a lot of watching. It seems to go crazy every now and then, like your Uncle Charlie. (Disillusioned now, Charlie sighs wearily and looks down, knowing that a part of her has died with her uncle's passing.)

Santa Rosa has gained and lost a son. A son that she can be proud of. Brave, generous, kindly. With all of the splendid dignity of...He came into our community and our lives were finer and richer for it. For you who loved him most, for you who knew him best. For you, his beloved family...Let this this sad hour of grief...that no true love ever dies...The beauty of their souls, the sweetness of their characters, live on with us forever.

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