Shadow of a Doubt marks the one occasion Hitchcock worked with playwright Thornton Wilder, and the result is something like an anti-Our Town, though one that's not nearly as punishing as Dogville. Joseph Cotton, Hollywood's crown prince of compromised leading men--who either fail to get the girl (Magnificent Ambersons, The Third Man) or fail to save his best friend (Citizen Kane, The Third Man)--takes another star turn here as beloved Uncle Charlie, favorite relation of an ordinary California family and a serial murderer of wealthy widows on the sly.
On the lam from the feds, Uncle Charlie takes up residence in Santa Rosa, Calif., where he's reunited with his niece and namesake, Charlie (Teresa Wright). What follows is an intense story of secrets and lies, and the murderous betrayal that follows. But Shadow of a Doubt is also a prime example of Hitchcock's underestimated sense of humor. Hume Cronyn plays a nosy neighbor who fancies himself an amateur sleuth, and boy does his bungling get on Uncle Charlie's nerves. But the real dangerous giveaway is the melody from The Merry Widower that the characters can't get out of their heads.
Shadow of a Doubt shows Friday, March 4 at 8 p.m. at the N.C. Museum of Art, 2110 Blue Ridge Road, Raleigh. For more information, visit www.ncartmuseum.org.