I was having a conversation with another classic movie fan who has a particular admiration for Alfred Hitchcock. The number two came up in regards to the director’s Shadow of a Doubt, his personal favorite and one of mine as well. I didn’t think much of the number two when mentioned because anyone who enjoys Hitchcock movies knows – or has noticed – the importance of two (or duality) as a theme element. For instance, “the wrong man” theme that permeates many of his films suggests – at the very least – that most people have at their core the possibility of a dark side in addition to the good. Also, the numerous spies that play a part in many Hitchcock stories are – by definition – employing at least two sides of their personalities. Then there’s the in-your-face duality prevalent in Vertigo (1958) and Shadow of a Doubt’s own Uncle Charlie playing good guy while in actuality he’s a murdering scoundrel…and so forth. I think you get the picture. There are many examples of Hitchcock dualities.
The “twos” my friend referred to weren’t part of the duality theme, however. Or at least not only. What he meant was the actual presence of the number two or a noticeable mention of two or illustration of two throughout Shadow of a Doubt. Naturally that piqued my curiosity so I took another look at the movie, doing a double-take at every mention or illustration of two. What I found rather surprised me.
Here’s a brief Shadow of a Doubt refresher:
Charles Oakley loses the two men that are following him and suddenly decides to visit his sister Emma and her family in Santa Rosa, CA. Uncle Charlie, as his favorite niece and namesake, Charlie calls him, is a charming man who promises to break the monotony of life in Santa Rosa as young woman sees it. Unfortunately, what Uncle Charlie brings is murder and darkness to the otherwise idyllic small town. It is young Charlie, who has enjoyed a special bond with her uncle all of her life, who comes to recognize his crimes and becomes a hero in the process in a story told with dark humor, gorgeous imagery and singular precision by Sir Alfred Hitchcock.
Shadow of a Doubt Cast:
- Teresa Wright as “Young Charlie” Newton
- Joseph Cotten as Charles “Uncle Charlie” Oakley
- Henry Travers as Joseph Newton
- Patricia Collinge as Emma Newton
- Macdonald Carey as Detective Jack Graham
- Wallace Ford as Detective Fred Saunders
- Hume Cronyn as Herbie Hawkins
- Edna May Wonacott as Ann Newton
- Charles Bates as Roger Newton
- Irving Bacon as Station Master
If you prefer not to have the ending to Shadow of a Doubt spoiled you have two options – stop reading now or stop reading…NOW.
Twos in Shadow of a Doubt
- There are two men looking for Uncle Charlie as announced by the landlord of the building where Charles Oakley temporarily resides at the onset of the story.
- When Charles Oakley calls the postal union to send a telegram to his sister about his visit the only number you see him dialing is the two on the rotary phone.
- There are two Charlies.
- The mother of the younger Charlie and sister of the elder Charlie is named Emma, a name with a double letter. Emma was also Hitchcock’s mother’s name, by the way, and she died during the making of Shadow of a Doubt.
- The younger sister in the Newton family’s name is Ann, a name with a double letter. The bank manager’s name – where Mr. Newton (young Charlie’s father) works – is named Mr. Green and a Mrs. Green and a Mrs. Potter visit the bank while Charles Oakley is there to open an account. There is also a Mrs. Phillips in the movie. Young Charlie and Detective Graham go to dinner at the Gunnery Grill and Dr. and Mrs. Harry play cards with Alfred Hitchcock during his cameo in this picture.
- Ann is an avid reader who boasts of reading two books per week.
- When Uncle Charlie settles into young Charlie’s room in the Newton home he looks out the window to the idyllic neighborhood and there sees two women talking. In a later scene we see two women (maybe the same ones) walking past the Newton house.
- Uncle Charlie gives his sister Emma two gifts.
- Uncle Charles’ gift to young Charlie is a ring with two sets of initials engraved on it.
- Most of the characters in Shadow of a Doubt have last names with two syllables, including the two aliases used by Charles Oakley as he tries to evade law enforcement – Mr. Spencer, an alias based on his mother’s maiden name, is used at the beginning and he is Mr. Otis on the train ride toward Santa Rosa.
- Two strangers want to interview the Newton family for an article and the man with the camera (luckily) carries two rolls of film with him. Although these two strangers are the same two detectives who have been following Charles Oakley since the beginning of the movie, it’s interesting that “two strangers” is how they are referred to by Emma. This mirrors how the landlady had referred to the two men earlier.
- Young Charlie wears a jacket/cape with two large buttons when she goes to the train station to greet Uncle Charlie. I wouldn’t have thought twice about that if she is not seen later wearing two bird brooches. She wears the brooches to the library to which she goes in a hurry, scurrying past a clock tower at an angle where two clocks are visible.
- The latest Merry Widow murder victim had two names as young Charlie reads in the newspaper, “Mrs. Bruce Matthewson, the former musical comedy star, known to audiences at the beginning of this century as ‘the beautiful Thelma Schenley.'”
- Uncle Charlie takes young Charlie to a bar called the Til-Two Club to talk about the young woman’s suspicions. The young waitress, a former schoolmate of young Charlie, has been working at the Til-Two for two weeks. Uncle Charlie orders a double brandy.
- Young Charlie missed detective Graham when he stopped by her house two times looking for her.
- We find out that “The trailing detectives are after two men” either of which may be the Merry Widow Murderer. During a conversation with young Charlie, Detective Saunders mentions to her that they should know which of the two men is the killer in a wire arriving in two hours.
- Once young Charlie is convinced her uncle is a murderer he tries to kill her two times before the final showdown. Once on the stairs of the Newton home and again by locking her in the garage with the car ignition on.
- There are two train scenes in the movie, Charles Oakley’s arrival and Charles Oakley’s departure.
- Joe and Herbie, two friends who like to talk about the perfect murder, have two such conversations in the movie.
- Charlie has two girlfriends she runs into two times in the movie.
- Shadow of a Doubt features two garage scenes and two dinner table scenes. The latter statistic took me by surprise because these scenes are so vital to the film it seems like there are more of them.
- Mirror images/double shots – can you ignore the mirror images of the two Charlies as two sides of the same person? Maybe? In the following two images from the beginning of the movie we see the Charlies in each of their respective rooms with people speaking to them from the doorway.
- Then we have the Charlies as two menacing figures illustrated in two similar images at different points in the story with one Charlie posing a threat to the other – both standing at the doorway to the Newton house from different perspectives.
- Finally, it takes two trains to bring Uncle Charlie to justice.
I’ve dedicated several posts to Mr. Hitchcock on this blog either as commentaries on his work in general or on specific movies. The one thing that I invariably mention is his attention to detail and the fact that Hitchcock left nothing to chance. Nothing. So while several of the twos included on the above list may seem silly I think there’s something to this number two matter. And who knows how many I may have missed?! What can all the twos mean beyond the duality theme? Are they just subtle ways to bring home that message? At the very least these twos play on our psyche, don’t they? What do you think? Is all of this a dual figment of my imagination? Or are they coincidences?
PS – When Uncle Charlie knocks over the water glass at dinner – he uses two fingers to do so.
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