(Sir) Alfred Hitchcock Manny Farber - Essay

Manny Farber

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

"Shadow of A Doubt" has a good deal of the peculiar, almost revolting emotion movie director Alfred Hitchcock tries to capture by suggesting that the most ordinary circumstance may turn up something sinister—the census takers at your door may be part of a widespread plot, the next time you cross the street somebody may push you in front of a truck. Hitchcock threatens your very possible world with the impossible so often in this movie that at the end, in addition to the emotion mentioned, you are not sure of anything….

Unfortunately, Mr. Hitchcock's people here tend to resemble figures on a Saturday Evening Post cover or actors in a stock-company production of Tarkington. Not that they are made silly or have to say silly things; but rather that the treatment of the family and friends is corny and superficial, lacking insight and seriousness. They are homespun, clean, gentle people, but they do nothing, say nothing and inflict nothing that is telling….

Hitchcock shows here that sensationalism is not necessary to every part of a movie if the details of ordinary activity are examined for their fullest suggestiveness. His most expressive moments are the sudden switches in emotion in midstride of an activity: the abrupt change in the pace of a walk or the tone of a voice, the sudden hurrying of people into position. As a result he is producing movies of high quality. As for his famous horror and suspense, they are here, and better than in any other of his American movies so far.

Manny Farber, "Hitchcock in Stride," in The New Republic (reprinted by permission of The New Republic; © 1943 The New Republic, Inc.), Vol. 108, No. 6, February 8, 1943, p. 182.