Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Great Moments in Movie Shelves #103

This kind of isn't really a "Great Moment in Movie Shelves" - it's more of a "Great Moment in Movie Libraries" since we sadly don't see into the stacks beyond the front reading room. But Alfred Hitchcock's great 1943 film Shadow of a Doubt (his personal favorite of his own films) was on TCM this past weekend and I knew I had to give this scene some love, so here we are. And there are shelves!

In this scene Young Charlie (Teresa Wright) has raced across town to the local library to look up some pertinent information about her possibly murderous Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten), trying to get there before they close up for the night - in typical Hitchcockian fashion this small job becomes heart-stoppingly tense as everything up to and including nearly being hit by a car gets in her way. 

She manages to get inside, after pounding on the door and irritating the presumably over-it librarian, and Charlie gets what she's come for - proof that her beloved uncle is really an old-lady strangler most foul. And then...

... Hitch gives us this fantastic crane shot, which I don't think gets enough attention in his filmography. It's an inverse of the much-ballyhooed crane shot from 1946's Notorious - in Notorious his camera zooms from the second floor of a crowded party down to a key that Ingrid Bergman is holding (you can watch this sequence below). It's a great shot!  It deserves the love.

But he did it here in Shadow of a Doubt three whole years earlier, and in going instead from small to big, from the small ring that's revealed her Uncle Charlie's wickedness up and out to the sight of Young Charlie's small devastated frame sinking off into the library's enormous shadows, the film offers us the exact opposite emotional reaction as Notorious - here we have not a new excitement but a horrible finality, a heavy weight and burden.

Here's the shot in Notorious to compare.


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