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The Scene Where Uncle Charlie Tears the Newspaper

A lot of Shadow of a Doubt is pretty sophisticated for a 1943 studio film.

Like this scene:

Uncle Charlie, in the living room of his sister's family's home, sees an article in the daily newspaper that clearly upsets and disturbs him. He doesn't want anyone in the family to read it, so he tears it out of the newspaper.

Teenage heroine Young Charlie(Teresa Wright) is not in this scene at this point, but her next-in-line younger sister, Ann is -- the smart, cynical sister who doesn't trust Uncle Charlie. Uncle Charlie tries to cover up his ripping out the article (which, we will learn later, talks about the "Merry Widow murders" that he has committee) by building the paper into a small castle. He offers it to the smart sister, who is having none of it: "You've torn up daddy's paper! He never wants anybody to do anything with his newspaper before he reads it!" (Or something like that.)

Now, the youngest child of the family enters the room -- a little boy named Roger. Thwarted by the too-smart sister, Uncle Charlie tries to interest the younger, supposedly less sharp, little boy in the "newspaper castle." But the little boy - -heretofore not very opinionated about anything, exclaims: "You've ruined daddy's newspaper!"

I like a lot of things about this scene. One is that , despite the husband/father man of the house being presented as a rather too-elderly and ineffectual leader of his household -- it turns out that he(and the mother) have "laid down the law": a father's newspaper is sacrosanct, not to be trifled with. The kids UNDERSTAND this. Uncle Charlie does not.

And that's the other funny part of the scene. Though a "mystery clue" is being planted here(what's IN that article?) Uncle Charlie underestimates BOTH children in trying to treat them LIKE children -- in assuming that if he builds a little castle out of the newspaper, somehow that will fool them into thinking that's why he did what he did. The older one, Ann, rejects the ploy -- but its REALLY surprising that little Roger does, too. And funny.

And then Young Charlie -- the eldest, the teenager -- comes in, and she, too takes note that daddy's newspaper has been ruined. She accepts Uncle Charlie's story, somewhat -- but suspicion starts to cloud her face.

Its a great little scene -- some mystery, some suspense, but "something to say" about how, once upon a time, a bread-winning father's daily newspaper -- and his "first look" access to it at the end of the working day -- was his source of power in the family structure.


I enjoyed reading this post.


Thank you for reading!