Classic Movie Legend Tribute: Joseph Cotten


Happy Birthday to Classic Movie Legend, Joseph Cotten, born May 15th, 1905!

A favorite performance is a matter of taste. Some people are moved by grand gestures of feeling, the kind of acting where it seems as if the actor has abandoned all sense of self, living in the emotional moment. Others prefer the method approach in which an actress works from “the inside out,” becoming, rather than emulating, the character they play. As for me, my favorite performances tend to be the more sinister ones, the ones that require an actor to play a dual role of criminal mastermind and their placid public front. To play a role that requires treachery of the public is much more complex and interesting than that of the noble-cowboy. The nobleman is straightforward and honest. What you see is what you get. But the deceiver, well, he must be more complicated. It’s a role within a role, playing a character whose playing a character. When done right, its glory on screen and my favorite male performance, is just that: glorious.

Joseph Cotten gives my favorite male performance in Shadow of a Doubt (1943, Alfred Hitchock director)

In Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, Joseph Cotten plays Uncle Charlie, a charming, charismatic man visiting his family in sunny, idyllic Santa Rose. He also plays Uncle Charlie, the serial killer known as the “Merry Widow Murderer,” the seducer/murderer of wealthy widows. In his performance, he is both a kind, loving uncle and a ruthless, cynical psychopath. He offers material gifts of love and worldly advice of hate. He is complicated, rich and deep. He is not evil incarnate, just a man who has gladly succumbed to the evils of the world. In short, he is what potentially lurks inside all of humanity – that justified and reasoned selfishness that overrides all sense of ethics or morality. That is why the performance is so powerful, so glorious. Click the link below and you will see why.

Shadow of a Doubt: Bar Scene


Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub

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