Monday, January 4, 2016

TODAY'S NUGGET: Shadow of a Doubt (1943) - The Art of the Slow Burn

[Quick Summary: After her uncle arrives from out of town, a niece suspects he is a murderer.]

Uncle Charlie travels out west to visit his sister.

His niece and namesake, Young Charlie, is thrilled...until she suspects that Uncle Charlie may/may not be running from the law. 

Unfortunately, she only has a few circumstantial stories, i.e., no hard evidence.

What does she do next? Tell the cops? Set a trap for Uncle?

If I were the writer of this story, this would be my first instinct.  I would want to jump to proving Young Charlie is right.  

But any quick resolution would immediately kill the suspense. (Oops.)

Here, the writers were more clever and inserted a mix of:
- emotional obstacles (Young Charlie is terribly conflicted: She idolizes Uncle Charlie. Also she doesn't want to humiliate her mother with a public reveal.)
- genuine obstacles (Nosy plainclothes detectives.  Interruptions during the bar scene).

Nothing can be forced into a quick fix.

You must wait until the game is played out before reaching a resolution.

This is the good kind of suspense, i.e., a slow burn.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: I really admire how the obstacles are so truthful to the characters and not tacked on as plot devices.

ex. Young Charlie goes to the library to find out what newspaper article that Uncle Charlie cut out.  This causes her to face who Uncle Charlie is, and not what he says.

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
by Thornton Wilder, Sally Benson, & Alma Reville
Story by Gordon McDonell

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