Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Case Study No. 1535: Miss Cochran

Shadow of a Doubt - Library Scene
Library Scene
Tags: library biblioteca Hitchcock
Added: 5 years ago
From: nicolaemoromete
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[Charlie grabs some crumpled-up newspaper clippings out of the wastebasket, then she enters Ann's bedroom]
CHARLIE: Aren't you asleep yet, Ann?
ANN: Mmm-mm.
[she sits on the adjacent bed and starts looking through the newspaper clippings, while the little girl gets out of her bed (while holding a book)]
ANN: Charlotte, what're you doing?
CHARLIE: Oh, I'm just looking for a recipe I thought I saw, but ... it's just so torn up.
ANN: They have papers in the li-berry, new ones and old ones. Miss Cochran will get them out for you, she won't even notice if you cut out a little bitty recipe.
CHARLIE: Oh, it's not that important ... What time's the library close?
ANN: If you'd read as much as you should, you'd know it closes at nine ...
[she gets back into bed, so Charlie gets up and heads for the door]
CHARLIE: Oh well, I'll think about it. Maybe I'll go tomorrow ... You really ought to go to sleep, Ann.
[she closes the door behind her, then quickly exits the house]
[cut to Charlie rushing down the street, as she tries to cross without looking and nearly gets hit by a car]
TRAFFIC COP: Get back! Get back!
[she heads back to the sidewalk, then waits for the cop to blow his whistle for people to cross]
[cut to a closeup of the cop, as he blows his whistle (then grabs Charlie by the arm as she tries to run past him)]
TRAFFIC COP: Just a moment, Charlie! Waddaya think I'm out here for?
CHARLIE: I'm sorry, Mister Norton ...
TRAFFIC COP: Alright, go ahead ...
[cut to Charlie running up the steps of the "Free Public Library", but she sees that the door is locked, as the clock tower rings for nine o'clock]
[cut to a closeup of Charlie looking through the glass door (where she sees the elderly female librarian inside), so she starts knocking]
CHARLIE: Please ... oh please.
[the librarian points to the posted hours on the door ("10 AM - 9 PM"), but Charlie keeps knocking so she (and reluctantly) opens the door]
CHARLIE: Oh thank you!
[she walks into the library]
MISS COCHRAN: Really Charlie, you know as well as I do ... the library closes at nine. If I make one exception, I'll have to make a thousand!
CHARLIE: Oh, I'm sorry Misses Cochran, but there's something in the paper I've just got to see!
MISS COCHRAN: I'm surprised at you, Charlie. No consideration!
CHARLIE: I'll only be a minute ...
MISS COCHRAN: You've got all day, Charlie, to come here ... I don't know why you want to rush in here like a madwoman! I'll give you just three minutes!
[as Miss Cochran goes to turn on the lights, Charlie rushes to the newspaper rack, where she eventually pulls out a paper and sits down to read it]
CHARLIE: [whispers] Can't be anything really awful ... I'll prove to him it isn't!
[she suddenly stops, as the camera focuses on the headline ("Where is the Merry Widow Murderer? Nation-wide Search Under Way for Strangler of Three Rich Women")]
[cut back to a closeup of Charlie, as she takes the ring off her finger, then the camera pans wide to show her slowly walking out of the library]



The reel librarian in Alfred Hitchcock's "Shadow of a Doubt" (1943) is on-screen for less than 30 seconds. Charlie Newton (Teresa Wright) rushes to the public library to check a newspaper but arrives several minutes after closing time. The librarian, Miss Cochran (uncredited; Eily Malyon), is turning off the lights, and Charlie knocks on the door until the librarian responds. Although clearly reluctant to permit Charlie to enter, the librarian states that "if I make one exception, I'll have to make a thousand" and after giving Charlie a brief lecture about using the library during its regular hours, she permits Charlie to look at the newspapers for three minutes.

An "only 38" librarian, she is attired in a dark long sleeve wrap-around dress, V-neckline, with contrasting light lapels; her hair is gray and pulled up into a bun on her crown. The librarian's defense of library hours further promotes the stereotypical image by shoing librarians to be dogmatic about rules. Such inflexibility reinforces the mundane, ordinary existence of librarians. The fact, however, is that she permits Charlie to use the library after hours in violation of library rules.

Later in the film, Jack Graham (MacDonald Carey) in a discussion with Charlie remarks that Charlie's sister "wants to marry a librarian ... so she'll always have plenty of books around to read." Charlie breaks out in laughter at the remark as Jack smiles. This remark conjures up the image of librarians as bookworms and, consequently, results in laughter. These brief scenes promote the stereotypical image.



Upstairs, Charlie pauses secretively and then sneaks into her uncle's room to rummage through scraps of newspaper in the wastebasket. Returning to Ann's room, she spreads out the torn-out pieces on her bed ("looking for a recipe"), but cannot find the purloined article. Ann suggests: "They have papers in the liberry (sic). New ones and old ones. Mrs. Cochran will get them out for ya. She won't even notice if you cut out a little-bitty recipe." Her haughty, bratty sister also explains that if she read more books, she would know that the library is open only until 9 pm. Nonchalantly, Charlie tells Ann: "I'll think about it and maybe go tomorrow." But she uses the back stairs to exit the house and proceed downtown to visit the library.

The film's next sequence builds to a suspenseful climax as Charlie rushes through town to get to the library before it closes, to read the edition of the newspaper that her uncle had damaged. The background music (a piano concerto) builds and swells as she determinedly walks across intersections with her arms stiffly balancing her on either side - the camera tracks backward as she approaches. Heedless of traffic at one busy intersection, she barely avoids being hit by a turning vehicle. The policeman, Mr. Norton (Earle Dewey) yells at her to "get back" to the curb. The town's clock shows the time: five minutes until 9 o'clock. Finally, after waiting for the light to change, she steps out, but the officer reprimands her again. The lights of the Free Public Library turn off just as she arrives and the town's clock begins chiming. At the door, she knocks loudly on the door - passersby from the sidewalk look toward her. She pleads with the stern, old-maid librarian (Eily Malyon) to let her in.


Appalled, her eyes widen as she finds the damning evidence - the newspaper column's headline flashes before her, and as she reads the story about the nationwide search, the column scrolls by. The Merry Widow Waltz theme plays dramatically in the background:


Nation-wide Search Under
Way for Strangler of
Three Rich Women

The whereabouts of the so-called 'Merry-Widow' murderer, strong-handed strangler of three wealthy women, is a question baffling detectives today who are conducting a coast to coast search for the killer.
So far successfully eluding sleuths, the unidentified man evidently has slipped through a cordon thrown around the northeastern states, but announcement of his arrest is expected daily.
The trailing detectives are after two men, one of whom they are certain is the actual killer. The fact that all the victims were wealthy widows accounts for his being known to the police as the 'Merry Widow' murderer.
His latest victim, on January 12th, in Gloucester, Mass., was Mrs. Bruce Matthewson, the former musical comedy star, known to audiences at the beginning of this century as 'the beautiful Thelma Schenley.'

In a close-up of her hand, she removes the emerald ring and re-reads the initials inscribed - "TS from BM" - the initials of one of the victims. She is devastated and broken, knowing that her uncle is undeniably guilty - it is the film's major turning point. She rises slowly and walks out. The camera pulls back to a long shot from above, isolating her at a distance among the dark shadows of the library's reading room. The image dissolves into the dancing, revolving 'Merry-Widow' couples on the ballroom floor.

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