Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Schroeder, Dan. “Shadow of a Waltz.” In Hitchcock’s Ear: Music and the Director’s Art, 101-27. New York: Continuum, 2012.

Alfred Hitchcock’s scripts were often driven by a vision of what the audio and visual effects would be, and this starting premise is very perceivable in Shadow of a Doubt. From the very beginning, the plot of the film is linked to visual images of dancing and audio elements of the Waltz from Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow, although the two do not synchronize and the phrasing becomes distorted. The waltz appears in many guises throughout the film: both as diegetic and nondiegetic music, as well as the textual connection to Uncle Charlie named as the “Merry Widow Murderer.” However, Lehár’s music in the nondiegetic space has been distorted to the point where one could no longer dance to it, resulting in an effect similar to and probably inspired by Ravel’s La Valse that influences the film’s form and structure. The two-part form of Ravel’s piece, in which discordant passages gradually overtake the waltz tune, impacts the film’s form, where everyday, innocent life in a typical American town is gradually darkened and disrupted by a murderer’s presence. Both the diegetic and nondiegetic instances of Merry Widow waltz emphasize this distortion and appear at key points in the narrative, such as young Charlie discovering the identity of her uncle and his death at the end of the film.

Works: Alfred Hitchcock (director): Shadow of a Doubt (101-127), Suspicion (105, 107).

Sources: Franz Lehár: Waltz from The Merry Widow (103-27); Johann Strauss II: Wiener Blut (105); Ravel: La Valse (106-111, 113, 118-19).

Index Classifications: 1900s, Film

Contributed by: Emily Baumgart

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