A publicity photo from the movie

BY ROBERT DIGITALE

It’s pretty nice to watch a free showing of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Shadow of a Doubt” on the big screen. But it gets even better when you see the image of a passenger train chugging up to a basalt stone train depot – and realize that the same old station still stands just a 10-minute walk away from your movie theater.

Yes, Santa Rosa was one of the stars in the 1943 classic. And on Saturday, as part of the city’s annual Rose Parade festivities, people were able to enter the Roxy Stadium 14 theater for free showings of a film that captured the look of the town almost 70 years ago.

Those familiar with the city can easily recognize a few landmarks. A prominent one is the white Empire Building, still standing today on Old Courthouse Square. But viewers also can get a glimpse of what the town used to look like when the old courthouse and public library were still around. Also seen is the ‘Til Two bar at Third Street and Santa Rosa Avenue. The bar is long gone, but it used to stand only a block from the theater.

Critics seems to think more highly of later Hitchcock movies (the American Film Institute’s top 100 films doesn’t include “Shadow” but does have at least four of his others: “Psycho,” “Vertigo,” “Rear Window,” and my favorite, “North by Northwest.”) Even so, the director showed here he knows how to tell a story on film. The camera work grabs you (an elevated shot looking down at night within the old library; another shot zooms in close on the ring that can prove the guilt of the villain.) And Joseph Cotton is positively chilling as Uncle Charlie, the man who can charm and horrify.

After the movie, Carol and I rode our motor scooter over to McDonald Avenue to look for the house that was used as the idyllic abode of the Newton family, the relatives Uncle Charlie comes to visit. Yes, the home’s still there, with its distinct front porch, bay window and iron railing above.

Here’s hoping the Roxy’s owners will be kind enough to show the film for free again next year on the 70th anniversary of filming in Santa Rosa (and again in 2013 for the 70th anniversary of its release.)

(By the way, where was Hitchcock’s cameo in this film? My wife and I both missed him.)

And here is a link to an excellent 2009 column on the filming of “Shadow” in Santa Rosa by my colleague, Gaye LeBaron.