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A soft-spoken leading man who played a number of good guy
roles throughout his career, many of whom suffered at the hands of their more
malicious fellow characters, male or female. But Joseph Cotten also proved extremely versatile and effective
as thwarted lovers or artists, sturdy detectives or servicemen, and even played
an occasional bad guy himself.
Cotten came to Hollywood with Orson Welles in
the early 1940s as a member of Welles'
New York theatre group, The Mercury Players and in 1941, made his feature
film debut in Welles' now-legendary
tale of the rise and fall of newspaper tycoon CITIZEN KANE.
Cotten played Kane's abused friend Jedediah Leland.
- "That's all he really wanted out of life, was love. That's
Charlie's story: how he lost it. You see, he just didn't have any to give."
--as Jedediah Leland in CITIZEN KANE.
never gave himself away. He never gave anything away. He just... left ya
a tip, hm?" --as Jedediah Leland in CITIZEN KANE (a .WAV
- "But it will end. It's starting to clear. In the morning when
the sun rises, sometimes it's hard to believe there ever was a night. You'll
find that too." --as Brian Cameron in GASLIGHT.
- "Try to understand that . . . well, I think every woman should
understand that the returning soldier's not the man she knew and loved
before he went away; nor is the woman the same." --as Allen Quinton
in LOVE LETTERS (1945).
- "Well, you don't expect me to let a woman die because I owe
you $187, do you?" --as Dr. Louis Moline in BEYOND THE FOREST (1949).
- "I've heard there may be a life after this one. If it's
true, I may see you down there." --as Chris Hale in WALK SOFTLY,
- "Have you ever covered a Civil War? It's like
trying to make love in a revolving door." --as Hawthorne in THE ANGEL
WORE RED (1960).
The following year, Cotten again teamed with Welles
in the director's 1942 adaptation of Booth Tarkington's novel THE
MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, also featuring Agnes
Moorehead, Anne Baxter,
Dolores Costello and Tim Holt. Cotten played Eugene Morgan in the
film, an eccentric inventor and spurned suitor who returns years later to
court the now-widowed daughter of the rich, powerful Amberson family, but
must confront opposition from her grown son. Though praised today
for its notable cinematography and performances, THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS
suffered over forty minutes of cuts at the hands of
RKO management who
also tacked on an abrupt new ending, rendering the film merely a hint of
what might have been.
Video Clip from THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS:
Collins, Dolores Costello,
Anne Baxter and Tim
Holt (a .AVI file courtesy RKO Pictures/Turner Entertainment).
In 1943, Alfred
Hitchcock turned Cotten's established screen image as an
often-victimized leading man on its head when he cast him as Uncle Charlie in
SHADOW OF A DOUBT opposite
Teresa Wright (at left).
The move added a new dimension to Cotten's reputation and resulted not
only in one of his most memorable performances, but also in one of Hitchcock's
best films and one of my personal favorites.
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