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The “Shadow of a Doubt” House

Oct 19th, 2016 | By | Category: Haunted Hollywood, Movie Locations

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Sitting on a quiet corner on an idyllic street in Santa Rosa is a home with quite a scary movie pedigree.  Not only did the Italianate Victorian-style abode appear in a Hitchcock classic, the 1943 thriller Shadow of a Doubt, but in my favorite horror flick of all time, Scream!  (While the residence has also been credited with bringing about one of the best known horror movie costumes of all time, that information is actually incorrect, as I learned while writing this post.  More on that later.)

Shadow of a Doubt, which is reported to be Hitchcock’s favorite of all his films, tells the story of a young girl named Charlie Newton (Teresa Wright) whose favorite relative/namesake, Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotton), comes to stay with her family in their picturesque Santa Rosa home.  Despite the younger Charlie’s initial excitement over the visit, she soon begins to suspect her uncle of being a serial killer whom the police and media have dubbed the “Merry Widow Murderer.”

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According to IMDB, when scouting Santa Rosa for a location to portray the Newton home, Hitchcock advised his production team to find a pretty residence that was a bit worn down, so as to portray the family’s normalcy and middle-class stature.  The group found exactly what they were looking for at 904 McDonald Avenue.  Photos of the house were sent to The Master of Suspense and he gave the go-ahead to secure the location.  When cast and crew showed up a few weeks later to begin filming, Hitch was shocked and dismayed to discover that the homeowners, ecstatic over their dwelling’s big screen debut, had repainted the exterior and made several repairs.  Set designers had to subsequently come in and add effects to the property to reverse the improvements the owners had made and return the site to its former aged and slightly weathered state.

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Amazingly, little of the home has been altered in the 73 years since filming took place.

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The front doors even appear to be the same ones that were in place when the movie was shot in 1943!

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I was especially enamored of the wraparound porch, which made several appearances in Shadow of a Doubt.  I think I need a front porch in my life!

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You can check out some photographs of the cast filming outside of the home here.

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The stately residence was originally built way back in 1876.  You read that right – the home celebrated it 140th birthday this year!  It also has the distinction of being the oldest house on the street.

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The 2-story pad boasts 6 bedrooms, 2 baths, 3,272 square feet, and a detached garage.

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According to a 2002 SF Gate article, the inside of the home was also used in Shadow of a DoubtA 2009 The Press Democrat column disputes that claim, though, as do Turner Classic Movies’ notes on the film.  The latter both contend that all interiors were shot on a soundstage in Hollywood.  Honestly, I am not sure who to believe and unfortunately I could not find any interior photos of the residence to compare to what appeared onscreen.  I was leaning toward sets being used until I read The Press Democrat’s mention that there was a $5,000 ceiling in place on all set building at the time per the War Production Board, so I’m really unsure.  I’ll let my fellow stalkers be the judge.  Areas of the house that were utilized per SF Gate include the bedroom;

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the stairway;

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the parlor (though it has since been remodeled);

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and the dining room (also since remodeled).

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The Newton’s kitchen also made several appearances in Shadow of a Doubt, though SF Gate does not specify if what appeared onscreen was the home’s actual kitchen.

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The room was featured in Scream, though!  In the 1996 flick, it masked as the kitchen in Tatum Riley’s (Rose McGowan) house.  The residence used for exterior shots of Tatum’s home can be found next door at 824 McDonald Avenue (a locale I will be blogging about soon).  The scene in her bedroom was also shot at that property.

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I was hoping that in comparing screen captures from Scream and Shadow of a Doubt, I could discern if filming of the Hitchcock thriller did indeed take place inside 904 McDonald Avenue.  Per SF Gate, the kitchen was remodeled in the 1970s, so my prospects did not look good.  I still had faith, but, sadly, nothing matched up at all.  While I was thrilled to see that both kitchens boast antique stoves (the Shadow of a Doubt house appears to have two of them, actually) . . .

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. . . outside of pipes running up to the ceiling, the stoves don’t resemble each other in the slightest.

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As I mentioned above, there is some erroneous information about the Shadow of a Doubt house floating around in the media.  As was reported in Scream: The Inside Story (which you can watch here), while scouting locations for the movie, the production team toured 904 McDonald Avenue.  At the time, Wes Craven was struggling to find the perfect scary mask for the Ghostface killer to wear.  Fate stepped in during the location scout when executive producer Marianne Maddalena spotted a mask hanging from a bedpost in one of the residence’s rooms.  She immediately knew it was the perfect Ghostface mask and sent images of it to Wes, who agreed, and (after a bit of wrangling to secure the rights), the rest, as they say, is history.  Only problem is, the mask was not actually found in the Shadow of a Doubt house.

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While taking a closer look at the original location photo shown in Scream: The Inside Story, I noticed that the bedroom where the mask was found bore a strong resemblance to Tatum’s bedroom from Scream.

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Comparing screen captures to the photo proved my hunch correct, as you can see above and below.  The fireplace, slanted walls, positioning of doors, and curved staircase banister visible in the hallway in the original location photo all match Tatum’s room from Scream.  Per some call sheets that the lovely Ashley, of the Drewseum website, shared with me (which I practically drooled all over while reading!) and as mentioned above, the bedroom scene was shot not at 904 McDonald Avenue, but next door at 824 McDonald.  So that is the property we should be crediting for gifting the world with the now infamous Ghostface mask!  As promised, I will be doing a post on that location soon.

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For more stalking fun, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Los Angeles magazine and Discover Los Angeles.

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Until next time, Happy Stalking!  Smile

Stalk It: The Newton home from Shadow of a Doubt is located at 904 McDonald Avenue in Santa Rosa.

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6 comments

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  1. armando says:

    o beatiful old house i love that movie,so good to see this house.same like in 1943.good old uncle charlie:)))))))

  2. Javier Mulero says:

    It’s true that all INTERIOR SETS were built in the Soundstage at the Studio. And I’ve seen the Pics. I’ll try to look for them now but there’s one I remember of a multi-story interior set of the house so the camera can shoot on either level. And it showed the huge camera crane as they were filming a scene). That’s just ONE set built. Then there were probably individual rooms which sets’ interiors they had to build too. (There is another Multi-Story interior set like this in Pics from the Filming of “The Diary of Anne Frank” (1959) ), And, also, especially in the 1940’s and 1930’s, it was VERY difficult to shoot interiors in their actual locations because there was no room to put their huge cameras and necessary lighting equipment needed for that time!!

  3. Ashley L. says:

    So much love! Thanks for the shout out 😉 I can’t get over how little this house has changed over all these years, sigh!


Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. […] It was none other than Alfred Hitchcock who wound up giving him an assist.  The Master of Suspense filmed his famed 1943 thriller Shadow of a Doubt on McDonald Avenue and Robby figured Happy Land might have done the same.  So he began searching the street and, sure […]

  2. […] It: The McDonald Mansion from Pollyanna is located at 1015 McDonald Avenue in Santa Rosa.  The Newton home from the 1943 Alfred Hitchcock thriller Shadow of a Doubt is located a block away at 904 McDonald Avenue.  [The kitchen of that residence was also used as […]

  3. […] right across the street from the pad featured in the 1943 original, I just had to stalk it.  (I blogged about the residence from the original film. located at 904 McDonald Avenue in Santa Rosa, …, for those who are interested.)   As you can see above, the property is currently undergoing a […]

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