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Looking Beyond the Obvious

Today is Alfred Hitchcock’s 114th birthday. It seems Mr. Hitchcock, the master of playing with appearances, has left us with an excellent example of why researchers should look beyond the information we THINK we should be seeing.  

In his Petition for Naturalization, filed March 18, 1955 in the Los Angeles District Court. The first page is filled with very good information about the man: his name, date of birth, occupation as a director and producer of movies.  But page two reveals a surprise for fans of Hollywood’s golden age:  Joseph Cotten is Hitchcock’s witness!

Cotten starred in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubtwhich premiered in 1943 as well as in several episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, but he is best known for his 1941 roll as Jedediah Leland in Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane.  

A witness was someone who could attest that they had “personal knowledge that the petitioner is now and…has been a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution, of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States.”

We’re curious.  What was the relationship between the actor and his director?

The Petition for Naturalization is from the holdings of the National Archives at Riverside and can be found in the research catalog of the National Archives at http://research.archives.gov/description/595182.  

Still from Shadow of a Doubt is courtesy of Universal Studios - Thanks!

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