Today is Edna Green's 78th birthday. Who is Edna Green? These days she is a great-grandmother who lives in Arizona, but there was a time many years ago when she was known as Edna May Wonacott and she was in the movies.
Edna May was nine years old and living with her family in Santa Rosa, California, when she caught the eye of director Alfred Hitchcock while he was in town preparing to make Shadow of a Doubt (1943). The director cast her in the role of Ann Newton, younger sister of the protagonist, Charlie Newton (Teresa Wright) and niece of the villain, Charles Oakley (Joseph Cotten). Edna May made quite a splash in the part and appeared in small roles in other films over the next few years. I recently caught up with her and we talked about the fascinating events of her childhood.
That Alfred Hitchcock happened upon Edna May and cast her in Shadow of a Doubt is a minor legend, but an imprecise one. In some versions of the story, Joseph Cotten was with the director when they met. Edna clearly recalls the circumstances of that fortuitous day when she and two cousins were on their way home from a shopping excursion:
"I was discovered in Santa Rosa, standing on a street corner waiting for a bus. Alfred Hitchcock and producer Jack Skirball were standing at the same corner looking over the town."
That particular corner bus stop, in front of a Karl's shoe store, had a view of several prominent downtown locations including the courthouse, a circular green and the bank (Photo above left shows Hitchcock on that corner). Hitchcock and Skirball were looking and talking and jotting down notes on a clipboard. Edna May watched them and was curious. She edged away from her cousins to be closer to Hitchcock and Skirball so she could find out what was going on. The two men noticed her observing them and began to look her over.
"My older cousin made me move away from them and next to her, and the two men kept looking at me and finally walked over to us and introduced themselves and said they were making a movie in town and wanted to know if I wanted to be in it." They asked for her address and said they would be out to talk to her parents that afternoon.