For most of his career, this Virginia gent played courtly escorts to stronger personalities — Orson Welles, for instance, in Citizen Kane and The Third Man. In this quietly devastating Hitchcock thriller, Cotten shows that same dulcet charm, to malign effect. Charlie is idolized by his niece (Teresa Wright) and married to a series of rich women who somehow end up dead. Still, it’s not Charlie’s homicidal streak that earns him a spot here but his hatred of his fellow humans’ smug propriety. “Do you know the world is a foul sty?” he purrs. “Do you know, if you rip off the fronts of houses, you’d find swine? The world’s a hell. What does it matter what happens in it?” The screenplay was by Thornton Wilder (Our Town) and Sally Benson (Meet Me in St. Louis), two memorialists of small-town life painting the dark side of the American dream.