Suspicion (1941)    3 Stars

“Alfred Hitchcock, who gave you “Foreign Correspondent” and “Rebecca”, creates his most romantic mystery hit!”

 

Suspicion (1941)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Cast: Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine, Cedric Hardwicke

Synopsis: A shy young English woman marries a charming gentleman, then begins to suspect him of trying to kill her.

 

 

 

Despite being made by the British director Alfred Hitchcock, Suspicion is one of those Hollywood movies that takes place in a fictional Britain filled with bobbies, antique shops and large country mansions from which fox hunts depart on a regular basis. There’s even a Cockney maid on hand to reinforce the notion of a strict class structure in the country. No wonder the Americans had such a misinformed image of Britain as some quaint well-mannered collection of picture-postcard villages.

Cary Grant (Alice in Wonderland, The Awful Truth) delivers a performance of twinkle-eyed, roguish charm as Johnnie Aysgarth, the dashing young playboy who sweeps the bookish Lina Laidlaw (Joan Fontaine) off her feet after a chance meeting on a train during which he has to borrow money from her to make up the cost of his ticket. That incident would perhaps have put off some women, but as she overhears her well-meaning father (Cedric Hardwicke — Things to Come, King Solomon’s Mine) comment, Lina is prime spinster material, so, perhaps realising this might be her only chance to bag an eligible husband, she embarks on a whirlwind romance with Johnnie without once giving any thought to just why he should be so interested in her. Sure enough, the ink is barely dry on the wedding certificate when she learns of just how impoverished her playboy husband truly is. Not only is he an inveterate gambler, he’s a liar and a thief who is sacked from his job as Estates Manager for Captain Melbeck (Leo G. Carroll — Rebecca, The Desert Fox) for stealing £2,000. And when he’s clearly disappointed by the small amount of money left to Lina following the death of her father, Lina begins to fear for her life…

Hitchcock does a good job of leaving his audience in the dark as to Johnnie’s true feelings and motivations, allowing his character’s genuine dark side to surface on occasion to prolong the suspicion that he harbours unpleasant plans for his new wife. He certainly displays all the characteristics of a screen sociopath, which means that Lina’s growing doubts and fears never assume the proportions of hysterical delusion. The darkness of the story is lightened considerably by the presence of Nigel Bruce (Rebecca, Roxie Hart), giving a typically bumbling performance as Johnnie’s best friend, Beaky Thwaite whose trusting nature, old money and involvement in an ambitious real estate scheme piloted by Johnnie makes him an obvious target for some unscrupulous charmer. Had it not been for Beaky’s largely comical presence, Suspicion would have been an altogether different movie, one that would perhaps have been too unremittingly dark for its own good.

Suspicion does a good job of keeping its heroine — and the audience — guessing right up until the climactic scenes, but in doing so it’s forced to provide a resolution which feels both rushed and tacked on. Hitchcock claimed he had an altogether different ending in mind (which is disputed by Donald Spoto, the director’s biographer) which might explain why that ending doesn’t sit right. Either way, Suspicion’s final scenes prevent it from belonging amongst the top tier of Hitchcock’s work.

(Reviewed 20th April 2014)

 

Suspicion (1941) trailer

 

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