Suspicion (1941) / Mystery-Thriller
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably would be PG for themes of murder
Running Time: 99 min.
Cast: Joan Fontaine, Cary Grant, Nigel Bruce, Heather Angel, Auriol Lee, Isabel Jeans, Cedric Hardwicke, Dame May Whitty, Leo G. Carroll
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Screenplay: Samson Raphaelson, Joan Harrison, Alma Reville
Suspicion is classic early Hollywood Hitchcock, nicely conceived and solidly performed, but there's a major flaw that keeps this from becoming one of his greats. No ending would be satisfying.
Loosely based on Francis Iles' novel, "Before the Fact," Suspicion follows the courtship of mischievous rogue Johnnie (Grant) and sheltered sweetheart, Lina. Lina falls for Johnnie's playboy charm and spontaneity, and despite her parents wishes, the two are married in short order. However, Johnnie has many secrets, the biggest of which is that he is up to his eyeballs in debt, borrowing money from friends to pay his chronic gambling habit. Slowly, Lina begins to suspect that Johnnie is capable of doing and saying anything to get himself out of trouble, including murder, but love is blind, and she isn't sure whether to believe the man she loves or be repulsed that he may see those he loves, including herself, as disposable.
For the most part, Suspicion is an entertaining comedy mixed with an absorbing drama, well-developed by Hitchcock in keeping you guessing what is the true nature beneath Johnnie's odd behavior. Perhaps only Cary Grant could have made Johnnie so likeable, making it seem perfectly plausible that Lina would fall in love with him despite his sometimes unattractive behavior. Fontaine is equally impressive, showing both a strong resolve to find out the truth blended with an inner weakness for Johnnie, wanting nothing more than to be with the man she thought she married always. It's a good ride while it lasts, until a rather weak ending.
Hitchcock fought with the studio over whether or not Johnnie would end up being the scoundrel he was perceived to be, having an altogether different ending in mind, but I would have to say that regardless of the ending chosen, nothing would be able to match the well-done build-up. Lina is so likeable, no one wants to see her harmed, yet at the same time, there's just too much smoke for there not to be fire, and Hitchcock was painted into a corner. Should Johnnie be a murderer or not? Either way seems equally unacceptable.
As much as Hitch and Cary impress, it's really Fontaine that makes this movie ultimately enjoyable, and quite deservedly, she won an Academy Award for her performance. Hitchcock would also receive a nod for Best Director, but really, this isn't anywhere close to the level of greatness he would show in his later work. yet, it is quite a popular film in his filmography, and Grant amazes with a rare performance in duality that will make you love and hate him at the same time. Despite the rather clumsy ending, Suspicion remains solid entertainment, often retold, but never really as good as this.
©2003 Vince Leo