Movie Critique - Suspicion

For review of other books or movies by Alfred Hitchcock, go here.

Stars: 3 / 5

Recommendation: A disappointment with the ending, however, it is still a masterpiece from Hitchcock delving into the human psychology.

Suspicion is a 1941 romantic psychological thriller with Alfred Hitchcock as a producer and a director. Based on the 1932 novel Before the Fact by Francis Iles, screenplay is written by Samson Raphaelson, Joan Harrison and Alma Reville. The film has Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine, Nigel Bruce and Sir Cedric Hardwicke among the lead cast.

Lina McLaidaw (portrayed by Joan Fontaine) elopes with charming playboy Johnnie Aysgarth (portrayed by Cary Grant) and marries. However she soon comes to learn that Johnnie is not only penniless but a compulsive gambler. What more, she thinks he might have murdered once and wouldn’t hesitate to kill again, this time it could be that she would become the victim. The plot is set in 1938.

While I was posting the review of the 1947 film The Two Mrs. Carrolls, I came across this film being compared to a similar psychological thriller concept. And now here's my review. 

Cary Grant is his charming self as Johnnie Aysgarth even if he is a bastard here. A layer of beauty and charm he wears like a fox wears sheep skin all along hiding his true vindictive nature. After seeing Grant in so many romantic, comedy and mystery movies, I couldn’t believe him to be the antagonist. However, he did a splendid job.

Johnnie is very smart in putting a persona and confusing Lina at every turn; an acting leading up to his ultimate goal. He is so casual and careless about Lina and her feelings, only looking for money and nothing else. He is even heartless at the health situation of his friend Beaky.

Hitchcock brings out the fact that there is always an underlying sinister on a beautiful thing, be it human being or an inanimate object. That's why it surprised me when the ending was not fitting for either Grant's Johnnie or Hitchcock.

Joan Fontaine won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as Lina McLaidaw in this film, making the only Hitchcock film to win an Oscar. She portrays a very shy Lina McLaidaw in the movie with large glasses in the beginning of the film, gradually losing herself in the many schemes that Johnnie keeps spinning around her.

Grant and Fontaine had animosity between them on-set. It clearly helped them with their roles in the films since they channeled that animosity and frustration into the film. Their meet-cute is rather irritating and I would be surprised if Fontaine's Lina would give a single second to Grant's Johnnie if she wasn’t a shy person. 

Nigel Bruce, famed for the role of Dr. Watson in the radio show The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, plays the part of Gordon Cochrane 'Beaky' Thwaite, friend of Johnnie. Again Bruce is typecasted in a bumbling of a supporting character, only he isnt a doctor in here. 

As with any film adapted from page, this film also had it’s share of changes with most obvious being the ending. The legendry poisoned glass of milk reappears. Yet the ending changed it into a slightly morbid comic flair. Perhaps they should have kept the original ending, even though the film was a success. It leaves the viewer in a forever suspense, confusing them as to whether they should believe Johnnie or not; and if his earlier behavior was fake; or if his current behavior is fake.

I would have liked to have a fitting punishment to Grant's character. But I guess the audience wouldn’t have liked Grant to be a killer. Making the movie more from Lina's point of view as opposed to Johnnie's was another big difference between book and film. 

The trailer of the film has Joan Fontaine doing the narration and speaking to the viewers.

The open credits give us a false impression of a happy movie what with all the cursive penmanship and fairytale book type background.

A disappointment with the ending, however, it is still a masterpiece from Hitchcock delving into the human psychology. He kept the tension and thrill till the very end, and sacrificed his mastery to enter into Hollywood sadly. Nonetheless a movie worth watching.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine had earlier acted in another film, the 1939 adventure Gunga Din.

b. The film was adapted 6 times by various theaters (Academy Award Theater, Lux Radio Theater and Screen Guild Theater) between 1942 through 1949 with several original cast members reprising their roles, along with other actors.

c. Cary Grant made three more movies with Hitchcock after this - 1946 Notorious; 1955 To Catch a Thief; 1959 North by Northwest.

d. Lina is shown reading a book titled Child Psychology by Henrietta Wright. But I couldn’t find a book of hers for real.

e. This is the debut film of Faith Brook. Although uncredited, she plays the part of Alice Barham and has a speaking part (the girl on the right in the pic below).

f. Check out the purse that Lina closes when she refuses to kiss Johnnie. That is called a "kiss lock" and when closed resembles one's crossing of legs, alliterating to "permission denied"

g. We meet actress Auriol Lee who portrays the role of author Isobel Sedbusk. This is her second film role  although she was a popular stage actress in British theater. Unfortunately she died in 1942. Check out her book that she is promoting, a fake book titled "Murder on the Footbridge". The book appears more than once in the film. And also another fake book is seen, Trial of Richard Palmer, by a fake author George Houghton.

h. Isabel Jeans (portraying the role of Mrs. Helen Newsham, Johnnie's friend) also worked with Hitchcock in two of his earlier silent films - 1927 When Boys Leave Home and 1927 Easy Virtue.

i. The dog that is used in the film is named Johnnie in real and is Hitchcock's own dog. We can see it as a cameo appearance along-side Hitchcock in 1963 The Birds movie as well.

j. Check out Hitchcock in his cameo appearance here mailing a letter at the village post office.

2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

a. In the opening scene, Lina is shown reading a book by Henrietta Wright right before the ticket collector comes. But as soon as he leaves, she is seeing reading The Illustrated London News, a magazine of sort, and looking into the society pages. Where did this magazine come from?

b. In the dining room scene with her parents, Lina is first seated in the center of the table. But when she comes back from taking the call from Johnnie, her chair miraculously moves closer to her father's. Perhaps it was moved to accommodate both of them in one frame.

c. Everywhere in the film when Johnnie's name is printed as "Johnnie" including the closing credits. However in the telegram his name is spelled as "Johnny"

d. The invitation for the Hunt Ball gives the date as Thursday, March 7th. However, the telegram that Johnnie sends to Lina in persuading her to attend the ball, the date is March 8, 1938.

e. Additionally neither March 7th or 8th are Thursday for 1938. However March 7th is a Thursday in 1940 which is when the film must have been made.

f. When Lina forms the word "MUDDER" with her tiles at the game of Anagrams, Beaky suggests that there is no such word as "Mudder". But in fact Mudder does exist and it means a horse that runs in wet or muddy conditions.

g. During the Anagrams game, Lina moves the tile D above and adds R to make MUDDER to MURDER. But when camera switches back from Beaky and Johnnie to the tiles you can see H and F tiles also beside D.

h. Although the film is set in England, note the light switches. They are very American - Up for On, Down for Off.

i. Interestingly enough, the immediate shot after the scene where we see Hitchcock mailing letter, he is no longer seen in the background.


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