Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Romance
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Screenwriters: Samson Raphaelson, Joan Harrison, Alma Reville
based on the novel by Anthony Berkeley
Music: Franz Waxman
Cinematography: Harry Stradling Sr.
Leo G. Carroll
In the center of Hitchcock’s pulsatingly moody drama SUSPICION, Joan Fontaine plays a straitlaced British heiress Lina McLaidlaw, elopes with a natty ne’er-do-well playboy Johnnie Aysgarth (Grant), whom through a series of suspect occurrences, she suspects has an ulterior motive to murder her for insurance payback.
The story is predicated on the usual pretext of a foolish girl ensorcelled by a devilishly handsome man, and their reunion is teetering right from the off, Lina’s impulsive infatuation to Johnnie is not at all rational, overhearing that her spinsterhood causes some bickering between her parents (Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Dame May Whitty, criminally underused here), she desperately holds on to one immediate chance to proudly prove that she is nubile enough to marry any man she desires.
Their honeymoon period is fleeting, Lina will soon falls victim to Johnnie’s shady promises, fitful lavishness and inveterate gambling propensity, things are anything but ameliorated by the advent of his naive chum Beaky Thwaite (a chummy Nigel Bruce is too good to be anyone’s friend), who seems to be an easy target to Johnnie’s business whims. Hitchcock navigates Lina’s spiraling suspicion that her profligate husband might not be above murder to secure some pecuniary gain, through an cumulatively thrilling trajectory where clues are consecutively strewn with Franz Waxman’s polyphonic score punctiliously in lockstep with the plot’s seesawing between trepidation and relief, to a point when viewers are as convinced as Lina that a poisoned milk is served to dispatch her without any trace left behind, and in a thrice, she even tempts to drink it just to substantiate her suspicion once and for all.
Only because of Johnnie is played by our beloved dreamboat Cary Grant, the studio behind him couldn’t allow his perfectly benevolent screen image to be marred by portraying a wife-killer, so Hitchcock and his writers had to alter the source novel’s original ending and instead, dishes up a plausible reveal (after the blistering editing of a brink-and-you-will-miss-it tussle inside a barreling vehicle) that all above-mentioned doubt is purely sprung from Lina’s own figment, a cheap shot to find its scapegoat in distaff paranoia, but as tactful as Hitchcock, nevertheless, there is a soupçon of ambivalence lingering on after the terse end, Lina might not be out of harm’s way after all, by any rate, SUSPICION survives not just as a delectable Hitchockian psychological mind game, but also a cautionary tale to all the unassuming (specky) girls, do open your eyes before taking the plunge.
Fontaine bags a compensatory Oscar win for REBECCA’s loss one year prior, although it must feel extraordinary to snatch the trophy from her sister Olivia de Havilland (who is nominated for Mitchell Leisen’s HOLD BACK THE DAWN and will eventually outdo her by becoming a twice Oscar-winning actress), she gives a finely calibrated presence in her demure, wavering state that is no small achievement indeed, but Cary Grant is unfairly overlooked for his nuanced, furtively callous impression as a human toxin that no easy antidote can be procured when he keeps calling you “monkey face” and parrying away any questions with disarming insouciance and passive-aggressive tenderness, many will be willing to swallow any poison under his cajolery.
referential entries: Hitchcock’s REBECCA (1940, 8.3/10), NOTORIOUS (1946, 8.3/10); George Cukor’s GASLIGHT (1944, 7.2/10).