Suspicion

1941, Movie, NR, 99 mins

Review

SUSPICION
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SUSPICION is so grimly powerful that its Hollywood-style happy ending has infuriated audiences for years. Cary Grant plays penniless society wastrel Johnnie Aysgarth, who cynically romances Lina McLaidlaw (Joan Fontaine), the sheltered daughter of wealthy parents. Rapidly approaching old maidenhood, Lina escapes her oppressive home by marrying Johnnie, even though she's been warned that he's a fortune hunter and an incorrigible playboy. Apparently true to form, Johnnie becomes involved in an embezzlement scheme, which is complicated when his friend Beaky (Nigel Bruce, playing his usual lovable bumbler) dies in Paris under curious circumstances; Lina begins to suspect that Johnnie murdered him. Now Lina imagines that she's to be Johnnie's next victim and seems to find her suspicions confirmed in his every action. The tension mounts (and the humor of the film's first half subsides) as Lina becomes increasingly fearful, especially since she can find no convincing evidence that her charming husband is a killer. Soon, she's afraid to drink her nightly glass of milk, brought to her in bed by Johnnie in one of the director's most famous sequences (the milk glows ominously--Hitchcock had a light bulb placed in the glass). But the milk isn't poisoned, and the climax occurs later, when the couple are driving along a rocky cliff high above the ocean.

Based on Frances Iles' novel Before the Fact, in which the husband really is a murderer, SUSPICION's ending disappointed many, especially considering the slow, delicious building of Hitchcockian suspense that preceded it. With REAR WINDOW and VERTIGO, the film is one of Hitchcock's most trenchant critiques of spectatorship, as the frustrating passivity displayed by bookish fantasist Lina seems driven by a perverse desire to watch the narrative unfold. Joan Fontaine's Oscar was widely considered a compensation for the Oscar she didn't receive for the previous year's REBECCA. leave a comment

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