It’s always enjoyable to discover a Hitchcock classic that I haven’t seen before and 1941’s SUSPICION is no exception, featuring an Oscar winning Best Actress performance from Joan Fontaine.
Fontaine plays a “plain”, shy young heiress to a fortune. It’s hilarious to call Fontaine plain as she is pretty stunning in the last ¾ of the film. She’s terrific as Lina, whose days as a single woman are numbered after she meets suave man-about-town Johnnie Aysgarth on a train.
Johnnie seems to have the world on a string and the interest of every young woman in town, which isn’t hard when you are played by Cary Grant, who became a Hitchcock regular with 1955’s “To Catch A Thief” and 1959’s “North By Northwest”.
Shortly after marrying Johnnie, Lina begins to discover little lies that become larger deceits. Soon, every day brings new suspicions and Lina goes down a very dangerous road, soon convinced that her new husband is a very dangerous man.
Fontaine and Grant are great together. Grant is amazingly smooth, making dapper, witty and smart look easy. Fontaine is terrific both as an innocent young woman and as an independent bride. Their chemistry is a lot of fun to watch.
Nigel Bruce (the bumbling Dr Watson in countless Sherlock Holmes films with Basil Rathbone) has a lot of fun as Johnnie’s long time best friend Beaky Thwaite. Cedric Hardwicke (King Sethi in “The Ten Commandments”) is perfect as Lina’s father, a staunch General with little regard for Johnnie’s playboy ways.
Hitchcock shows a deft hand with comedy and suspense, building the tension over the entire running time and leaving you completely torn if Johnnie is really a bad guy. Unfortunately, film censors in the early 40’s had quite an influence over the ending of the film, which changed its pronouncement into something that seems way too pat compared to what comes before it.
Watch closely for a very important glass of milk that seems WAY too white in this black and white classic. Hitchcock placed a light inside the milk to make the viewer focus on it as Grant carries it upstairs with Franz Waxman’s old time music score building with every step.
Hitchcock always knew where to make his viewers look. He’s in total control. SUSPICION provides early evidence of why that’s a very good thing for movie lovers, earning an enjoyable B.