DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
SUSPECT, THE (director: Robert Siodmak; screenwriters: Bertram Millhauser/Arthur T. Horman/from the novel This Way Out by James Ronald; cinematographer: Paul Ivano; editor: Arthur Hilton; music: Frank Skinner; cast: Charles Laughton (Philip Marshall), Ella Raines (Mary Gray), Dean Harens (John Marshall), Molly Lamont (Edith Simmons), Henry Daniell (Gilbert Simmons), Stanley C. Ridges (Insp. Huxley), Rosalind Ivan (Cora Marshall), Raymond Severn (Merridew), Maude Eburne (Mrs. Packer), Clifford Brooke (Mrs. Packer), Eve Amber (Sybil Packer); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Islin Auster; Universal; 1944)

 
"Theatrical studio-bound minor film noir."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Robert Siodmak ("The Spiral Staircase"/"The Killers"/"The File on Thelma Jordon") competently directs this theatrical studio-bound minor film noir, and keeps it more as a character study then as a whodunit. It builds on suspense, but never becomes that exciting or interesting. But it's well-acted, though the dreary story is never totally convincing or compelling. It's adapted from James Ronald's novel This Way Out and is written by Bertram Millhauser and Arthur T. Horman.

The film is set in 1902, on Laburnum Terrace in London. The good-hearted middle-aged Philip Marshall (Charles Laughton) is a manager of a tobacco shop and lives with his adult son John (Dean Harens) and his shrewish wife Cora (Rosalind Ivan), whom he's trapped living in a longtime bad marriage. To get away from his unbearable nagging mother, John flees to Canada. Philip then moves into John's room, upsetting Cora.

Stenographer Mary Gray (Ella Raines) asks Philip for a job, and even though he can't use her in his place he takes a liking to her and uses his influence to get her work in another place. While not telling Mary he's a married man, the two start dating and grow fond of one another. When Philip asks for a divorce, he's refused and told that she knows about his fling with Mary and Cora further threatens to expose Mary as an amoral woman hoping to get her fired and evicted from her boardinghouse. a desperate Philip then trips her with his walking stick so she takes a spill down the stairs and then bashes her head in with his walking stick. It's ruled an accident, but Inspector Huxley of Scotland Yard keeps the case open and in his investigation lets on that Philip is a suspect as a murderer. Soon Philip marries Mary, and finds married life blissful and convenient  the police cannot use Mary as a witness against her husband.

The inspector meets with Philip's idler drunkard neighbor Gilbert Simmons (Henry Daniell), a wife abuser, and reveals to him that he suspects Philip killed his wife (which seems like an unethical thing for the copper to do). Gilbert, armed with this knowledge, then blackmails Philip, threatening to be a false witness to the murder unless paid off weekly. Philip thereby offers him a bottle of liquor that he poisoned with Bayard's Anodyne and dumps his body in the nearby canal.

Philip talks his wife into relocating with him to Canada. As they board the ship to sail, Inspector Huxley is aboard and greets Philip with the news that they just fished Gilbert's body out of the water and offers a cooked-up story that the police are ready to charge his sweet wife Edith (Molly Lamont) with the crime. Philip can't bare to see the innocent woman suffer for his crime and gets off the ship to turn himself in to the inspector (probably more how crimes end in books rather than in real-life).

REVIEWED ON 1/24/2011       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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