EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|SUSPICION (director: Alfred Hitchcock; screenwriters: Samson Raphaelson/Joan Harrison/Alma Reville/from the novel, "Before the Fact," by Francis Iles; cinematographer: Harry Stradling; editor: William Hamilton; music: Franz Waxman; cast: Cary Grant (Johnnie Aysgarth), Joan Fontaine (Lina McLaidlaw), Sir Cedric Hardwicke (Gen. McLaidlaw), Nigel Bruce (Beaky Thwaite), Dame May Whitty (Mrs. McLaidlaw), Isabel Jeans (Mrs. Newsham), Heather Angel (Ethel), Leo G. Carroll (Captain George Melbeck), Auriol Lee (Isobel Sedbusk); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Alfred Hitchcock; RKO; 1941)|
|"The Hollywood-style happy ending was imposed
Hitchcock by the studio."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Director Alfred Hitchcock's ("Vertigo"/"Rear Window"/"The
Birds") first film of his that
stars Cary Grant (who gives a superb performance as a debonair rascal
playboy and gambler, who is concurrently charming and sinister). It was panned by
many critics for being compromised--the Hollywood-style happy ending
was imposed on
Hitchcock by the studio, which didn't sit well with either Hitchcock or
the critics. Hitchcock wanted the same finale as the novel, "Before the Fact," by
Francis Iles (whose real name was Anthony Berkeley Cox), but RKO insisted it didn't want matinee
idol superstar Grant to be viewed as a wife poisoner by his fans.
Harrison and Alma Reville (Hitchcock's wife) keep
the scenario clichéd, while the director keeps the
English countryside setting artificial.
Penniless society mucker Johnnie
Aysgarth (Cary Grant) is a charming scoundrel, who meets someone
bookish on a train and in a pushy way gets his lady acquaintances to
formally introduce him to her when back home. She's Lina McLaidlaw (Joan Fontaine),
the prim, overprotected, spinsterish daughter of wealthy General
McLaidlaw (Sir Cedric
Hardwicke). Though warned by dad to watch out for the ne'er-do-well fortune hunter, the plain looking Lina falls for
Johnnie's good looks and can't wait to fly the coop of her confining
home. After a date to the Hunt Club Ball, the next morning Lina elopes
with her feller.
The carefree Johnnie figures
her wealthy family would provide for them and when they don't, he
steals their antique chairs so he can raise money to gamble at the
racetrack--which she overlooks because she's so insecure and doesn't
want to lose him and, anyway, he does eventually return the chairs. But
when Lina discovers hubby has been fired from his office job for
embezzling and has gotten into a shady land scheme with his best friend Beaky (Nigel
Bruce), who tipped her off about Johnnie at the racetrack and who dies under mysterious circumstances while drinking brandy in Paris --Lina
begins to suspect that Johnnie murdered him and she's next.
The most memorable scene has
Johnnie climb the mansion stairs carrying his wife's nightly
glass of milk, which Lina assumes is poisoned (the
milk glows portentously, as Hitchcock had a light bulb placed in the
glass). In the climactic scene,
the couple are
wildly driving along a dangerous rocky cliff high above the ocean to
her mother's house and she fears being tossed from the car. But, at
last, they have no choice but to confront each other about what's on
their minds and this clears up matters.
I usually don't like studios
to interfere with the creative work of filmmakers, but in this case I
didn't think the so-called cop-out ending was all that bad. Grant was
so believably good, that I could have believed him to be either the
murderer or merely an irresponsible compulsive gambler. Therefore either the book's or studio's
ending would work for me.
Joan Fontaine, who plays a timid, vulnerable, and distrustful wife, won an Academy Award for best actress, which many felt was a make up call for losing the award previously for Rebecca.
REVIEWED ON 7/6/2010 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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