SUSPICION (1941) B/W 99m dir: Alfred Hitchcock

w/Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine, Cedric Hardwicke, Nigel Bruce, Dame May Whitty, Isabel Jeans, Heather Angel, Auriol Lee, Reginald Sheffield, Leo G. Carroll

Hitchcock's intriguing work about emotional vulnerability was adapted by Samson Raphaelson from the novel Before the Fact by Francis Iles (pen name for A.G. Cox). Fontaine's the mousy wife who suspects hubby Grant plans to murder her.

Be forewarned: the following material contains specific story information you may not want to know before viewing the film:

Hitchcock had made wonderful use of Fontaine in his first American film, REBECCA, and thought her the best prospect for this role. Producer David O. Selznick, however, proceeded to test almost every actress in Hollywood for the part, perhaps trying to duplicate the publicity frenzy that accompanied his search for the right actress to play Scarlet O'Hara in GONE WITH THE WIND. Hitchcock's selection of Grant as the "hero" was not entirely smooth, either. Hitchcock relates to Francois Truffaut (in Truffaut's book of interviews, Hitchcock) that producers objected to Grant playing a killer in the film:

"Well, I'm not too pleased with the way Suspicion ends. I had something else in mind. The scene I wanted, but it was never shot, was for Cary Grant to bring her a glass of milk that's been poisoned and Joan Fontaine has just finished a letter to her mother: 'Dear Mother, I'm desperately in love with him, but I don't want to live because he's a killer. Though I'd rather die, I think society should be protected from him.' Then, Cary Grant comes in with the fatal glass and she says, 'Will you mail this letter to Mother for me, dear?' She drinks the milk and dies. Fade out and fade in on one short shot: Cary Grant, whistling cheerfully, walks over to the mailbox and pops the letter in."

Although he's difficult to spot in the film, watch for Hitchcock's cameo appearance, as he mails a letter, slipping a bit of his droll humor into the drama. Incidentally, Hitchcock took much care in his presentation of the glass of milk that Grant carries upstairs to Fontaine: as he tell Truffaut, "I put a light in the milk ... right inside the glass because I wanted it to be luminous. Cary Grant's walking up the stairs and everyone's attention had to be focused on that glass."

From The Movie Guide: "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."

Besides Joan Fontaine's Best Actress Oscar, and the film was also nominated for Best Picture and Score (Franz Waxman).