Suspicion (1941)

Suspicion (1941), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

After importing Hitchcock from Britain, Hollywood apparently wanted him to continue making "English" pictures: first Rebecca (1940) and then this. Suspicion has good features and great leads, but is not as strong as some of his other work from the period.

As in Rebecca (1940), Joan Fontaine is wonderful to watch, with all the secret thoughts and emotions she expresses through her delicate features. Small emoting was bigger back then, when faces were projected onto a huge silver screen.

What is her flaw? Her reason for marrying. She was goaded by her parent's presumption that she would be a spinster. She decided to capture the love and desire of such a sexy rogue.

Cary Grant gets to try something different: funny and charming as always, he's also a bit of a cad. He lies, gambles and embezzles. It's not beyond belief that he might be a murderer as well. Now and then the affable mask drops and we see something much more dangerous beneath.

The problem here is that romantic heroes must be stalwart and he just isn't. She is the strong one.

Does the movie cheat by making him seem more sinister than he really is? I've often thought that, but on the other hand, this is another of Hitchcock's women's romance thrillers, meant to be seen from the bride's point of view. We must come to suspect with her, seeing it as she does.

Hitchcock toys with us, making him seem guilty (tension!), then redeeming him with an explanation or plausible excuse (relief!) Repeat that enough times and we begin to wonder: how will it end? Could the husband really be guilty, and will we finally have the rug pulled out?

The studio wouldn't allow that, but it is what Hitchcock wanted. More closely following the book, he would have: the husband was a murderer, the milk was poisoned, the bride drank it anyway because she loved him so much, but had given him a letter detailing his guilt, which he posted the next day, whistling that waltz theme. The End. (Or so the director later claimed. He was not above embellishing history).

Hitchcock is sparing with camera innovations this time, although that makes certain moments more special, as when we have circular tracking around the big kiss (something like the coach house scene in Vertigo (1958). And when Grant brings the glowing glass of milk up the dark stairs. Mostly the cinematography is the beautiful actors + furniture + architecture. Hitchcock objected to the overly lavish sets.

Franz Waxman score.

Available on Blu-ray.