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April 22, 2018

Suspicion (1941)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Actors: Joan Fontaine, Cary Grant, Nigel Bruce

Image result for suspicion film

Synopsis: Lina (Joan Fontaine) is seduced by charismatic playboy, Johnnie (Cary Grant), and marries him – partly as rebellion against her restrictive parents. When married, she becomes aware of Johnnie’s general recklessness, and even begins to suspect he has more nefarious financial intentions…

Review: Suspicion won’t go down in the annals as one of Alfred Hitchcock’s finest films, coming, as it did, while he was executing his crossover from British cinema to Hollywood (his first American studio film, Rebecca, had come a year before).

If anything, Suspicion is hamstrung mainly by its ropy and borderline sexist narrative hook. Hitchcock has always been able to work with deceptively humdrum genre storylines to mine their deeper psychoanalytical lure, but Suspicion’s ingredients are irredeemable: Joan Fontaine’s spinsterish only child, falling in love with Cary Grant’s reckless cad as rebellion against her repressive parents.

Especially in the narrative’s opening act, the film struggles under the sheer dramatic dead weight of rushing through this unlikely union between Fontaine and Grant’s antithetical characters. Even by the relative terms of early ’40s melodramatic screen acting, this isn’t Fontaine and Grant’s finest hour: Fontaine, in particular, stuck with a condescending arc of having to throw herself at Grant’s obnoxious misogynist, before only tackling his obvious transparency after they’ve got married.

In the film’s more lurid final act, Hitchcock does extract some juice from the material – the chiaroscuro effect of Grant bringing up the potentially poisonous brew to Fontaine is gorgeous image-making. Arguably the film’s most interesting sidenote is the sense that Hitchcock is sneaking in something of a sly satire of provincial English mores and snobbery. Some of the set design playing up on the twee aesthetic of a falsely edenic ‘Little England’ is droll stuff, and the plot does have faint echoes of the far superior and much darker Ealing comedy, Kind Hearts and Coronets(April 2018)

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