Classic Woman-centric Movie Review: “Suspicion” (1941)

Sometimes there’s nothing like a good Hitchcock movie to get that fix of nail-biting suspense and that happy ending, too. Hitchcock’s film “Suspicion,” made in 1941, provides all of this and then some. The film stars Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine, and Nigel Bruce. It was directed by (duh!) Alfred Hitchcock, and it was his only film to garner a Best Actress Award, for Joan Fontaine at the 1941 Oscars.

Promotional picture from Suspicion of Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine, and Nigel Bruce
Promotional picture from film. Image via
Poster for Suspicion
Poster from film. Image via

Mousy Lina McLaidlaw (Fontaine) is smitten by the handsome, devil-may-care Johnnie Aylsworth (Grant) during a train trip. Despite her father’s objections, she elopes with Johnnie after a whirlwind courtship, and they come home after their honeymoon hoping to live a very affluent lifestyle. The problem? Johnnie is broke and was hoping that they would be able to live off of Lina’s father’s fortune. Johnnie eventually gets a job at Lina’s behest, though he still bets on horse races and spends money like it’s going out of style. He even sells Lina’s heirloom chairs to pay their bills. Lina catches him in lie after lie, and soon it turns out that Johnnie has lost his job because he was embezzling money from the company he was working for, but he won’t face charges so long as he pays back the money. Johnnie’s friend Beaky (Bruce), who meets Lina and likes her immediately, assures her not to give up on Johnnie, because he’s “a good sort, but without much success.”

After Lina’s father dies, Johnnie is disgusted to find out that he and Lina were only left a portrait of the old man in the will, not the fortune that he had hoped for. Much to Lina’s dismay, Johnnie persuades Beaky to finance a land development, though neither of them knows how to run that kind of business. The two men travel to Paris together after Johnnie decides to scrap the plans. Beaky dies in Paris, and soon Johnnie’s evasive behavior lead Lina and a police inspector to believe that Jonnie was somehow responsible for Beaky’s death. Even worse, Lina becomes convinced that Johnnie is somehow trying to kill her so he can cash in on her rather hefty life insurance policy. Lina is so certain of this that she won’t even drink a glass of milk Johnnie has brought her for fear of poison. When the car door accidentally opens as Johnnie is speeding on a road beside a cliff, Lina believes then and there that he is going to kill her. It turns out that yes, Johnnie is keeping secrets, but he isn’t harboring any plans to kill Lina at all.

Still from Suspicion of Joan Fontaine and Cary Grant, who's holding a phone to his ear
Still from film. Image via

The film plays on the wild conclusions someone’s mind can draw in moments of uncertainty and even fear. While her husband’s inability to hold a job is something to be concerned about, he has other redeeming qualities that are supposed to make up for that. Johnnie has good intentions, but has a wrong way of going about things, and this is what makes Lina fear for her life. Once the truth comes out, it all makes sense to her. She is so relieved that her fears were over nothing that she promises to stay beside Johnnie and help him face whatever fate may bring.

It’s really quite a formulaic ending and typical for the times. If you love someone, you stand by them. Love can help someone who isn’t on the right path find the right way again. And my personal favorite: Love means forgiving someone even though he has done some pretty shady things and made you think he was going to kill you. But hey, it’s a Cary Grant movie, right? It’s supposed to have some kind of happy ending, even though you might think it’s pretty crappy one.

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