Thursday, October 04, 2018

Suspicion 1941

Suspicion was made one year after Hitchcock’s famous Oscar winning movie Rebecca that was based on a famous romantic thriller novel. Hitchcock trying to repeat his success that he had with Rebecca once again adapted a romantic thriller and dusted off Joan Fontaine for the film that has some similarities with R but is not as thrilling or flashy. Instead it sort of plods along using Joan in another colorless role, benign, drab and meek to be sure, but less a damsel in distress than a distress in damsel. This won Fontaine her Oscar which was given to her no doubt because she lost out to Ginger Rogers (yes Ginger Rogers actually won an Oscar, dribble on that fact for a while) the year before and this was her consolation award.  Joan plays the mousy daughter of Sir Cedric Hardwick and Dame Mae Whitney who is as I said so colorless and bland that she almost fades away.
               The film does open swell on a train one of Hitchcock’s recurring settings and we are literally in the dark for a few seconds because the lights on the roaring train have gone out, and when they come back we meet Cary Grant in his first Hitchcock film. He’s trying to sneak into a first class compartment that Joan is in but he doesn’t have the money and so his character’s flaws are set into motion from the start. Our Cary is suave, gorgeous but somewhat off, like milk starting to sour and we’re immediately a little suspicious of him. Joan of course falls heads over heels with the heel, and to the unhappiness of her father and mother marries him pretty much on a spur of the moment.
                 Hitch gives us a tease of what Grant might be up to in a smashing scene on a hill where Grant and Fontaine early in their relationship are having a tussle. Shot from a distance we don’t know if they’re fighting, is she trying to get away from him, is he just trying to get a kiss from her or is he trying to kill her. There is friction between Grant and his new dad in law but off Grant and Fontaine go on a montage whirlwind honeymoon told through travel stickers on trunks and they come back to live in a glamorous large house in London that we soon find out they can really not afford. Grant is a ladies man and doesn’t work for a living, loves to gamble and Joan starts to get really upset and worried. By this point Joan is distressed and suddenly glamorous  and dressed in great clothes and spends her days doing nothing but is slowly getting suspicious of Grant. Is he thinking about murdering her so he can inherit her money? is he cheating on her? There isn’t much chemistry between Grant and Fontaine so we almost don’t care what he’s planning to do. Grant needed spunky hard-edged actress like Jean Arthur, Rosalind Russell, Ginger Rogers and especially Katharine Hepburn to counter his pretty soft edges with their tough sharp ones.  Hitchcock brings some of his regulars like Leo G. Carroll and Nigel Bruce in the mix and it helps believe me it helps. Also tangy and how the hell did this get by the censors is the very butch Lesbian mystery writer who Fontaine confides in, played by Auriol Lee and there is a tart dinner party where the mystery writer’s lover is dolled up in full men’s drag that will wake you up from your little nap with a snap. And yes there is the famous glass of milk that might be poisoned lit from within but sadly this movie as lush and good-looking as it is is in the end a dud, with a rushed and unconvincing ending that was forced on Hitchcock and untimely us. Still even 2nd rate Hitchcock is fun and worth seeing. 


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