Repeated viewings can't dispel the shock of the final scene in this classic 1941 romantic mystery--a brief but disorienting confrontation that suddenly inverts the heroine's mounting conviction that she's married a murderer, forcing us to reconsider virtually every scene and line of dialogue that's preceded it. It's a masterful coup de grace
for director Alfred Hitchcock, who has built a puzzle around the corrosive power of suspicion, threaded with deft ambiguities that toy with dramatic conventions and character archetypes in nearly every frame.
As embodied by Joan Fontaine, who nabbed an Oscar in this second outing with the director, Lina McLaidlaw is a buttoned-up, bookish heiress whose prim exterior conceals longings for a more engaged emotional life. Her solution materialises in the darkly handsome Johnnie Aysgarth, a gambler, womaniser and spendthrift who flirts, then pursues, and soon marries her. As Aysgarth, Cary Grant is both irresistible and sinister, capable of deceit and petty theft, as well as grander designs on his bride's impending fortune. Lina's passion for Johnnie is clouded by each new revelation about his apparent dishonesty, from clandestine gambling to real estate development schemes; more troubling are clues implicating him in the death of his best friend, and the prospect that Johnnie may be slowly poisoning Lina herself. By the time we see him ascending a darkened staircase with a suspicious glass of milk, an image made all the more indelible through the spectral glow the director captures in the glass, the evidence seems damning indeed.
In fact, even as Hitchcock stacks the deck against Johnnie, and takes full advantage of Grant's skill at conveying such menace, the director also dots his landscape with visual clues to Lina's own neurotic (and erotic) obsessions. The final scene forces us to re-evaluate her behaviour while leaving enough of a cloud over Johnnie to rob him, and us, of a complete exoneration. It's a wicked, unsettling payoff to a brilliantly executed thriller. --Sam Sutherland
Joan Fontaine's fabulous performance as a woman who grows to fear the man she loves anchors this compelling story in which Alfred Hitchcock shows his love for playing with the audience's expectations. Perfectly cast is the dashing Cary Grant, whose lovable and charming persona is on full display while being completely transformed through Hitchcock's eerie camera work and visual innuendo to the point that the simplest gesture takes on a new and malevolent aspect. Suspicion
lives up to its title's promise, weaving dread and ambiguity into a potent psychological net. Fontaine is the beautiful daughter of a wealthy, landed English family. Grant is the lighthearted and irreverent wastrel who charms Fontaine into elopement and succeeds in introducing the young woman to the pleasures of a more carefree outlook on life. However, as Fontaine discovers the legacy of Grant's carefree ways--his numerous debts and pursuers--she begins to suspect a darker past and must confront the horrible implications this has for her future.