Classic Movie Review: Suspicion (1941)


Title: Suspicion
Release Date: November 14, 1941
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Production Company: RKO Radio Pictures
Summary/Review:

After watching several screwball comedies, it was alarming how similar this psychological thriller begins.  Was Hitchcock making a statement on screwball comedies, or is it just a coincidence? Shortly after their first meeting, Johnnie Aysgarth (Cary Grant) pursues Lina McLaidlaw (Joan Fontaine) across a meadow, and then grabs her hair and starts to readjust it.  This is a huge red flag for Johnnie’s bad character, and yet how many screwball comedies begin with a “goofy” character breaking personal boundaries?

Lina, convinced she’ll become a spinster, is drawn in by Johnnie’s charisma and devil-may-care attitude.  After they elope and return from a honeymoon, Johnnie reveals that he is broke, has no job, and spends much of his time gambling.  Lina catches Johnnie in several lies as he continues to gamble, and even embezzle, behind her back.  When he proposes setting up a speculative land business with his friend Beaky (a wonderful performance by Nigel Bruce), Lina suspects that Johnnie is planning a con. And when Beaky dies, Lina begins to fear that Johnnie is a murderer and she will be his next victim.

The conclusion is cleverly ambiguous: is Johnnie really attempting to work through his compulsions and Lina’s imagination is running away with her suspicions? Or, is Johnnie lying and successfully conning Lina once again?  My understanding is that the Hays Code considerably changed the source novel significantly to be acceptable for filming, but I think Hitchcock worked well within those restraints to make a compelling drama.  Plus, Fontaine puts in a fantastic performance, and Cary Grant, who I’ve always liked, is very creepy and unsettling.

Rating: ***1/2

Podcasts of the Week Ending October 5th


99% Invisible :: The Help-Yourself City

A discussion of “Informal Urbanism,” the practice of ordinary people making changes to the city outside the legal and regulatory framework, either for needed improvements to the community or for self-interest.

Code Switch :: Political Prisoners

One of the many injustices of mass incarceration is “prison gerrymandering,” which results from prison being counted by the census and districting as part of the population where they’re incarcerated rather than their prior permanent address.  The non-prison population of the districts, often a small minority, are able to elect representatives who have no interest in representing the prisoners in their constituency.

Sound Opinions :: Fugazi’s Repeater

A breakdown of the Washington hardcore punk band’s seminal 1990 album, including interviews with the great Ian MacKaye.

The War on Cars :: The Problem with Public Meetings

Are public meetings the most democratic and effective way of finding common ground on the use of shared urban spaces?  Probably not.  This episode breaks down the problems of public meetings through the lens of a town hall forum in Brooklyn.

Running tally of 2019 Podcast of the Week appearances: