- Joan Fontaine as Lina McLaidlaw Aysgarth
- Cary Grant as Johnnie Aysgarth
- Cedric Hardwicke as General McLaidlaw
- Nigel Bruce as Beaky
- May Whitty as Martha McLaidlaw
A suspense laden thriller from the master Alfred Hitchcock, Suspicion is only slightly let down by a studio imposed ending. Despite this, the picture has much to praise in the way of some superb acting from Cary Grant and an Oscar-winning Joan Fontaine, spine tingling music and an air of encroaching menace.
Lina McLaidlaw is the shy and sheltered daughter of a general and his wife. She lives in the English countryside and has been brought to behave like a lady. One day she meets Johnny Aysgarth, a handsome irresponsible gambler who she immediately falls in love with. Lina is desperate to escape her controlled existence and Johnnie proves to be just that. Despite the warnings of others surrounding Johnnie’s behaviour, the two of them marry after a brief courtship. After a luxurious honeymoon, Lina and Johnnie move into a lovely home. Yet this idyllic way of living starts to become clouded by Johnnie’s gambling and his various lies. After a series of strange events, a panic-stricken Lina slowly comes to believe that Johnnie plans to murder her for her money. Yet she can’t prove this, but as the tension mounts will she discover that she is right or wrong regarding Johnnie? Suspense and uncertainty abound as Hitchcock plunges Lina into a waking nightmare, slowly seeing that Johnnie may not be the ideal man that she met and may in fact be something much more sinister.
As I mentioned earlier in my review, the studio producing Suspicion changed the ending to fit in with the conventions of the time. The imposed ending does detract from the overall impact of the movie, but there’s still more than enough to enjoy in Hitchcock’s thriller. After all, any movie by Hitchcock at least at some time shows the amazing techniques and sense of unnerving tension that he brought to the movies. The camerawork is marvellous in its close-ups of the characters, especially Lina’s slowly terrified face as she wrestles with the notion that her husband has sinister designs for her. The tension filled script boasts some interesting dark humour that boosts the narrative along nicely. The score makes for a chilling listen as it echoes Lina’s mounting fears surrounding her doubt. As always, Hitchcock crafts scenes dripping with suspense that make the hairs on the back of your neck shiver. One great example is Johnnie bringing Lina a drink of milk at night, the glass seems to glow with malicious intention and Lina’s quivering face as it rests on her table transfers to the viewers mounting suspicions.
Joan Fontaine is marvellous in the role that won her an Oscar. She subtly portrays Lina’s girlish and sheltered innocence that soon gives way to mounting terror at the thought of her husband’s plans. Fontaine conveys so much emotion through her eyes that is a really a marvel to behold, we see her uncertainty, love and suspicion as events take on a mysterious air around her. Cary Grant is suave and sophisticated, yet also hints at the possible darkness that may lurk within Johnnie. Cedric Hardwicke is great as Lina’s stern father as well as May Whitty as her observant mother. Nigel Bruce portrays the likable Beaky, Johnnie’s hapless and humorous best friend with ease and charm.
Suspense, romance and skill combine to craft this marvellous thriller. Suspicion may be let down by the ending but the film is far from unwatchable. It may not be Hitchcock’s best work, but it is far from his worst with its splendid performances and tension filled suspense.