It must have been an unusual life for Mrs. Hitchcock being married to a creative Filmmaker like “Hitch.” If you can judge by her reaction in this picture, she never had a dull moment; but, perhaps, she had a lot of fun surprises. Even in the best of marriages, there must be moments of doubt concerning the subject of trust. How can you tell if someone is telling you the truth or lying to you? What if your intellect tells you they are lying, especially if the evidence points to them lying; yet, they vehemently deny it.
It is a is an extremely difficult situation on any level but more so when you love the lying suspect with your whole heart and soul. God help those who possess an analytical mind and put it in practice with something akin to an old Irish idiom: Don’t believe anything you hear and only half what you see! The Master Director of mystery films and thrillers, Alfred Hitchcock, provides these questions and situations to ponder as we watch his 1941 film, Suspicion.
In this Hitchcock film, the person possibly lying is none other than the debonair, charismatic Cary Grant (Johnnie Aysgarth). The person desperately wanting to believe his lies is the lovely, slightly naive Joan Fontaine (Lina Mclaidlaw Aysgarth), his wife.
Lina, who lacks confidence in herself as an attractive woman along with being painfully shy, accidentally meets a man too good to be true. She finds herself falling madly in love. This begins as handsome Johnnie shows up in her first class train compartment with his third class train ticket. She never met anyone like him before.
This is the first film out of three Hitchcock films that Grant plays the lead. According to Grant, it was going to be the last movie too. He didn’t like how his character was handled; and, he thought Hitch gave more attention to Fontaine. She won an academy award for her performance. This picture was nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture too.
I love the way this movie starts with a pitch black screen. Then, you hear a train whistle. Then, the audience hears Grant’s voice apologizing for kicking a leg. You hear him say, I didn’t mean to hurt you. Nothing like a bit of foreshadowing by Hitchcock. It is dark because the train is going through a tunnel; but, once the train is through it, the light reveals a bookish, nerdy kind of young lady wearing glasses (Lina) sitting alone in a compartment. She is staring, in amazement, at the uncouthness of Cary Grant (Johnnie). This sets the mood for this entire movie…The audience is in the dark and never sure what to believe.
This is their first meeting. The porter checks the tickets and discovers Johnnie (Grant) has a third class ticket; yet, he is in a first class compartment. He didn’t have enough money to upgrade his ticket. He asks book girl if she has any extra change. Again, her jaw drops. As she fumbles for some money, he sees a postage stamp in her hand. He takes it and gives it to the porter and says to him: it is legal tender. Now, go and mail a letter.
Later, he sees Lina atop a nervous horse at an equestrian event. When her horse rears up on its hind legs, she skillfully reins him in; and, he settles down. She is clearly enjoying her ride upon this spirited horse. Johnnie can hardly believe it is the same girl on the train. He asks his lady companions who she is. They know her and are a bit negative in their comments of her. You know how jealous some women can be. The ladies decides to introduce Johnnie to her with a visit. They ask her to join them for Sunday church services.
Lina meets Johnnie and his groupies for church. As she is about to go in, Johnnie holds her back. He asks, You really don’t want to go to Church service? Do you? Lina tries to pull away, Johnnie is stronger. He tells her they will toss a coin and decide whether to go inside with the others. He tosses a coin. Head or tails, you just know that he will win. When the rest of the group notices the two missing, they look back but see nothing.
Next, we see another Hitchcock foreshadowing. There is a couple, in the distance, on a hill. They are physically struggling against one another. At first, I thought he was going to toss her over a cliff. As the camera comes closer, we can see it is Johnnie and Lina. Lina can’t shake him off her. Then, Johnnie says, Why are you fighting me? Did you think I was going to kiss you? Lina replies: Yes! Why else would you try to put your arms around me. Johnnie said he was trying to fix her hair. You know this is total nonsense. Then, he plays with her hair and puts it in the most ridiculous styles. Which is actually pretty funny.
Later, when they reach her house, they overhear through an open window, Lina’s mother and father talking about her being a spinster and how her father must leave her a fortune to live on. You can see the hurt in Lina’s face. As she turns away to leave, she sees Johnnie looking over her shoulder. She does not hesitate. She wraps her arms around his neck and passionately kisses him, full mouth. Then, she runs into the house.
Of course she cannot help herself. He has given her more attention, in the space of an hour, than she had ever had in her whole life from the opposite sex. Besides, he is charming, witty, and so visually pleasing to the eyes. He convinces her that he has noted her peculiarities, and what’s more, he really likes how her uniqueness is packaged. Really, what’s not to love? But, is he telling the truth?
Throughout this movie, we ask ourselves these questions, just like the heroine, Lina. We really want Johnnie to be honest with her because they are both so likable and sweetly flawed. Does she see warning signs along the way that Johnnie may not be totally honest with her? Is he a pure selfish cad? Or is he a newbie with this whole “trust thing” and he’s just bumbling along? Of course, she sees the signs. Like many people in love, she believes her mate,
Cary Johnnie; even though, he has no job (most playboys/players do not have a job); and, he has acquired massive gambling debits. However, he appears to be so in love with Lina; that he promises to stop gambling and to get a job.
Besides, Johnnie thinks Lina’s rich Daddy, General Mclaidlaw (Cecil Hardwicke) will give them an expensive wedding gift…Maybe a house or a lump sum of money? With this in mind, they go on an expensive honeymoon. Since his investments seem to be going no where, Johnnie gets a job from his cousin, Melbeck However, money turns up missing. He tells Johnnie if he replaces the money, he will not call the police. Desperate, Johnnie takes the wedding gift (two antique, heirloom chairs) from his father-in-law and sells them. Lina finds out and is so upset that Johnnie brings the chairs back.
When the General dies, the only inheritance he left Lina was his portrait. Johnnie’s finances are drying up. Then, Johnnie’s best mate, dear amicable, Beaky (Nigel Bruce) shows up to invest in Johnnie’s failed financial adventure in land development. Lina likes Beaky; and, she tries to talk him out of investing. When Johnnie finds out she tries to talk Beaky out of investing, he warns her to stay out of his business. Later, he tells her he called off the deal with Beaky. Instead, he travels with Beaky to London and from there Beaky travels alone to Paris for a business deal.
However, during these series of unlucky financial events, Lina begins to feel ill most of the time. A neighbor who writes murder mysteries told her that Johnnie was asking her questions about which poisons are undetectable. Johnnie insists on bringing her a glass of milk before bedtime. Hitchcock brilliantly films Grant carrying the glass of milk up the stairs, in the shadows, with web like shapes running throughout the scene…Oh! What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive (Sir Walter Scott).
Then tragedy strikes. Beaky turns up dead in Paris, and no one can find the money he bought with him for the business deal. Lina begins to do more than suspect her lovely, charming husband. She now fears him. With everyone around her is telling her not to trust him, Johnnie vehemently claims his love for her and he is telling her the truth. He demands that she should believe him. He is ready to leave if she wishes it; but, he will be heartbroken for the rest of his life if he isn’t loved by her anymore. Lina wants to leave and visit her mother. Johnnie angrily insists that he drive her. This isn’t good.
Of course, I not going to tell you how it ends. You have to enjoy it for yourself. However, I will tell you that in the book, Before The Fact (1932), the author, Frances Ike, made Johnnie’s character much more sinister. He even had a baby with the maid. In the British version of this movie, Lina is indeed murdered by Johnnie. Luckily, for us, this film is in the capable hands of Hitchcock. The creative Mr Hitchcock has a surprise for his audience in this version. Also, like Stan Lee in the Marvel comics, he always does a cameo. Look for him in the scene. It’s about 45 minutes into the movie. He is mailing a letter at the village post office. Also, people claims he pulled a horse in front of the camera just before Grant is seen at the equestrian event. I hope you watch it or watch it again. It truly is a great classic.
This is an entry for The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon hosted by Maddie Loves Classic Films. You can read other posts on Hitchcock film using the following link: