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The Times (04/Dec/1941) - Suspicion: Mr. Hitchcock's new film

(c) The Times (04/Dec/1941)



It is easy to understand the appeal that such a novel as Mr. Francis Iles's "Before the Fact", on which this film is based would have for a director of Mr. Alfred Hitchcock's particular talents. Mr. Hitchcock delights in building up suspense, in suggesting, by touches which have all the subtlety of the seemingly careless, that things are not quite what they seem, in creating an atmosphere of suspicion.

Johnnie (Mr. Cary Grant) is a charming young man, a little reckless, and vague about money, perhaps, but so kind, so generous, so charming — the word insists on recurring — that Una (Miss Joan Fontaine) never thinks of refusing him when he proposes an elopement. Nor does Lina repent when she finds that Johnnie's financial vagueness slides over into dishonesty. She guesses that he married her for her money, furtive little deals done behind her back come to light, and still his charm holds; and even when the beat of a dreadful suspicion becomes louder in her ears, when Johnnie's great friend (Mr. Nigel Bruce) dies most opportunely for Johnnie's affairs, when she discovers that he has taken out an insurance policy on her life, when his interest in the secret poisons with which a novelist friend of theirs polishes off her victims becomes noticeable, still she remains fascinated.

Finally she holds out her hand for the glass which contains her death and can find time in the midst of her own agony to feel sorry for Johnnie, who does love in his own way, and does not at all want to murder her. Up to the last few minutes Mr. Hitchcock follows the book faithfully, and his methods — sudden, uneasy silences, an effective, if a little crude, use of shadow, some cleverly taken close-ups — enhance the drama, but he then suddenly and unforgivably reverses all the points he has been at such pains to make, and kills the psychological significance of the story by clearing Johnnie of all suspicion and providing a happy end. A sad finish to a film which, so long as it keeps to the book, is absorbing. Mr. Grant achieves the triumph of persuading the audience of Johnnie's charm, and Miss Fontaine, in a difficult part which leaves her often alone on the screen, acts with tact and understanding.

Suspicion goes into the Odeon programme on Monday.