An Overly Lengthy Review of Suspicion.
Credits roll: I can’t help thinking Before the Fact would’ve been a better title. Both Suspicion and Before the Fact are pretty bland, though. I suppose Suspicion has more of a punch.
We start the movie in a train car. Cary Grant barges into Joan Fontaine’s little suite claiming it’s too crowded in coach. It’s dark because the train’s in a tunnel. The train’s in a tunnel. Get it? Freudian stuff? Hitchcock? Get it? Ay oh!
In other news, I totally recognize this scene from Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid!
We also get an extraneous shot of Joan Fontaine’s legs, which I suppose establishes Cary Grant’s sexual interest in her and expresses that even though she’s wearing glasses–quelle horreur!–she’s some sexy librarian type who’s only prim until you warm her up a little.
A train-ticket-taker dude comes in, checking errbody’s tickets and tries to kick Cary Grant out of this first class car because he only has a coach ticket. He upgrades his ticket, but he doesn’t have quite enough money, so Cary Grant bums some cash from Joan Fontaine, except she doesn’t carry a lot of cash, so he pays with a stamp. K.
This little exchange shows us he’s a charmer and that he’s bad with money.
Suspicion Level: Low. Society dude low on cash, charming ladies on trains. Happens all the time.
At an outdoor society function, Cary Grant is flanked by a bunch of society ladies, and a photographer wants to take his picture, telling him to smile more, etc., which establishes him as a ladies’ man and a debutant (I took the e off, making it masculine grammatically, but I’m not sure if this is the right term for a dude. I’ll keep it, though.)
And in rides Joan Fontaine on a rearing horse. And I’m wondering if she’s supposed to be a badass in this movie. Certainly shots like this usually indicate some badassery/independence/sassiness–like Scarlett O’Hara and what’s her face from Leave Her to Heaven. Cary Grant notices this horse stunt and becomes more smitten–or does he?! BUM BUM BUM! or whatever.
Joan Fontaine’s hanging at home, reading a book/looking at a newspaper clipping of Cary Grant, whom she has a crush on already. Some ladies come by asking if she’s coming to church, and she declines, but then Cary Grant shows up, so she goes along.
She and Cary Grant sneak off together for a stroll that turns romantic/frightening when Cary Grant wants to unbutton Joan Fontaine’s blouse to more easily ogle her “ucipital mapilary”–suprasternal notch, in real life–and she reacts as though he’s about to divest her of her clothing and murder her. He jokingly says he isn’t going to murder her–or is that a joke?! BUM BUM BUM!!! Foreshadowing! or whatever.
Suspicion Level: Medium. Dude manhandling lady on a stroll. Kinda rapey.
They continue to flirt, and she continues to be agitated and mousy, and he decides her nickname will be Monkey Face. How romantic. He looks as though he’s going to kiss her but then he messes with her hair instead.
Finally, she says, “ If my father saw me come in both late and beautiful, he might have a stroke,” which shows us that she is punctual and plain, I suppose.
They get back to her house, where they eavesdrop on her parents discussing her spinsterhood. Dad’s ok with it while Mom wants her to get married at some point. She becomes more agitated and suddenly kisses Cary Grant.
At lunch, Dad reveals that he doesn’t like Cary Grant and that Cary Grant is a ne’er do well gambler who shouldn’t be trusted.
Cary Grant breaks his next date with Joan Fontaine and runs off to do society things (proving Dad’s objections right, of course), so Joan Fontaine does what any self-respecting spinster heiress would do: stalks her crush through newspaper clippings.
Suspicion Level: Medium. Dad seems pretty reasonable, so I trust his take on things. And the dude breaks dates and runs off. Do not like.
Then comes time for the Hunt Ball, which Joan Fontaine attends. Cary Grant shows up uninvited, and the flirtations pick up where they left off. Meanwhile, a waltz is playing, and I feel as if this particular waltz is in every single movie ever.
Suspicion Level: Low. Crashing society parties raises him in my estimation.
Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine go out to the parking lot and get in her car so that Cary Grant can drive her around and then perhaps make out with her. He asks her if she’d like him to kiss her, and she says yes when she means yes–something Cary Grant is not used to. They talk about how they like being honest with each other and what not, and Joan Fontaine invites him to her house ostensibly for a drink (but she really wants to make out).
They arrive, and Cary Grant talks to the portrait of her father and ends up proposing.
Suspicion Level: Low. Cary Grant’s flirting seems pretty organic to me.
In the next scene, Joan Fontaine tells her parents she’s going out to the post, but really she’s about to elope with Cary Grant.
They have a montage honeymoon, and then we find the new couple glamorously dressed in a chic house that Cary Grant has bought.
Their sassy cockney maid shows up, and I want her to be played by Angela Lansbury, but she is not.
A mysterious telegram from an old friend arrives stating he needs a thousand pounds–because Cary Grant owes him that money for the honeymoon. Ooh girl!
Now he tells her he’s broke. And she’s quite upset. Did she really think her dad was lying about Cary Grant? Also, they haven’t talked about ANY of this before? She’s so flabbergasted by this revelation, and it is rather unbelievable. He takes it in stride and says, “A girl like you is going to come into a lot of money some day.”
She calls him a baby (because he doesn’t want to work, just mess around spending money), and he further reveals that he has no intention of ever getting a job. He will borrow money until she inherits a bunch of money from her dad. Good fiscal planning, guys.
Finally Cary Grant says, “I’m afraid you’re a bit of a dreamer. Let’s be practical.” He explains that he doesn’t have any skills, so he wouldn’t be able to get any good jobs at all. It’s better to just do what he does. Great fiscal planning, guys.
Some chairs arrive as a wedding present from Mom and Dad, even though Cary Grant wants money. These chairs are antiques, and Cary Grant has a glint in his eye about them.
This whole scene, of course, establishes Cary Grant as a proven ne’er do well, and it also establishes their romance as totally whirlwind, perhaps based solely on their physical attraction.
Suspicion Level: Medium-low. Seems pretty honest about his financial situation, but I don’t trust him about the chairs.
Then Cary Grant says he’s gotten a job managing some estate for his cousin, and we all think this is a lie because he was so shady about the telegram regarding it, but it ends up being real. Here we see Joan Fontaine’s growing distrust of Cary Grant, and we the audience are taken in on the distrust front, as well.
Some dude appears at Joan Fontaine’s house, introducing himself as Beaky, friend of Cary Grant. Knee jerk reaction is to not trust this dude, but he’s so charming that we and Joan Fontaine rather like him. Beaky reveals Cary Grant’s been at the races, but Joan Fontaine doesn’t believe this at first.
Meanwhile, those antique chairs have disappeared. Beaky suspects Cary Grant pawned them. Cary Grant arrives from the races–he won, and he has a million presents for everybody–and admits to selling the chairs to an American, and Joan Fontaine is very displeased because they were a family heirloom, etc.
Cary Grant professes his love and apologizes and promises to never bet again, and none of us believe it except Joan Fontaine.
Also, Beaky has a medical condition in which when he ingests alcohol or something he convulses, and you can’t do anything but wait for him to get over it or something.
Joan Fontaine runs into some fabulously dressed bitchy lady who inquires about Cary Grant’s supposed job because “he must’ve had last Tuesday off” as she saw him at the races. Joan Fontaine is upset and thinks this lady is lying, so she goes to his office, where his cousin/boss reveals Cary Grant was discharged 6 weeks ago and that he won’t press charges! BUM BUM BUM!
Suspicion Level: High. Won’t press charges? What?!
Once home, Joan Fontaine sits down to write dear John letter because she can’t handle all this lying/money malfeasance. Then she gets a telegram telling her Dad is dead, and she needs Cary Grant’s support. They go to the reading of the will, where they don’t get any inheritance–just her usual stipend and that Dad portrait.
Afterward in the car, they have a serious discussion about love/death/when we’ll stop loving each other. This scene shows us how Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine are inextricably linked and how–even if Joan wanted to–she couldn’t escape the hold Grant has on her. This scene is also one of the creepier scenes that leads us to have some real suspicion. Previously, Cary Grant’s been kind of smarmy/a cad, but throughout he’d been seemingly loving. Even here he’s pretty loving, in a maudlin way.
Suspicion Level: Medium. What will Cary Grant do now that he’s not getting that money he was looking forward to? But like I said, they seem to really love each other.
On the way home, Cary Grant finds this piece of land that he likes and decides that if he had 30,000 monetary units (pounds, I guess?), he could start a development, so he starts a shady business with Beaky, who I guess has 30,000 monetary units lying around. Joan Fontaine expresses some skepticism, and Cary Grant gets kinda mean, saying, “I’m going through with this deal, and I don’t want interference from you or anyone else.”
Suspicion Level: High. Shady business deals and mean talk.
The next morning, Cary Grant says he’s not going to go through with the deal. He’s apologetic about his previous meanness, and Joan Fontaine takes him back ardently. She was afraid he didn’t love her anymore. Oh geeze. I hope I don’t have any friends like this, who think I don’t like them anymore when I say one cross thing to them. Ridiculous. Haven’t they ever gotten into a fight before?
At a dinner party with Beaky, they’re playing some anagram gram that looks suspiciously like Bananagrams, and Cary Grant is trying to convince Beaky the business venture is a bad idea and suggests Beaky go up and look at the land himself in the morning.
One of the words is murder, and Joan starts hallucinating. In her hallucination, they go up to look at the land, and Cary Grant throws Beaky off a cliff, for some reason.
Suspicion Level: Low. For as much as I don’t know what accounts for Cary Grant’s change of heart, I know even less about why Joan Fontaine would suddenly suspect her husband–whom she loves and takes back every single time he squanders money–would murder his best friend, especially in this strange scenario that does not actually sound suspicious at all.
After her hallucination, Joan Fontaine collapses dramatically. Dramatic Collapse Count: 1.
The next morning, mousy and suspicious Joan Fontaine is all worried when she’s informed the boys went out to look at land. She even drives out to the spot; I suppose she’s expecting to find Beaky’s dead body at the bottom of a cliff in a watery grave?
She comes home to creepy whistling of that waltz, and Beaky is not dead. In fact, Cary Grant had saved his life when he stumbled dangerously close to the cliff or something. Joan Fontaine is SO relieved and loves Cary Grant again.
Cary Grant leaves for London for a couple of days, and detectives come to talk to Joan Fontaine because Beaky is dead. They know some dude was with him before he died but left before he actually died. He died of that medical condition he had because someone gave him a lot of whatever thing he was allergic to.
Cary Grant returns home and seems grief stricken about Beaky’s death, but Joan Fontaine suspects he killed him. She tells him about the police, and he calls them.
Then Joan Fontaine goes to talk to a lady mystery writer she knows–whom the audience knew nothing about previously. And I want this lady mystery novelist to be played by Angela Lansbury, but she isn’t.
There’s a book this lady wrote about killing a dude by poisoning his brandy–the same thing that happened to Beaky–and Joan wants to borrow it, and Jessica Fletcher (I do not know her name, so I am going to call her this) says she can borrow it. But lo and behold, Cary Grant already has borrowed this book! BUM BUM BUM!
Suspicion Level: Low. Joan Fontaine may be suspicious, but I am not. Beaky already had a medical condition that could’ve killed him. Why would Cary Grant need an instruction manual.
Joan Fontaine goes home to find the book and finds a letter about owing money hidden in its pages and something from the insurance company saying Cary Grant can’t get the insurance money unless his wife dies. BUM BUM BUM!
Suspicion Level: Medium-Low. I guess the insurance thing is kind of suspicious.
A dinner party with Jessica Fletcher and her brother (who is a medical examiner), and some woman in a severe outfit. Who is this lady? Why is she at this dinner party?
They begin a discussion about murder, and Cary Grant reveals he would kill people simply and obviously if he were a murderer. Jessica Fletcher–who has some superpower that lets her see if people would have the capacity to murder–doesn’t think anybody at the table would murder anybody.
Back at home, they’re locking up the house, and Joan Fontaine wants to sleep alone. Cary Grant gets upset, and Joan Fontaine, once alone, collapses. Dramatic Collapse Count: 2.
Joan Fontaine awakens to Jessica Fletcher, who chats for a while and reveals that Cary Grant called when Joan Fontaine collapsed, and he was asking all about poison-induced deaths and whether they were painful.
Cary Grant comes in to check on his wife’s convalescence, and he brings her a glass of milk. She doesn’t drink it and packs up to go to her mother’s.
Suspicion Level: Medium-Low. Asking about poison and then bringing his wife milk and insisting she drink it is all very circumstantial, but the music wants us to believe it’s significant.
Joan Fontaine tells him she’s going to her mother’s, and he insists he drive her, which he does so very dangerously. She tries to get out of the car, and he reaches over—maybe to push her out, maybe to save her from falling out. He stops the car and says he was just trying to save her, and she loves him again.
They talk all the stuff out, and he reveals he was planning on killing himself because of money issues. He wasn’t the dude with Beaky in Paris: He was in Liverpool talking to the insurance guy about borrowing money against life insurance policies, but when he realized he couldn’t, he was going to kill himself, and his life insurance payoff would cover his debts or something.
She decides she wants to get back with him, and they drive off into the sunset.
Suspicion Level: Medium. How much of that was true?
- Joan Fontaine’s character in this movie is dumb as a box of rocks–she doesn’t know anything about the dude she married; she takes him back after all his gambling and believes him every time he says he’s not going to do it anymore; she jumps to conclusions that make no sense.
- Cary Grant’s character is untrustworthy, sure, but I couldn’t buy him as a murderer all of a sudden. Maybe it was because the scene where Joan Fontaine first suspects he could murder somebody makes absolutely no sense.
- These two characters seem destined to repeat this I-squandered-money-I-forgive-you cycle forever. I’m wondering if either or both of them are mentally unbalanced. Why do they even like each other.
- Regarding the ending added to appease the code: I don’t have a problem with the ending at all. It makes perfect sense (in context) that he would explain all his actions and that she would take him back as that’s what’s been happening throughout the entire thing. Here’s the thing I do have a problem with: the entire movie. It’s like 5 movies in one, with each part making some sense on its own but none of the parts coalescing in any meaningful way. The characters are not believable, and neither is the plot. The side characters don’t even make sense. Where did Jessica Fletcher come from? Was the maid supposed to have played a larger part? I kept expecting Cary Grant to be having a secret affair with her, but that never happened although it would’ve added to his character’s untrustworthiness and made it more believable that he might kill his wife. As the movie stands, it’s just a bunch of hysterical woman and ne’er do well dude shenanigans that seems not to have a point at all, as if the whole thing is just one big red herring.
- Maybe it just means love is a cycle of love, hate, and suspicion? With a hearty dose of sex in the mix (because that seemed to be the only thing the two of them really liked about each other)?
Overall Suspicion Level: Medium-low. I guess Cary Grant was kind of suspicious, but I was never really afraid for Joan Fontaine’s safety. She had more to worry about as the second Mrs. De Winter.