Suspicion (1941)

99 or 102 mins | Drama | 14 November 1941

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HISTORY

The working title of this film was Before the Fact . The opening credits include the following acknowledgment: "services of Miss Fontaine and Mr. Hitchcock secured through the courtesy of David O. Selznick Productions, Inc." According to pre-production news items in HR , Michele Morgan was tested for the role of "Lina" and Constance Worth replaced Phyllis Barry as "Mrs. Fitzpatrick." A HR production chart places Stanley Logan in the cast, but he does not appear in the final film. Hitchcock makes his customary cameo in Suspicion as a man mailing a letter.
       The film's ending differs from the ending of the Frances Iles (a pseudonym for author James Hilton) novel on which it was based. In the novel, the character of "Johnnie" kills his wife "Lina" by poisoning her with a glass of milk. In a 1941 NYHT interview, director Alfred Hitchcock stated that this ending was unacceptable because the studio feared that an unhappy ending would result in commercial failure and because the Production Code Administration mandated that all screen murderers must be punished. According to materials in the RKO Archives Script and Production Information Files contained at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library and the Hitchcock papers at the AMPAS Library, Hitchcock shot two different endings for this film. In the first, Johnnie leaves Lina and joins the RAF to redeem himself. When the studio previewed the film in Jun 1941, however, the audience objected to that ending as "too bleak and unsatisfactory." Consequently, in Jul 1941, Hitchcock shot the present ending in which Lina begs Johnnie to ... More Less

The working title of this film was Before the Fact . The opening credits include the following acknowledgment: "services of Miss Fontaine and Mr. Hitchcock secured through the courtesy of David O. Selznick Productions, Inc." According to pre-production news items in HR , Michele Morgan was tested for the role of "Lina" and Constance Worth replaced Phyllis Barry as "Mrs. Fitzpatrick." A HR production chart places Stanley Logan in the cast, but he does not appear in the final film. Hitchcock makes his customary cameo in Suspicion as a man mailing a letter.
       The film's ending differs from the ending of the Frances Iles (a pseudonym for author James Hilton) novel on which it was based. In the novel, the character of "Johnnie" kills his wife "Lina" by poisoning her with a glass of milk. In a 1941 NYHT interview, director Alfred Hitchcock stated that this ending was unacceptable because the studio feared that an unhappy ending would result in commercial failure and because the Production Code Administration mandated that all screen murderers must be punished. According to materials in the RKO Archives Script and Production Information Files contained at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library and the Hitchcock papers at the AMPAS Library, Hitchcock shot two different endings for this film. In the first, Johnnie leaves Lina and joins the RAF to redeem himself. When the studio previewed the film in Jun 1941, however, the audience objected to that ending as "too bleak and unsatisfactory." Consequently, in Jul 1941, Hitchcock shot the present ending in which Lina begs Johnnie to forgive her and he turns the car around. According to the HR and NYT reviews, audiences were confused by this ending, commenting that they were not certain if Johnnie was trying to push Lina out of the car or if she was trying to jump. In later interviews, Hitchcock stated that he wanted the film to end with Lina dying from drinking the poisoned milk after having written a letter to her mother in which she reaffirms her love for Johnnie while exposing him as a killer. As Lina drinks the poison and dies, Johnnie drops the letter in a mailbox.
       According to the RKO Script Files, in 1936, RKO assigned Paul Trivers to write a screen treatment of Iles's novel. In 1939, Boris Ingster and Arnaud d'Usseau wrote a first-draft continuity, and in Jan 1940, Ingster and Nathanael West scripted a screenplay. According to a news item in HR , Samson Raphaelson was brought in to work on the script in Dec 1940. Alma Reville, one of the writers who worked on the script with Raphaelson, was married to Hitchcock and frequently collaborated with him on his films.
       Although the film officially opened in Los Angeles on 20 Jan 1942, RKO screened the film on 11 Jan 1942 in order to qualify it for the 1942 Academy Awards, according to material contained in the production files at the AMPAS Library. Joan Fontaine won an Academy Award for Best Actress, and the film was nominated for Best Picture and Franz Waxman was nominated for Best Dramatic Score. Hitchcock and Fontaine had previously worked together in the 1940 film Rebecca , Hitchcock's first American film (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.3646). Suspicion was the first of many collaborations between Grant and Hitchcock. In modern interviews, Hitchcock stated that an RKO executive ordered that all scenes in which Grant appeared menacing be excised from the film. When the cutting was completed, the film ran only fifty-five minutes. The scenes were restored, Hitchcock said, because he shot each piece of film so that there was only one way to edit them together properly. Hitchcock also noted that he placed a light inside Lina's glass of milk to make it look luminescent. Joan Fontaine reprised her role in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast on 4 May 1942, co-starring her then-husband, Brian Aherne. It was presented again on 18 Sep 1944. An American Playhouse remake, starring Anthony Andrews and Jane Curtin, aired in April 1988. In Aug 2001, a new version of the story was announced as being in development by director Philip Kaufman. Initially to star Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow, the project was still in development as of spring 2005, with a new script to be written by John Guare. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
20 Sep 1941.
---
Film Daily
18 Sep 41
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Dec 40
p. 1, 5
Hollywood Reporter
3 Feb 41
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Feb 41
p. 4, 11
Hollywood Reporter
18 Sep 41
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
14 Jun 41
p. 158.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
4 Sep 41
p. 273.
New York Herald Tribune
18 Sep 1941.
---
New York Times
21 Nov 41
p. 23.
Variety
24 Sep 41
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir assoc
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
STAND INS
Stand-in for Cary Grant
Stand-in
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Before the Fact by Francis Iles (London, 1932).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Before the Fact
Release Date:
14 November 1941
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 20 January 1942
Production Date:
10 February--16 May 1941
addl scene 23 July--24 July 1941, 29 August 1941
Copyright Claimant:
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
14 November 1941
Copyright Number:
LP10870
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
99 or 102
Length(in feet):
8,950
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
7113
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Johnnie Aysgarth, a charming scoundrel, prevails upon his female admirers to introduce him to Lina McLaidlaw, the prim, spinsterish daughter of wealthy General McLaidlaw. Under the pretense of escorting Lina to church, Johnnie takes her for a walk along the hillside, where he affectionately names her "monkeyface" and questions her severe appearance. When Lina returns home and overhears her parents discussing their matronly daughter, Lina impulsively kisses Johnnie and agrees to meet him later that afternoon. Although General McLaidlaw warns his daughter that Johnnie is not to be trusted, and despite the fact that he breaks their date, Lina anxiously awaits word from him. One week passes, and on the night of the Hunt Club Ball, Lina receives a telegram from Johnnie, asking her to meet him at the ball. Johnnie crashes the party and invites Lina for a ride. In the car, Lina, who has transformed herself into a beauty for the ball, blurts out her love for Johnnie, and when he admits that he is falling in love with her, she invites him to her house for a drink. There, Johnnie proposes to Lina in front of her father's portrait, and when he taps the painting, it falls from the wall. The next morning, Johnnie and Lina elope. Upon returning from their honeymoon, the newlyweds take up residence in an extravagantly furnished house that Johnnie has rented. When Lina learns that her husband is penniless and had planned to live on her income, she protests that her small allowance is not enough to support them and insists that he find a job. To placate his bride, Johnnie accepts an offer ... +


Johnnie Aysgarth, a charming scoundrel, prevails upon his female admirers to introduce him to Lina McLaidlaw, the prim, spinsterish daughter of wealthy General McLaidlaw. Under the pretense of escorting Lina to church, Johnnie takes her for a walk along the hillside, where he affectionately names her "monkeyface" and questions her severe appearance. When Lina returns home and overhears her parents discussing their matronly daughter, Lina impulsively kisses Johnnie and agrees to meet him later that afternoon. Although General McLaidlaw warns his daughter that Johnnie is not to be trusted, and despite the fact that he breaks their date, Lina anxiously awaits word from him. One week passes, and on the night of the Hunt Club Ball, Lina receives a telegram from Johnnie, asking her to meet him at the ball. Johnnie crashes the party and invites Lina for a ride. In the car, Lina, who has transformed herself into a beauty for the ball, blurts out her love for Johnnie, and when he admits that he is falling in love with her, she invites him to her house for a drink. There, Johnnie proposes to Lina in front of her father's portrait, and when he taps the painting, it falls from the wall. The next morning, Johnnie and Lina elope. Upon returning from their honeymoon, the newlyweds take up residence in an extravagantly furnished house that Johnnie has rented. When Lina learns that her husband is penniless and had planned to live on her income, she protests that her small allowance is not enough to support them and insists that he find a job. To placate his bride, Johnnie accepts an offer to work for his cousin, Captain George Melbeck. Their married life is blissful until one day, Gordon Cochran "Beaky" Thwaite, a friend of Johnnie's, comes to visit and tells Lina that he saw her husband at the racetrack that day. When Lina notices that the museum quality chairs, a wedding gift from her father, are missing, Beaky suggests that Johnnie sold them to cover his gambling debts. Johnnie makes up a story about the disappearance of the chairs, but when Lina sees them for sale in the window of a village antique shop, she knows that Beaky was right. Soon after Lina's discovery, Johnnie returns home, bearing expensive gifts that he claims he bought with his winnings from the track. Lina is angry when Johnnie admits to selling the chairs to bet on the horses, but forgives him when the chairs are returned to their home. Beaky, Lina and Johnnie then toast Johnnie's good luck. The toast proves almost fatal to Beaky, who suffers an allergic reaction to his brandy, and Johnnie warns him that the drink will be the death of him. While in town one day, Lina impulsively goes to visit Johnnie at his office and discovers that he has been fired for embezzling £2,000, the exact amount of his race track winnings. Returning home, Lina begins to pack her suitcases when she realizes that she loves Johnnie too much to leave him. As Lina tears up her farewell note, Johnnie enters the room with a telegram notifying her of her father's sudden death. When Lina's only bequest from her father is his portrait, Johnnie asks if she regrets marrying him. After reaffiriming her love for him, Lina tells Johnnie that she knows he has been fired. When she pretends not to know the cause, Johnnie tells her that he did not get along with Melbeck and informs her that he now plans to go into land development. Johnnie then convinces his bumbling friend Beaky to invest in his company. Lina voices her concern about Beaky, and Johnnie menacingly warns her to stay out of his business affairs. The next evening, Johnnie informs Lina that he has decided to call off the deal, but insists upon showing Beaky the land first. When she awakens the next morning, Johnnie and Beaky have already gone, and Lina, who has envisioned Johnnie pushing his friend from a cliff, speeds off to find them. Relieved when she discovers the cliffs are deserted, Lina returns home to find Beaky and Johnnie in the living room. After announcing his plans to travel to Paris and dissolve the corporation, Beaky invites Johnnie to accompany him, and Johnnie agrees to drive as far as London. Several days later, the police arrive to question Lina about Beaky's death in Paris. Learning that Beaky died by gulping a snifter of brandy in response to a challenge by his English companion, Lina becomes alarmed and calls Johnnie at his club in London. Her panic is intensified when she discovers that Johnnie checked out of his hotel the previous day. Soon after, Johnnie returns home and becomes angry when he learns that Lina informed the police about his business dealings with Beaky. The next day, Lina visits her neighbor, Isobel Sedbusk, a writer of murder mysteries, and discovers that Johnnie borrowed a mystery detailing the use of brandy as a murder weapon. Returning home, Lina finds the book hidden in Johnnie's desk drawer, along with a letter promising the repayment of the money he embezzled. When the insurance company calls to inform Johnnie that they have answered his recent inquiry by letter, Lina sneaks a look at Johnnie's mail and discovers that he has inquired about borrowing money on her life insurance policy. When the company notes that the benefits are payable only at the time of death, Lina begins to fear for her life. At dinner that night, Johnnie questions Isobel and her brother Bertram, a coroner, about an undetectable poison. Later, when Lina is unable to sleep, Johnnie brings her a glass of milk. Certain that the milk is lethal, Lina leaves it untouched and announces that she is going to stay with her mother for a few days. Insisting upon driving her to her mother's house, Johnnie recklessly speeds along the cliffside curves. When Lina's car door swings open, Johnnie reaches to grab her arm, but she pulls away from him. Johnnie then stops the car, and when Lina runs out, screaming, he denounces her for pulling away from him when he tried to save her and declares that she will never have to see him again. Johnnie's words make Lina suspect that his interest in poison was for his own suicide, and he admits that because he was unable to repay his debt, he did consider suicide, but has now decided that prison is the more honorable solution. When he explains that he left London to visit the insurance company in Liverpool to inquire about borrowing money on her policy, Lina apologizes for doubting him and begs for another chance. Johnnie then turns the car around, and they drive home, to begin their marriage again. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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