Suspicion – Alfred Hitchcock
When Francis Iles wrote the novel Before the Fact, from which Suspicion was drawn, it had a fascinating ending. While the film was in production, Hitchcock must have been aiming toward that same ending since the shooting title of the film remained Before the Fact. The picture was then previewed with several conclusions before one was decided to be best for film audiences, and the film was released as Suspicion, because that is what the story line is about. Originally, the heroine, becoming convinced that her husband, whom she adores, is going to murder her, drinks the poisoned milk he offers her; for even though love has betrayed her, she will not betray that love. Thus, she becomes an accessory before the fact to her own murder.
Such an ending, of course, would be unsatisfactory for the average filmgoer, especially since the star of the film is Cary Grant, who was, by the time he filmed Suspicion, one of the greatest film idols of the time. To portray him as the murderer of his own wife, especially when that wife was played by Joan Fontaine, would have been to invite audience displeasure. Changing the ending, however, meant that the whole theme of the story would have to change. Without the twist of making the husband appear guilty only circumstantially, the theme becomes one in which the obligation of mutual trust in any love affair is mandatory: a wife must not suspect her husband of the worst when she loves him because her love is then not complete. The ending switch involves so many moral turns that it puzzled many a film writer; one critic reported that a large percentage of trade reviewers must still be sitting in the projection room after the previous day’s showing, waiting for the story to end.
Suspicion is an intriguing film and one of Hitchcock’s best; it is beautifully made and perfectly played, Joan Fontaine as the loving heroine Lina MeLaidlaw, a wife forced to doubt her husband, won her an Academy Award as Best Actress. It was a well-remembered year, especially since she was in competition with her own sister, Olivia de Havilland, who was nominated for Hold Back the Dawn. Fontaine had been one of the nominees the previous year for Rebecca, her first big role, but she had lost the Oscar to Ginger Rogers for Kitty Foyle. Some maintained that she won for Suspicion the following year because she should have won the year before; but Fontaine handles her role in Suspicion with remarkable sensitivity and assurance. Her victory was an honest one in an Oscar race for Best Actress that was even closer than before, for her competition involved not only her sister, but also Bette Davis, Greer Garson, and Barbara Stanwyck.