Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Suspicion (1941)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Suspicion (1941)

In Alfred Hitchcock's romantic and classic noirish psychological suspense/thriller, based upon the 1932 novel 'Before the Fact' by Francis Iles (the penname for English author Anthony Berkeley Cox), Joan Fontaine won the Best Actress Academy Award - it was the sole Oscar win for an actor in a Hitchcock film. [Note: Some thought it was a consolation prize for Fontaine's loss the previous year for Rebecca (1940). In 1941, Fontaine was in Academy Award competition with her own sister Olivia de Havilland, nominated for Hold Back the Dawn (1941).].

The 'Cinderella' tale ended up being puzzling, after Hitchcock was forced to alter the film's ending following preview showings; he had to change the film's basic themes and plot points that the wastrel husband was guilty of plotting to murder his own wife - the heroine. The revised film made a significant switch - it only appeared that the husband's motives pointed to guilt and his wife was not being targeted. The same film-ending revision was made by Nicolas Ray for In a Lonely Place (1950):

  • the film opened in total darkness in a train tunnel, on a Southern Railway train traveling from Waterloo to Hazledene; the film's first line was delivered by the film's male protagonist Johnnie to the principal female character Lina: "Oh, I beg your pardon. Was that your leg? I had no idea we were going into a tunnel. I thought the compartment was empty"; the stranger noticed she was reading a book on Child Psychology; he hid the fact that he was in a first-class car with a third-class ticket, until confronted by a ticket collector; he 'borrowed' a stamp from his seatmate to pay the difference; she realized who he was after seeing his picture in the society pages of The Illustrated London News - he was well-known in society circles
  • in the countryside after arriving, a fox-hunt was being assembled, and Johnnie noticed Lina riding a horse and commented: "I can hardly believe it. It can't be the same girl"

Lina McLaidlaw (Joan Fontaine)

Johnnie Aysgarth (Cary Grant)
  • the loving but shy, inexperienced, mousy, matronly and repressed English heroine Lina McLaidlaw (Joan Fontaine) was introduced to the handsome, suave, reckless, charming, wolfish, playboyish gambler Johnnie Aysgarth (Cary Grant); the bespectacled wallflower was persuaded to join him and members of the Barham family, daughters Alice (Faith Brook) and Jesse (Carol Curtis-Brown) and Mrs. Barham (Violet Campbell), to attend church; once they arrived at the church, however, Johnnie pulled Lina aside and invited to go on a walk instead
  • on a windswept hilltop, Johnnie wrestled with Lina for a kiss, but then asked if she feared being murdered: "Now what did you think I was trying to do, kill you? Nothing less than murder could justify such violent self-defense"; he innocently claimed: "I was merely reaching around you, trying to fix your hair"; he complimented her with a pseudo-medical term: "Your ucipital mapilary is quite beautiful" (the dip in the front part of her neck); when asked, she felt she could control him if he was a horse: "If I ever got the bit between your teeth, I'd have no trouble in handling you at all"; he lovingly but insultingly called her "monkeyface"; she snapped her purse tightly shut when he tried to kiss her
  • Lina was the prim, over-protected, sheltered, spinsterish heiress daughter of stuffy, wealthy, retired General McLaidlaw (Cedric Hardwicke) and his respectable wife Mrs. McLaidlaw (Dame May Whitty); after Lina returned home, from the front window, she overheard her parents regarding her as "spinsterish" ("Lina will never marry. She's not the marrying sort. She has no need to worry. There's enough to care for her for the rest of her life"); the General added that Lina had "intellect and a fine solid character"; hurt by their comments, Lina turned around and saw Johnnie listening in, and impulsively kissed him and rushed inside

General McLaidlaw (Cedric Hardwicke)

Mrs. McLaidlaw (Dame May Whitty)
  • at the Sunday formal dinner table, Lina's parents disapproved of Aysgarth as a scoundrel, liar and opportunist with a womanizing, fortune-hunting reputation; her father called him "wild" for having been caught cheating at cards and thrown out of a club; Johnnie phoned and called off their 3:00 pm afternoon date
  • a week later in Hazledene, the Laidlaw family had been invited to the town's Beauchamp Hunt Ball (on March 7th, 1938 at 7:30 pm), but without any further contact with Johnnie, Lina was suffering from a psychosomatic headache and declined to go; then, she received a telegram (dated March 8 - a continuity error) from Johnnie (misspelled) inviting her to attend, and her mood changed completely; however, she became nervous when he didn't show on time, but then arrived without an official invitation, shared a quick dance, and then ran off for a car ride; he asked before kissing her: "Have you ever been kissed in a car?...Would you like to be?"; he was amazed: "You're the first woman I've ever met who said yes when she meant yes"; when she admitted that she loved him, then Johnnie also confessed: "I think I'm falling in love with you, and I don't quite like it. That's why I stayed away from you for a week. I was afraid of you"
Johnnie's and Lina's Romance

Kiss During Car Ride

Kiss In Her Home

After His Marriage Proposal
  • they briefly returned to her home and entered the study for a drink, where Lina, who was hopelessly falling in love with Johnnie, kissed him again and told him: "I think it's because for the first time in my life, I know what I want," but then, she asked just to make sure: "Are you courting me?" and he answered affirmatively; but he felt disapproval emanating from a large wall portrait of her father staring at them in the room: "He doesn't like me. He doesn't trust me from here to there," and then he directly addressed the portrait: "I can only bring her unhappiness. Well, warn her. Speak up, man. It's your last chance"; after charming Lina, although he knew her family strongly disapproved, he then boldly requested her hand in marriage: "Sir, I have the honor of asking for your daughter's hand in marriage. Well, what do you say to that?"; the painting responsively became briefly dislodged from the study wall
  • after Johnnie thoroughly charmed her, she was blindly in love and assented to his request to be married, even though Lina knew very little about him, including what he did for a living and his background; they eloped and met up in the Registrar's office where they were legally married; during a whirlwind honeymoon and romance, presented in a montage of trunk stickers, they visited Naples, Monte Carlo, Venice, and Paris, before returning as Mr. and Mrs. Aysgarth to Wickstead, England in Sussex; Johnnie had acquired a "gorgeous" and "extravagant" Georgian home (known as The Grove) for the two of them to move into with agent Mr. Bailey (Rex Evans); Lina twice asked: "Are you sure you can afford it?" - but Johnnie ignored her question
  • afterwards, the smooth-talking Johnnie began to reveal his true self - he was deeply in debt and financially-broke (with no employment or income); he received a telegram from a man named Henry demanding repayment of a borrowed 1,000 pounds for the honeymoon and asked Lina: "You couldn't spare 1,000, could you?"; when Lina asked about his financial resources: ("Didn't you have any money of your own?"), Johnnie was compelled to admit: "Not a shilling...Monkeyface, I've been broke all my life"; he was shown to be an irresponsible cad, a dishonest liar, and a thief, and added that he had been counting on her inheritance: "A girl like you is gonna come into plenty of money someday"
  • Lina was astounded by his wrong-headed assumption that she had money, and that her monthly-income or allowance could support the two of them: "I'm just beginning to understand you. You're a baby. Oh, I know you didn't marry me for my money. You'd have done much better elsewhere. But my income will never pay for all this. Never," and she couldn't possibly ask her parents for money since they detested him; Lina was totally shocked: "I think you must be mad"
  • the reluctant Johnnie was pressured to take a job: ("There's gonna be no more borrowing....You've got to go to work"); Johnnie reacted: "I'm afraid you're a bit of a dreamer. Let's be practical about this"; he ended up in a position he had already been offered with a distant, obscure cousin Captain Melbeck (Leo G. Carroll), as an agent to help manage estates
  • at the house one day, Lina met Johnnie's jovial, past school friend and drinking buddy Mr. Gordon "Beaky" Cochrane Thwaite (Nigel Bruce); "Beaky" unwittingly revealed ("Put my foot in it as usual, have I?") that Johnnie had lied about quitting horse-racing gambling and was seen at the Newbury Races during working hours; Beaky also divulged that Johnnie - without Lina's permission - had sold off their two McLaidlaw family heirlooms and museum pieces (two antique chairs received from Lina's father as a wedding present) to pay off his racing-gambling debts: ("A fellow's got to pay his racing debts, hasn't he?"); the naive but good-natured "Beaky" excused Johnnie's irresponsible and deceitful behavior as entertaining: "After all, it's Johnnie. Wonderful chap, there's nobody like him"; when Johnnie was confronted and it was clearly assumed that he was telling untruths (about selling the chairs to an "American"), Lina attempted to defend him: "Are you implying that my husband is a liar, Mr. Thwaite?"
  • and then one afternoon, Johnnie surprised both "Beaky" (who had stayed for a long visit) and Lina by showering them with extravagant gifts - a walking stick for "Beaky," hats, a necklace and a fur coat from London for Lina, a gift for maid Ethel (Heather Angel) (a mink stole), and a pet dog for himself; he claimed the occasion was due to his backing of a winner at the Goodwood Cup races at 10 to 1, earning him 2,000 pounds; Johnnie sheepishly told a disapproving Lina: "Come on, darling, smile. I know I've been naughty, but look, it's all for you"; he then admitted that he had acquired the 200 pounds for betting by pawning the chairs ("There was no American") - Lina already knew since she had just seen the chairs in the local antique store!; Lina was seething with anger: "You sold the chairs to gamble all your money on a horse?"; Lina's face brightened when Johnnie revealed he had purchased back the chairs
  • as the threesome drank to celebrate on the back patio, "Beaky" took a swig of brandy, knowing it wasn't good for him; he suddenly had a brief non-fatal coughing attack, and Johnnie reacted calmly: "It will either kill him or it will go away by itself....One of these days, it will kill him" - a foreshadowing
  • it was strange that Johnnie had suddenly developed a taste for detective-murder mysteries ("he adores them"); and then Lina also learned from Mrs. Newsham (Isabel Jeans) in town that Johnnie had attended the Tuesday afternoon Merchester Races, rather than being at work; Lina visited the offices of the Melbeck Estates, where she unearthed further clues and discovered that Johnnie was lying even more than she realized; Johnnie had been discharged from his job six weeks earlier but had never told her; Melbeck stated that he wasn't going to prosecute Johnnie: ("I told him I wouldn't prosecute") for criminally-embezzling 2,000 pounds from the office determined after an unexpected audit - the same amount he had claimed he won at the race track; Melbeck was awaiting Johnnie's repayment of the money in the meantime
  • Lina began to seriously consider leaving Johnnie and breaking up their marriage, and wrote out the first line of a letter to him: "I am leaving you"; it continued: "It is very important that we never see each other again. I am sure you will be able to explain everything very smoothly to yourself as well as to others. Lina" - but then on second thought, she tore it up
  • Lina's fears intensified when notified by Johnnie, standing behind her in their bedroom, cryptically asked: "Then you've heard"; she replied positively, but was thinking that he was referring to his job discharge; he shocked her by holding a telegram (dated July 2, 1938) telling how her father had died - of heart failure
  • the two returned to her parents' home, where during the reading of his will, Lina was bequeathed the continuation of her allowance of 500 pounds/year, plus the large portrait of himself; Johnnie was visibly disappointed that Lina had not inherited his fortune, due to him: ("It seems pretty obvious that your father would've left you a lot more than his portrait, if you'd been anybody else but Mrs. John Aysgarth"); while driving along the coast, she revealed she had learned about the loss of his job with Melbeck the previous week; when she asked why, he vaguely answered: "We just didn't get along....I suppose my ideas were too daring for him"
  • Johnnie explained his dream to Lina that he was planning with his prospective real-estate company business partner "Beaky" who would provide all of the money from his securities in Paris - it was a highly-speculative land development scheme, using Beaky's financing and issuance of stock, to purchase for 30,000 pounds 1,600 acres of rocky coastal land for a seaside resort hotel with beach huts, known as Tangmere-by-the-Sea; Lina was immediately skeptical and fearful that "Beaky" was being conned in a confidence scheme that was completely within Johnnie's control, but she was sharply warned to stay out of Johnnie's business affairs and not ruin his scheming: ("What right have you to interfere in my affairs?...If I say it's good, it's good. I'm going through with this deal. I don't want any interference from you or anyone else")
  • however, the next morning, Johnnie informed Lina he had already changed his mind: "I'm calling off the real estate plan"; she was skeptical of his love ("I was afraid you'd stopped loving me"), but he claimed he loved her very much
  • soon after while playing anagrams with Johnnie and "Beaky" one evening, the increasingly-suspicious and untrusting Lina formed the word "MURDER"; she fearfully concluded that Johnnie might be conspiring to murder his friend "Beaky" as a means to restore his finances; she had a visionary premonition - with a superimposed photo - that Johnnie pushed his friend from the cliffside (a prophetic and haunting image that would resurface) where they had cancelled the plan to build a hotel and resort; she fell faint to the floor
Scrabble-Anagram Game: The Word 'Murder'
  • the next morning when she awoke, Lina learned Johnnie and "Beaky" had gone to the coastline to look at the property under consideration; Lina hastily drove to the site, where she looked over the edge, pondering what might have happened
  • once she returned home, she was amazed to find the two alive - "Beaky" shared how he had almost backed the car off the edge of the cliff; according to "Beaky", Johnnie reacted and saved his life: ("If old Johnnie hadn't taken a flying leap and grabbed the brake, I should be in kingdom come by now"); a reassured Lina expressed her gratitude toward Johnnie: "I can never tell you how much this means to me"
  • soon after, "Beaky" left for Paris (where his "securities" were located) and Johnnie joined him part-way to London; two days later, Lina was visited by Police Inspector Hodgson (Lumsden Hare) with a report about how "Beaky" had died under mysterious circumstances in a house in Paris; papers found on "Beaky's" person indicated he had just formed a corporation with Johnnie; a telegram from Paris from the police stated that they both were drinking, and he had died of poisoning after drinking from a large beaker of brandy after placing a bet with another Englishman - he suffered a fatal allergic reaction; Johnnie seemed to be a prime suspect
  • to check on Johnnie's whereabouts, Lina phoned the Hogarth Club in London, and was told Johnnie had left "yesterday morning"; suddenly, Johnnie walked in and seemed sorrowful about "Beaky's" death: "I loved that silly, generous, good-hearted fool"; Lina admitted she had told the authorities that "Beaky" was planning to dissolve the corporation that they had set up, but apparently had died before he could do it; Johnnie phoned the police and reported that he had been in London with "Beaky" before seeing him off at the airport; then he claimed: "I stayed in London until this afternoon. At my club" - Lina immediately knew that he was lying about his whereabouts
  • sometime later, Lina visited with local novelist Isobel Sedbusk (Auriol Lee) who specialized in murder mystery novels, including her latest book Murder on the Footbridge; during their conversation, Isobel mentioned that she didn't view the 'heroes' of her stories as villains: "I always think of my murderers as my heroes"; she mentioned that the death (or murder) of "Beaky" in Paris had a similar method of murder: "That brandy business is just like my footbridge. If they get his companion, the question would be: Was it murder or an accident? The brandy thing isn't new at all, you know"; and then to Lina's utter surprise, Isobel recalled that Johnnie had borrowed the book (written by George Houghton) about using brandy as a murder weapon: "The Trial of Richard Palmer. That book about the brandy. Johnnie borrowed it a couple of weeks ago"; Lina found the book in their home, with an unsent letter inside written by Johnnie to Melbeck: ("...I'm sure I can find some other way to pay back the money I owe you...")

Local Mystery Novelist Isobel Sedbusk (Auriol Lee) Speaking About 'Murder by Brandy': "The brandy thing isn't new at all"

Johnnie Had Borrowed the Murder Mystery Novel About Using Brandy to Murder

Johnnie's Unsent Letter to Melbeck - About Repaying Embezzled Money
  • in addition, Lina received a phone call for Johnnie from the Guarantors Assurance Company in London about a delay in his inquiry - was he asking about a death benefits payoff from her life insurance policy?; Lina snooped at letters received by Johnnie from the insurance company, denying his request to take a loan of 500 pounds out of Lina's insurance policy - but then the letter explained that "...payment can only be made in the event of your wife's death"
  • during dinner that evening at the home of author Isobel Sedbusk, the morbid subject of talk was death and methods of murder, juxtaposed with the slicing and cutting of Cornish game hens by everyone at the table; the guests included Isobel's brother Dr. Bertram Sedbusk (Gavin Gordon), who often conducted post-mortems as a Home Office Analyst; he agreed with Johnnie's assertion: "If you're going to kill somebody, do it simply," but added: "Just as long as you don't get caught"; Lina continued to remain tense after learning about Johnnie's obsession with reading murder mystery novels, and his dinner talk about the use of untraceable poisons; she was unnerved when Johnnie gloated at her, after Isobel predicted that he wasn't a murderer: ("You couldn't commit a murder if you tried for 100 years")
  • after returning home, the shadows from the skylight in the front hall cast a giant spider-web appearing to trap Lina in Johnnie's threatening complex web of lies, deceit, and danger
  • an exhausted Lina was driven to psychosomatic illness and became bed-ridden due to her distrust and fear of her husband; she fearfully learned, with mounting tension as the film progressed, that he was asking more questions of Isobel about untraceable poisons "undetectable after death" - ("He's worming all my secrets out of me. I suspect him of writing a detective story on the side") - was he plotting ways to kill her?
  • in the film's most famous and suspenseful sequence, at bedtime, Johnnie carried a glowing glass of milk (that may or may not have been fatefully poisoned) upstairs to his sick wife Lina while taking care of her - she stared at the glass with dread (and left it untouched) - believing that she was about to be poisoned; was Johnnie truly devious and villainous, or was it solely a conspiratorial thought in her fragile mind?
A Murderous Husband Bringing Up a Poisoned Glass of Milk?
  • in the film's climactic conclusion, Johnnie insisted on driving Lina to her mother's place to stay for a few days; in an open sports car convertible going at high speed, he drove wildly and recklessly on a treacherous, twisty cliffside drive; when Lina's passenger door unexpectedly opened up and there was a struggle as he lunged toward her with unclear intentions - was he about to push her from the vehicle, or to grab onto her and save her?; he grabbed at her arm - ostensibly to thrust her out of the car, but in fact was reaching to rescue her. When the car stopped, she fled, but he wrestled her into believing that he wasn't trying to kill her
  • in the end (one of many alternative conclusions that were considered for the film by the studio, making it a disappointing and contrived finale with a happy ending), it was revealed that Johnnie was not a homicidal killer; Johnny confessed to Lina that he had contemplated suicide to end his life - he had become interested in poisons because he was imminently planning to kill himself (with an untraceable poison), to escape life's insurmountable responsibilities and the challenges he faced (mounting debts, and charges of embezzlement and murder); but then he decided suicide was a "cheap way out"; he admitted his financial difficulties to her and his ill-fated attempts to straighten things out, and ultimately his decision to face life in prison ("I'm going to see it through, prison term and everything"); he admitted to her that when "Beaky" died in Paris, he was in Liverpool, where he was trying to borrow money from Lina's life insurance policy to repay his ex-employer Melbeck, confirming what she already knew
  • Lina apologized for her constant suspicions and doubts, and promised that their lives would improve and be different ("We'll make it different"); she successfully pleaded with him to return home with her to work things out: "Let's turn back. Johnnie, let's go home and see it all through together...It will work, I know it will, Johnnie, please!"; after his initial denial in the scene's final moment, he made a U-turn with the car to return home, and placed his arm around her; the couple resolved to stay together, help each other, and reconcile; however, could all of Johnnie's assertions be trusted and believed, given his record of falsifying the truth?

Introduction of Two Main Characters in a Train Compartment: Johnny (Cary Grant) and Lina (Joan Fontaine)

Johnnie Aysgarth in the Society pages of the Illustrated London News

Johnnie's 3rd Class Ticket to Hazledene

Johnnie Attempting to Kiss Resistant Lina on a Hilltop

Lina's Impulsive Kiss of Johnnie

Telegram to Lina: Invitation From Johnnie to the Hunt Ball

Lina Nervous at the Hunt Ball When Johnnie Arrived Late

Johnnie Speaking to the Imposing, Disapproving Portrait of Her Father

After Their Whirlwind Marriage and Honeymoon - Back In Their New Home in England

Johnnie's Jovial and Naive Friend "Beaky" Thwaite (Nigel Bruce)

Lina's Dismay with Johnnie: "You sold the chairs to gamble all your money on a horse?"

"Beaky" and Johnnie Attempting to Cheer Up Lina

"Beaky's" Near-Fatal Reaction to Drinking Brandy on Back Patio

Mr. Melbeck - Johnnie Had Been Discharged 6 Weeks Earlier After Embezzling Company Money

The Beginning of Lina's Letter to Johnnie to Break Up Their Marriage

Johnnie Ominously Appeared Behind Lina

Telegram Announcing Lina's Father's Sudden Death

Johnnie Warning Lina To Stay Out of His Business Affairs

At the Cliffside - Lina Pondering What Might Have Happened?

Report of "Beaky's" Mysterious Death in Paris

Lina Realizing That Johnnie Was Possibly Lying About His Whereabouts at the Time of "Beaky's" Death

The Slicing Up of a Cornish Game Hens by Dinner Guests

Spidery Web Shadows Behind Lina and Johnnie n their Front Hall

Lina - Bedridden with Psychosomatic Illness Due to Her Fear of Johnnie

A Terrifying Cliffside Car Ride in The Film's Exciting Conclusion - An Act of Murder or Rescue?


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