Masquerading as something we are not is an inherent flaw. We have every right to be suspicious of those around us. Not everything is as it seems. Not ever. Alfred Hitchcock would certainly have us believe so, but, then, he too was hiding dark secrets deep beneath the surface. Suspicion is his coy toying with the spectacle of identity. What it means for someone to introduce and conduct themselves to others. Cary Grant is such a man. We are right to have our suspicions about him from the moment this tale begins, failing to pay for his train ticket, and swindling away a fancy stamp to cover the damages of having the wrong ticket in the wrong compartment.
Us English are fond of hounding those with the incorrect ticket to the ends of the Earth, so it is no surprise that Linda McLaidlaw Aysgarth (Joan Fontaine) is taken away by Johnnie (Grant), a striking character indeed. He is a naturally ignorant man, one who finds it is fairer to live by his own rules than that of others. Hitchcock toys with the intrigue Aysgarth has for Johnnie. He is the loose cannon that so many find themselves infatuated with for he is self-assured and confident in his abilities. Surely such skills are necessary for his character. Grant brings that to life with expertise. His role here as the silver-tongued charmer who borrows from many and gives back to few is magnificent.
Where Suspicion falters, though, is in its dialogue. Grant and Fontaine power through regardless, their chemistry and performances too strong to be weighed down by such meddlesome worries in the writing department. Violins underline the more emotively charged scenes, although they do little to inspire the weightiness of the twist that is sure to come. We are, after all, in the presence of a Hitchcock feature. A kick to the gut is bound to appear somewhere, but with Suspicion, its charm and intrigue are that it is almost instant. We are let in on the secret if we are attentive enough to understand the intent of the characters. Had we avoided these notations, then we would surely find Grant and Fontaine a lot more palatable. Hitchcock has no trouble convincing us they are worth spending time with, though, and crafts a delightful bit of mystery.
That mystery lasts long enough to engage with and enjoy, but not long enough to impact the narrative so heavily. We are waiting for the big blow-out, as we were with Dial M for Murder or The 39 Steps. Where the differences occur, though, is in how attentive we are. Hitchcock was a magnificent craftsman. He could spin thrills and chills with relative ease. Suspicion is a successful one not just because it relies on the connection between its characters, but the trivial matter of trust. They are trusting in one another, and that is their greatest mistake. Despite all the turmoil and terrible scenarios they put each other through, they figure it is worth it, despite having suspicions throughout. We cannot hold the same suspicions, though, we’ve figured it out the moment they board the train.