1941               Psychological thriller

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    • Cary Grant Johnnie Aysgarth
    • Joan Fontaine Una McLaidlaw
    • Cedric Hardwicke General McLaidlaw
    • Nigel Bruce Gordon Cochran "Beaky" Thwaite
    • Dame May Whitty Mrs McLaidlaw
    • Isabel Jeans Mrs Newsham


  • Dir/Prod:
  • Scr:
      Samson Raphaelson, Joan Harrison, Alma Reville, from the novel Before the Fact by Frances Iles [Anthony Berkeley Cox]
  • Ph:
      Harry Stradling
  • Ed:
      William Hamilton
  • Mus:
      Franz Waxman
  • Art Dir:
      Van Nest Polglase, Carroll Clark




    [  s u s p i c i o n  :  m o v i e  r e v i e w  ]

    vhs dvd

    Rated: Unrated

    A marvellous Hitchcock thriller, with timid Joan Fontaine in mortal fear of being bumped off by her husband, amoral Cary Grant. Fontaine won the best actress Oscar for her pouting female-in-trouble portrayal, though some believed at the time that it was to compensate her for not winning the award for Rebecca the previous year. I'm not buying that. Fontaine successfuly transposes to the screen her innermost emotions and fears over the wastrel and apparently-murderous antics of her husband and her performance was well deserving of the statuette.

    Grant was at the top of his game in the 40s. The undisputed king of light romance (and boy what wouldn't we give to have him around today lighting up that formula instead of the lame-brained Hugh Grant vehicles), his sparkling characterization as the bounder fits the character like a glove. He continually discounts financial rsponsibilities and finally gets jammed over thefts from his employer.

    The minus point is that the film is hampered by the censorship of the time. But despite that constraint, Hitchcock still turns out a great movie. Unfolded at a leisurely pace, he deftly displays the effect of occurrences on the inner emotions of the wife. Protected girl of an English country manor, Fontaine falls in love and elopes with Grant, an impecunious and happy-go-lucky individual, who figured her family would amply provide for both of them. Deeply in love, she overlooks his monetary irresponsibilities until discovery that he has stolen a large sum from an estate, and prosecution and exposure looms.

    There's much to enjoy with this movie, not least a totally phoney Hollywood England which somehow adds charm to the piece, and sterling support from British expatriates Nigel Bruce and Cedric Hardwicke.


    The screenwriter Samson Raphaelson was the author of the play The Jazz Singer, which was the inspiration for the landmark talkie film of the same name.

    After the title Before the Fact received a less-than-enthusiastic reception, alternative suggestions include Fright, Suspicious Lady, Search for Tomorrow, Last Lover, Love in Irons and the delightful Men Make Poor Husbands. Just before the film's release, the studio finally accepted one of Hitchcock's suggestions, Suspicion.

    Equally troublesome was the search for an ending to the picture with suggestions that Johnnie should join the air force and die in combat justly stamped on. In an attempt to get round the controversial ending of the original story, scenes were shot that suggested Lina had enjoyed an extramarital affair, thereby making her suicide her penance for her infidelity, but, after test audiences mocked, Hitchcock was forced to shoot the ending again.

    In the film's key scene, where Johnnie brings a glass of milk up to Lina, Hitch had a light hidden in the glass of milk to make it appear more sinister, making it glow through the darkness.


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