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1941 marked the tenth year that Cary Grant had been in Hollywood. By this time, he was a leading man, having found success with The Awful Truth, The Philadelphia Story, and His Girl Friday.
After completing Penny Serenade, for which he received an Academy Award nomination, Grant found his next project, Suspicion.
RKO purchased the rights to the 1932 novel, Before the Fact, but failed attempts at adapting it left it collecting dust. That is, until director Alfred Hitchcock saw it as the perfect opportunity to play with the audience’s expectations.
1. It was the first Grant-Hitchcock team-up.
Cary Grant made four films with director Alfred Hitchcock, with the first being Suspicion. Hitchcock said, “One doesn’t direct Cary Grant. One simply puts him in front of a camera. He enables the audience to identify with the main character.” Grant also enjoyed working with the talented director and described all his memories as being “happy ones”. Interestingly, Hitchcock also wanted to change the title of the film to “Johnnie”.
2. A huge plot point caused trouble.
The book originally ended with Joan Fontaine’s character knowingly drinking poisoned milk and dying, a twisted testament to her love for her husband. Hitchcock loved the ending, as did his lead. “It was a perfect Hitchcock ending. But the studio insisted that they didn’t want to have Cary Grant play a murdered,” Grant himself remembered. Unwillingness to change this particular plot point had actually killed an earlier adaption which was to star Laurence Olivier.
3. The studio made a “happy” version.
The stress from the production caused health issues for Joan Fontaine. As a result of the already delayed production and rising costs, RKO debated canceling the film or creating an alternative cut where any references to Cary Grant’s character being a murder were removed. The result was a jumbled film that was less than an hour. Thankfully, Hitchcock was allowed to finish his work.
4. Joan won her first and only Oscar.
A year before Suspicion, Fontaine had worked with Hitchcock in Rebecca. To help her overcome her inexperience as a leading lady that time, Hitchcock directed her on expressions and gestures, and her performance received a nomination from the Academy. For her performance in Suspicion, she was not only nominated, but took home the golden statue. Much was also made out of that fact that Fontaine and her sister, Olivia De Havilland, were both nominated that year. Years later, the actresses both admitted to a strained relationship that wasn’t helped by competitive spirits.