A romantic thriller with psychological undertones, this film is a dubious tale that leaves the audience ‘suspicious’ of what is true and what is fantasy. The two main protagonists are a young woman of great wealth and a handsome playboy with nothing to offer but charisma, yet despite the idea of love at first sight there are uncertainties of the man’s true motives, or perhaps it’s all in her imagination. Of course Joan Fontaine, our leading lady fresh off her Oscar nominated performance in Rebecca, would be skeptical for good reason, as Cary Grant plays her husband who is nothing short of dishonest and deceitful. Grant seemingly refuses to work an honest job and cons his way into living off Fontaine’s assets and borrowed money from friends, leaving him with immeasurable debt and a whirlwind of trouble. Grant is clearly exasperated to find out his wife isn’t to inherit any family money, and after two heirlooms go missing and a close friend mysteriously passes away, Fontaine reluctantly concludes that her husband is after her life insurance and is fearful that her days are numbered as well.
The charm of the film is that the audience doesn’t find out the truth until the very end, however it is that very conclusion that is the film’s only misfortune, as Hitchcock wasn’t able to put that final touch on a perfect film due to circumstances out of his control. Those circumstances were that Hitchcock wanted Fontaine’s suspicions to indeed be true, yet it wasn’t to be as Cary Grant was one of the biggest superstars in the world and the studio would not allow him to commit such a heinous crime. The real crime however is that Hitchcock couldn’t use the ending he wanted, a scene that involved a poisonous glass of milk that Fontaine would drink knowingly because she was too in love to care. Or perhaps she was numb and resigned to her fate at this point, yet before drinking she’d write a letter to her mother condemning her husband while explaining her heartbreaking demise. Instead the film’s ultimate climax is a rather disorientated and underwhelming scene that begins with frightening road rage and ends with kisses and hugs, as Grant was only going to take his own life instead thus Fontaine’s suspicions can all be disqualified. Insert the side eyed emoji face as this film deserved the original ending, and Hitchcock knew it as he became fixated on this missed opportunity for the rest of his career. Nonetheless this is still an incredible film excluding the last five minutes, highlighted by Fontaine who won the Academy Award for Best Actress, the only actor to ever win an Oscar for their performance in a film by Alfred Hitchcock.