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Charles Laughton stars in director Robert Siodmak's excellent 1944
thriller as a middle-aged shop manager in turn-of-the-century London who's
driven to murder his shrewish wife when he falls in love with a beautiful
young woman, and is then pursued by both a determined Scotland Yard
detective and a blackmailing neighbor.
Laughton gives one of his most subtle, controlled performances as a basically good man who turns murderous when his nagging wife threatens to expose his "friendship" with beautiful Ella Raines. Miss Raines is very appealing as his heart's desire, and looks quite beautiful in the period costumes. Rosalind Ivan, who has a similar role as Edward G. Robinson's emasculating wife in Fritz Lang's 'Scarlet Street,' 1945, is excellent as the nagging wife. And Henry Daniell and Molly Lamont also offer top support as Laughton's no-account neighbor and his abused wife.
An excellent story of murder and blackmail that will appeal to fans of both Hitchcock-like thrillers and the marvelous Charles Laughton.
Well, I won't bother to summarize what unfolds in this excellent suspense film starring the incredibly talented Charles Laughton, since other reviewers above have done so quite nicely, and have also touted the film's good qualities. I just watched my old VHS copy (taped off TV) last night (sort of fuzzy, but better than nothing). Why on earth Universal Pictures does not release this little gem on DVD, which it richly deserves, I will never understand. I am sure many discerning film buffs and Laughton fans would buy it in a New York minute. And, I mustn't forget to comment on how marvellously Rosalind Ivan portrays the wife from hell.
The one great "crime passionale" of British murder cases is the 1910
murder of Cora "Belle Elmore" Crippen, wife of the American born "Dr."
Hawley Harvey "Peter" Crippen. The couple had been married from the
early 1890s, and moved from the United States to England, settling in
London. Crippen was the possessor of a degree from a small medical
college in the midwest, but he really was on shaky ground as a
physician under British standards (or the standards of a major American
city for that matter). In fact, he was a seller of patent medicines,
and practiced some opthalmology and dentistry under questionable
auspices. But he was a good businessman, and made a comfortable living.
Cora had pretensions of being an opera singer, and trained her voice.
She did have some performances at various music halls, but her career
was mediocre at best. She also treated the long suffering, mild Crippen
as dirt, making him clean up her lover's shoes when they slept over at
their home. Crippen hired a secretary, Ethel Le Neve, and they fell in
love. In January 1910 Belle disappeared. Her friends became concerned,
and Crippen told them she had left him. Later he told them that she
died in Los Angelas. But when Le Neve was seen wearing her jewelry they
became suspicious. Contacting Scotland Yard about their suspicions, the
Yard sent Inspector Walter Dew to see what was going on. At first
Crippen seemed plausible, but then he and Le Neve fled. The remains of
Belle were found in the basement. She had been poisoned. Crippen and Le
Neve (disguised as his son) fled by ocean liner to Canada, followed by
Dew, who arrested them off Quebec. They were taken back to England,
where both were tried. The Doctor partly tied up his defense by
insisting on protecting Le Neve. As a result he was found guilty and
she was acquitted. The Doctor was hanged in November 1910.
A movie was made, with Donald Pleasance as Crippen, and there have been films based on the story such as WE ARE NOT ALONE with Paul Muni. But this film with Charles Laughton is considered the best. Laughton captures the basic decency of the central figure, who made a bad marriage to a shrew, and fell for a decent woman too late. There are differences in the story. Rosalind Ivan (playing the "Belle" character) is not poisoned (like Flora Robson in the Muni film) but dies in an apparent accident falling downstairs. Laughton has a son who one suspects will marry the Le Neve figure after the film ends. And Laughton never even gets to see Canada, but gives himself up in England to save a neighbor suspected of killing her husband (a blackmailer Laughton has killed - another plot innovation not involved in the actual crime). But the film moves well, and one constantly feels for Laughton's character. Finally the fine Stanley Ridges gives a typically good performance as the counterpart of Inspector Walter Dew, who ended up sympathizing with the man whom he captured.
"The Suspect" is a taut suspenser, grandly acted by Charles Laughton and fine cast, and beautifully produced. But who can see it? Unfortunately, for some strange reason, the film was never brought out on video format. This comment is written to hopefully create some interest in helping to rectify this void. With all the less capable films on video, this is one omission which needs to be seriously addressed. ###
The Suspect is directed by Robert Siodmak and adapted to screenplay by
Bertram Millhauser and Arthur T. Horman from the novel This Way Out
written by James Ronald. It stars Charles Laughton, Ella Raines, Dean
Harens, Stanley Ridges, Henry Daniell and Rosalind Ivan. Music is by
Frank Skinner and cinematography by Paul Ivano.
In 1902 Edwardian London, unhappily married shopkeeper Philip Marshall (Laughton) meets beautiful Mary Gray (Raines) and a tender friendship begins to form. But once Philip's wife discovers what is going on she threatens him with exposure and scandal, forcing Philip to take drastic action...
How delightfully off, that a film that features a wife murderer, an alcoholic wife beater and blackmail, should be so restrained and actually beautiful. The Suspect in principal is about a decent man pushed to do bad things by his awful life when hope then springs from an unlikely source. The moral shadings here are most intricate, Laughton's Philip Marshal is a completely sympathetic and fascinating character, the makers deftly toying with our perceptions in the process.
There's no mystery element to drive the story forward, we are only really left wondering how the finale will play out. However, the lack of mystery is not a problem because Siodmak has a keen eye for suspense and knows how to use gaslight interiors and foggy streets to represent the psychological turmoil of Philip and his life that's now drastically changing. Murder as justifiable homicide? Ridding the world of bad people is OK? Rest assured that it is far darker than it appears on the surface.
Brilliantly performed by Laughton and Raines, and mounted with great atmospheric skill by Siodmak, The Suspect is a little seen gem waiting to be found by a wider audience. 8/10
Unlike the grim dramas of Fritz Lang Edward G. Robinson played in (Scarlet Street and The Woman In the Window) Charles Laughtons' character of a genteel middle aged and middle class Englishman of the early 20th Century seems to be a figure of strength and solidity. The only thing to ruin this is a classic harridan of a wife at home. A loveless marriage that has produced a son the only point of agreement this couple has agreed to in the two decades + of this anchor on Mr. Marshall's soul. Then comes the heavenly disaster of love in the form of newly unemployed Ella Raines. No Joan Bennett sexpot/wench as in Woman In the Window,but a Good and proper English girl down on her luck who meets the kindly Mr. Marshall who at first is only doing the Good Deed that has earned him the respect of his neighborhood. But when you have the Nag from Hell(played to the nines by an icy shrewish Rosiland Ivans) and Henry Daniells as your pseudo-Gentleman stumblebum in the area Deep Trouble for the Good Man awaits. Add in Stanley Ridges performance as a Scotland Yard Inspector who Sherlock Holmes would respect as an equal,and you have a very distinct and classy journey down the Boulevard of Bad Choices for Good Reasons. Daniell's realization (too late)that Mr. Marshall has steel in his backbone is Movie Cool.
An excellent domestic drama about a middle-aged man (Charles Laughton) who is trapped in an insufferable marriage. Laughton captures all the mannerisms of the situation, with a happy face for the neighbors masking his true torment. The story gets pushed along when he meets a younger woman (Ella Raines) and starts a relationship, which his devious wife (Rosalind Ivan) finds out about, sending him to the point of panic when she threatens him with social and financial ruin. The next door neighbor (Molly Lamont) is also trapped in an absysmal marriage to an alcoholic and abusive husband (Henry Daniell). One wonders why the writers didn't have Laughton and Lamont as the focus, as she's everything his wife isn't, instead of Raines. It would have saved the movie from becoming another police crime story. In any event, the chemistry seems to work pretty well, with Daniell and Ivan each in their own outstanding way supplying enough venom to propel the movie along, and Laughton excellent as a good man pushed into a corner.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I love a good suspenseful movie--particularly one where you find
yourself rooting for the murderer! Charles Laughton plays a humble
little man with a shrew for a wife. She is just plain mean and rotten
and really needs to be killed! Any way, Laughton meets a nice young
lady but does not cheat on his wife--they are just platonic friends at
this point. You seem to understand that Laughton WANTS to make take
this relationship to a deeper level, but his sense of decency prevents
him from cheating on his wife--even if she is meaner than Godzilla. The
shrew finds out about this friendship and delights in announcing she
will use ALL her energy to destroy this decent woman. At this moment,
Laughton has finally been pushed too far and he kills her (hooray).
The police do not suspect foul play and Laughton seems to have gotten away with it--and the viewer will find themselves pulling for him! However, the evil neighbor stumbles upon the truth and blackmails Laughton. So, you grow to REALLY hate this neighbor and when Laughton subsequently poisons him, once again you are cheering for him to get away with murder! I won't give away the very end of the picture, but I like that Laughton's inherent decency comes through. Two murders and BOTH seem very justified---now that's a creative twist!
I finally got to see The Suspect one of the few Charles Laughton films
I had not yet seen. I was totally bowled over by what he did in this
film. It's really what film acting is all about, every breath, every
nuance, every gesture is carefully delineated and brought to the
screen. Laughton had a reputation for driving some of his directors a
little nuts with his perfectionism and maybe he did to Robert Siodmark
here. I prefer to think the two of them collaborated on a masterpiece.
The setting is Edwardian London in 1902. From outward appearances Laughton is a happy man, making a good living with a wife and a grown son. But he is married to one shrew of a woman he's put up with for over 20 years. He's ripe for a midlife crisis and ripe to stray. But a friendship he develops with pretty young Ella Raines recently hired at Laughton's office drives wife Rosalind Ivan up a wall. Later on Ivan dies as a result of a fall down the house stairs. Nobody can prove one way or the other whether it was murder. Scotland Yard's Stanley Ridges is up a wall with it.
Laughton and Ivan have a couple of neighbors, married couple Henry Daniell and Molly Lamont. When Ridges confides in Daniell during the course of the investigation, he inadvertently sets the stage for tragedy. Daniell himself says he's a 'total rotter' and proves it the audience's satisfaction.
The Suspect is one of many films based on the famous Dr. Crippen murder which was also in the same period. The only fault with the film is that the rest of the cast is fairly one dimensional in their characters next to Charles Laughton. But if you are a Laughton fan, this film is an absolute must.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The capturing of Dr. Crippen was one of the most sensational stories of
the day (1910). The suspected wife killer had booked a passage to
Canada along with his pretty secretary and mistress (who was disguised
as a young man). Through means of the Marconi wireless and morse code
the police were able to apprehend them while at sea. According to a
documentary that I saw, witnesses at the time said that while Dr.
Crippen was a nice quiet man, his wife was an overbearing harpie. "The
Suspect" is a retelling of the Dr. Crippen case with Charles Laughton
playing to perfection the meek and kindly shop manager married to a
complete harridan (Rosalind Ivan was excellent and very scary in the
The movie created great suspense by the questions that were not answered - did Phillip Marshall kill his wife?? - the act wasn't shown and the murder that Phillip actually committed posed the question, will he get away with it and find true happiness?? Whatever happened the audience is on Phillip's side all the way!!
Phillip Marshall is married to a nagging shrew and when his son leaves because his mother has deliberately burned some documents, for him it is the last straw and he moves to a different bedroom. The same day he meets Mary Gray (beautiful Ella Raines) when she comes seeking work, she is taken by his kindness to one of the junior clerks but, unfortunately, there is no work for her. On his way home Phillip finds Mary crying in the park, she is destitute and needs a job. After taking her to a cafe he finds her a job and so begins the start of a beautiful friendship which blossoms into love - they go to the music hall, ballet etc and Phillip suddenly finds life worth living again. Of course his wife refuses to divorce him and after a particularly vicious quarrel where she threatens to drag Mary's name through the mud, the next morning she is found dead. It seems to be a case of accidental death but suddenly Scotland Yard Detective Huxley (Stanley Ridges, who was excellent in "Black Friday") is snooping around.
Phillip has always tried to be a friend to his long suffering neighbour Edith Simmons (Molly Lamont is just marvellous) who is married to the despicable Gilbert (Henry Daniell) who is not above knocking her around. When vile Gilbert tries his hand at a little blackmail, he has no proof that Phillip did kill his wife but he says he will lie to the police unless Phillip starts giving him money whenever he requests it. When Phillip goes into the kitchen and spies the sleeping medicine Gilbert is history but......
There are some parts that are hard to believe. Phillip hides the body behind the sofa and convinces his now wife Mary that Canada is the place to start a new life but before they can sail is persuaded to give himself up as Edith has been arrested for her husband's murder. As Huxley says "he is too much of a gentleman and fine person to allow her to take the blame"!! Why was Huxley hounding him then and how come the body was found in the river??? How would a very out of condition Phillip be able to get the body down there??? Another jarring moment to me was that I thought Ella Raines was just too young and beautiful to be attracted to Charles Laughton's character in any but a friendly, fatherly way. The fact that Ella Raines makes her character's feelings completely believable is a real tribute to this very under rated actress. Those were just a few, slight quibbles with what was an overall superlative film.
The big news of the moment is that new DNA evidence has come to light to suggest Dr. Crippen is really innocent of killing his wife.
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