Suspicion [1941]

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Stars: Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine, Cedric Hardwicke, Nigel Bruce
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Runtime: 99 minutes

A fictional dramatization of the anti-Communist witch-hunts that plagued the U.S. during the late 1940s and early '50s, Guilty by Suspicion examines one of the most shameful periods of American history. After producing such prominent films as Rocky and Raging Bull, Irwin Winkler made his directorial debut with this 1991 drama, basing his screenplay on the harsh reality of the blacklisting era. Set during 1951, when the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) held hearings to target alleged Communist affiliations within the Hollywood filmmaking community, the film stars Robert De Niro as a prominent director who is urged to "name names" to appease the committee. Rather than betray one of his closest friends, he refuses to "cooperate" with the committee and is quickly blacklisted, his entire career in jeopardy. Costarring Annette Bening as the director's sympathetic ex-wife, the film doesn't pack the emotional punch of The Front (another blacklisting-era film, starring Woody Allen), but Winkler captures the paranoid anxiety of the period with a wealth of authentic detail. Because the De Niro character underestimates the power of the HUAC, we share his shock and dismay when he must finally face the committee. Without seeming like a dry history lesson, Guilty by Suspicion illuminates the unconstitutional evil of the blacklist era while offering a glimpse behind the scenes of Hollywood's past. Adding to the realism, director Martin Scorsese makes a rare cameo as another filmmaker under fire. Although Winkler's script and direction are perhaps too melodramatic, Guilty by Suspicion was clearly made with noble purpose and intention. For anyone interested in the blacklisting era and Hollywood history, this movie's a must-see. --Jeff Shannon

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