The Unsuspected

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The Unsuspected
The Unsuspected film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Produced by Michael Curtiz
Charles Hoffman
Screenplay by Ranald MacDougall
Bess Meredyth
Based on the novel The Unsuspected 
by Charlotte Armstrong
Starring Joan Caulfield
Claude Rains
Audrey Totter
Constance Bennett
Hurd Hatfield
Music by Franz Waxman
Cinematography Woody Bredell
Edited by Fredrick Richards
Michael Curtiz Productions
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • October 3, 1947 (1947-10-03)
Running time
103 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Unsuspected is a 1947 black-and-white film noir directed by Michael Curtiz, and starring Claude Rains, Audrey Totter, Ted North, Constance Bennett, and Joan Caulfield. The film was based on the novel written by Charlotte Armstrong.[1]


The story involves a woman, Roslyn Wright (played by the uncredited Barbara Woodell) who is found dead hanging from a chandelier in a posh mansion occupied by Victor Grandison (Claude Rains), a popular "true crime" radio story host.



Critical response[edit]

When the film was released, The New York Times film critic, Bosley Crowther, gave the film a mixed review, writing, "There is reasonable ground for suspicion that the people who made The Unsuspected thought that they were fashioning another Laura, popular mystery of a few years back ... But, beyond a brisk flurry of excitement and wickedness at the start, it bears little showmanly resemblance to that previous top-drawer effort in this line. Rather it is much more suggestive, the further along it goes, of a second-rate mystery melodrama upon which too much money and too big a cast has been spent ... Once launched, however, it starts leaking, pulling apart at the seams, and generally foundering in a welter of obvious contrivances and clichés ...However, the rest of the performers — Joan Caulfield, Audrey Totter, Hurd Hatfield, Constance Bennett and a half dozen others —are as patly artificial as the plot."[2]

Claude Rains and Joan Caulfield

More recently, film critic Dennis Schwartz, while disappointed with a few "plot holes", lauded the work of director Curtiz, writing, "A creepy noirish thriller and damsel-in-distress tale, much like Otto Preminger's superior Laura (1944), directed in a grand expressionist style by Michael Curtiz (Casablanca) ... The film only bogs down when it doesn't do as much with the author's intricate plot as it could have, and things seem too muddled to be believable. But it makes up for that with an eloquently menacing and macabre performance by Claude Rains ... If one can get past the holes in the plot, one should be on firm footing for this well-acted and charmingly told stylish film noir. It is further enhanced by the shadowy and glossy cinematography of 'Woody' Bredell. When the heroine is being poisoned, we view the deteriorating effects the drug has on her through a wine glass."[3]

Noir analysis[edit]

Film historians Alain Silver and Elizabeth Ward write that the film is impressive because of its emphasis on style: "Jack Lambert as the blackmailed killer lies in bed smoking. The radio is on and Alexander Grandison is detailing the story of his particular crime. The only source of the illumination in this dingy hotel room comes from a partially obscured flashing neon sign. The letters that are visible through the window seem to echo the thoughts of the uncomfortable murderer as it keeps blinking "KILL... KILL... KILL."[4]


  1. ^ The Unsuspected at the Internet Movie Database.
  2. ^ Crowther, Bosley. The New York Times, film review, "The Unsuspected, New Warner Mystery, With Joan Coalfield and Michael North, at Strand -- Blonde Savage at Rialto", October 4, 1947; accessed: July 13, 2013.
  3. ^ Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review by Dennis Schwartz, February 25, 2005; accessed July 13, 2013.
  4. ^ Alain Silver and Elizabeth Ward (1992). Film Noir An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style. The Overlook Press. ISBN 0-87951-479-5. 

External links[edit]