The Unsuspected

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The Unsuspected
The Unsuspected film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based on the novel The Unsuspected 
by Charlotte Armstrong
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 American 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 screenplay was co-written by Bess Meredyth, who was married to director Curtiz.


A woman, Roslyn Wright (played by the uncredited Barbara Woodell), is found dead hanging from a chandelier in a posh mansion occupied by Victor Grandison, a popular "true crime" radio story host. Roslyn was his secretary.

Victor has also recently lost a niece, Matilda Frazier, presumed dead from a boating accident. But at a birthday party thrown by another niece, Althea, everyone is surprised by the appearance of Steven Howard, who claims to be married to the missing Matilda.

Victor is accompanied by his radio producer, Jane Moynihan, at the party. He is unsure what to make of the stranger, particularly with a family estate to be settled, and asks a detective named Donovan to investigate. Matilda turns up, but claims to have no memory of Steven or their marriage, despite his efforts to prove it to be true. Acting suspiciously, meanwhile, is Althea's husband Oliver, drinking heavily.

In time, Althea comes to believe her uncle Victor killed his secretary. Victor confirms this to Althea, then murders her as well. Steven confides to Matilda and Jane that he was actually Roslyn's husband, determined to discover the truth about her death. When proof is found as to what really happened, Victor gives a full confession on his final radio show.



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

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."[3]


  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. ^ 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]