Travelling on a first-class compartment with a third-class ticket, Johnny Asgarth, played by Cary Grant, meets the shy Lina Mclindlaw essayed by Joan Fontaine. She is beauty personified, and Johnny uses every trick in the book to court her.
She comes from a wealthy background, a factor that drew Johnny towards Lina. Since no way she had to elope, her father, played by Sir Cedric Hardwicke, would approve their marriage. After a fantastic honeymoon, she discovers the mess Johnny is in. She feared for their future due to his reckless attitude and constant gambling tendencies.
Each time she feared, he used to calm her down with his charm. He was broke and in desperate need of money and engrossed himself reading many murder mysteries.
He had a good friend in Beaky, who did have money, and they had made plans to start a business. Beaky dies under mysterious circumstances, and Lina suspects her husband to have played a role in it. Her suspicion overrules her senses to an extent where she feels the tag of being the next target. She suspects Johnny to kill her and take the money from her insurance.
Her state of mind could be summed up with a scene where Johnny gets her a glass of milk. Interestingly, the scene is shot strangely. He holds the milk glass, which is glowing, and Lina feels the milk to be poisoned.
Fearing for her life, she decides to leave to her mother’s place, and Johnny hesitantly insists he would drive her.
The movie’s highlight and probably the best scene are the last one as they drive along the road, with Johnny speeding up the car and moving close to the cliffs. Lina anxiously and fearfully expects her death, watches Johnny take a shortcut, and finds her door opened. He lends his hand to close the door; she feels he is trying to push her out. In the end, he manages to drag her back and stops the car.
He questions her behaviour and clarifies; he didn’t murder Beaky. Instead, he was reading murder mysteries to commit suicide as he was ashamed of his inability to pay off the debts and face prison.
As Lina, Joan Fontaine impresses with her acting skills, charm, and elegance in this movie. Cary Grant plays the role where there is love in the heart and trouble in his mind. A cameo from Alfred Hitchcock, where he is seen posting a letter in a post office scene.
This movie’s ending was altered to keep Cary Grant’s heroic image he had with the audience.
This film marked the first instance of Alfred Hitchcock producing and directing a movie. This also happens to be the only time he has directed an actor to an Oscar-winning performance. Joan Fontaine won the Oscar for Best Actress.
Besides, it was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Music.