The Suspect (1944) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • In 1902 London, unhappily married Philip Marshall meets young Mary Gray, who is unemployed and depressed. Their deepening friendship, though physically innocent, is discovered by Philip's wife who threatens him with exposure and scandal, driving him to kill her. Thereafter, fortune seems to smile on Philip Marshall; but does fate have a surprise in store?


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • In Edwardian England, middle-aged Philip Marshall is unhappily married to a shrew named Cora. She has already driven their young adult son John away from home. Finally enough is enough and Philip moves into John's old room, further inducing Cora's wrath.

    At work, Philip turns away a pretty young woman, Mary Gray, who is seeking employment. His firm doesn't have any openings. Later he finds her crying on a park bench. She is nearly penniless and has had no luck finding work. He invites her to dinner but neglects to mention that he is married.

    Soon they are meeting on a regular basis. Philip uses his influence to find Mary a position with a dressmaker. Finally he asks Cora for a divorce. He tries to reason with her that there is no point in staying married when they are so unhappy. But Cora refuses to divorce him. They are married and they will stay married, no matter what.

    Philip decides to tell Mary the truth and not see her again. On the way to the restaurant where they are meeting, he is aware that someone is following him. In the fog he cannot tell who it is. He hides in a doorway and sees that it is Cora. He manages to evade her. Mary is deeply hurt at Philip's deception. They have a last drink before parting.

    On Christmas Eve, Philip tries to create a festive mood. Cora comes in and taunts him. He explains that they may as well try and get along. But Cora knows all about Mary and threatens to expose their affair. Philip admits they were seeing each other but it is over now. That makes no difference to Cora, who want to destroy them both. She plans to tell their respective employers, which will result in them losing their jobs. Philip knows then what he is going to do.

    Several days later, two women are chatting over the terrible way Cora died. She fell down the stairs and broke her neck. Philip and John receive the funeral guests and accept their condolences. After the service, when Philip is finally alone, he begins a letter to Mary. Suddenly there is a knock at the door. The caller is Inspector Huxley of Scotland Yard. He has just one or two questions, but it soon becomes obvious to Philip that he is a suspect in the death of Cora. The Inspector re-enacts how it could have happened. Cora was in her bedroom and heard a noise. Perhaps someone calling her name. She started downstairs and someone pushed her. The Inspector notices that the broken part of the banister has already been replaced. Philip said he couldn't bear to look at it. At last the Inspector leaves but Philip knows he hasn't heard the last of it. He decides it is better not to contact Mary just yet.

    Time passes and Philip sticks to his regular routine. His next door neighbor, Mrs. Simmons, is regularly beaten by her alcoholic husband. Philip wishes there was something he could do to help her, but she refuses to consider leaving her husband.

    One night Mary is waiting when Philip leaves work. She couldn't bear to be apart from him another second. From the shadows a plain-clothes police officer follows the two as they walk away. At last there is a motive for Cora's murder.

    Mary lives in a women's hotel. She is summoned downstairs by Inspector Huxley, who puts her through the ringer, finally telling her that she'll be called as a witness for the prosecution. Philip appears and reveals that he and Mary have just gotten married. The inspector says that is clever, for a wife can't testify against her husband. Philip angrily tells him to either make an arrest or leave them alone.

    The couple are very happy together. They redecorate the house and plan a trip to the seaside with John, his girlfriend, and another couple. Mary models a bathing costume that is all the rage. Philip sees them off, planning to join them over the weekend. He doesn't know that Mr. Simmons was approached by the police and asked if he had heard anything unusual the night Cora died. Simmons, who is a liar and a wastrel, sees an opportunity to make some quick cash.

    He makes the mistake of blackmailing Philip by threatening to tell the police he heard Cora scream for help. That isn't true but the police already suspect Philip and will have no trouble believing it. Philip pretends to give in and suggests they have a drink. In the kitchen, he pours two glasses of brandy and adds a sleeping draught to one. Simmons drinks his down while Philip watches. After he is unconscious, Philip plans to drown him in the nearby canal. But first he disposes of the brandy and the sleeping draught.

    Suddenly a carriage is heard outside. The others have unexpectedly returned. Philip quickly drags Simmons' body behind the sofa. Mary asks Philip to help her prepare food for their guests. She searches for the brandy for something to warm them. Philip confesses that he drank it all. He is terrified that someone will look behind the sofa. John's girlfriend exclaims that something grabbed her ankle. John reaches under the sofa and pulls out a kitten. Finally everyone is gone. Philip sends Mary to bed and promises to clean everything up.

    In the weeks following, a search is made for Simmons. Most people think he is off on a toot. But his wife says he has never stayed away this long. John is moving to Canada soon and Philip convinces Mary that they should go with him, to make a fresh start. She agrees and soon their house is up for sale. Simmons' body is found and it is assumed he fell into the canal while drunk.

    On the day of sailing, Philip is dismayed to see Inspector Huxley aboard. But he only came to say goodbye to a friend. He apologizes to Philip for giving him such a hard time and wishes him well. Suddenly he shows Philip a newspaper article about Mrs. Simmons being arrested for her husband's murder. It seems that an autopsy revealed the sleeping draught. The inspector remarks that she will hang for sure. The horn sounds for all who are going ashore. After the inspector leaves, John asks Mary to help him find something in his luggage. They walk away, leaving Philip alone.

    From the dock, Inspector Huxley and another policeman watch as the ship prepares to sail. The policeman asks why Huxley hadn't arrested Philip. Huxley had laid a trap for Philip with a phony newspaper story. He was sure that Philip was decent enough not to let Mrs. Simmons be blamed. At heart he was not a killer. Just before the gangplank goes up, Philip is seen leaving the ship. The policeman starts to arrest him but Huxley says to let him come in on his own, just keep an eye on him. The last scene shows Philip marching resolutely toward the police station.

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