Hollywood Mystery and Suspense Classics

  • by  Carl Dinello

Who doesn’t like a good mystery? Mystery based movies have always been, and always will be,loved by movie fans. A good Hollywood mystery with a solid story line, a healthy dose of suspense, and an often violent portrayal of crime is almost guaranteed to provide the viewer with a heaping portion of thrills and chills.

When it comes to mystery and suspense classics, Director Alfred Hitchcock is legendary. His contributions to this movie genre are virtually unequaled in the history of motion pictures. One of Hitchcock's classic thrillers is Rear Window, released in 1954. This film successfully combines a murder mystery with an examination of personal ethics. James Stewart plays magazine photographer L.B. Jefferies who sits confined to his wheelchair as a result of a broken leg.

To help pass the time, Jefferies watches his neighbors from the rear window of his third-floor apartment. Directly across from his apartment live salesman Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr) and his bedridden wife. The two quarrel often. It isn't long before Jefferies penchant for voyeurism has him convinced that Lars has murdered and dismembered his wife. Rear Window is a mystery and suspense classic, and is widely considered as one of Hitchcock's very best.

Another Hitchcock film that displays his ability to entertain with mystery is North by Northwest. Released in 1959, the movie employs the classic mystery suspense concept of mistaken identity to involve an innocent man in espionage and murder. Advertising executive Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) is mistaken to be a government agent and seized by two unknown men. After interrogating Thornhill, who his captors believe to be a government agent named Kaplan, they unsuccessfully attempt to murder him.

When no one will believe his story, Thornhill sets out to find the real Kaplan only to end up implicated in murder. Innocent man Roger Thornhill is now being pursued cross country by both his own government, and the representatives of an unknown organization. The film climaxes with a dramatic cornfield chase (the famous crop dusting scene), and a breathtaking battle on Mount Rushmore.

The film noir crime drama Murder, My Sweet directed by Edward Dmytryk, and based on the Raymond Chandler novel 'Farewell, My Lovely' was released in 1944. In the film, Detective Philip Marlowe (Dick Powell) is hired by Moose Malloy (Mike Mazurki), just out of prison after serving seven years, to locate his former girlfriend Velma (Claire Trevor). This job is easier said than done, as lead after lead turns into lies, bribery, theft, and the dangerous noir inevitable - the femme fatale. This film gave actor Dick Powell an opportunity to change his screen image. Primarily known as a song and dance star, Powell's performance as the hardboiled detective was a successful one.

Also from the film noir genre is 1953's tense and well-crafted story The Hitch-Hiker, directed by film-noir actress-turned-director Ida Lupino. This movie was based, in part, on a true story. While on a fishing trip, a car driven by Roy Collins (Edmond O'Brien) accompanied by his friend Gilbert Bowen (Frank Lovejoy) stop to pick up a hitch-hiker. This is not just any hitch-hiker. Emmett Myers (William Talman), who appears to be a stranded motorist, is in fact, a murdering psychopath. Myers orders the men to take him to Baja, California. Along the way, he sadistically taunts the men letting them know just what he has in store for them at the end of the journey.

Enjoy the powerful, creepy, and sleazy performance of actor William Talman. This motion pictures tag-line says it all - "When was the last time you invited death into your car?"

Film noir provides another mystery and suspense classic with the film This Gun for Hire, based on author Graham Greene's novel 'A Gun for Sale'. The film stars Alan Ladd as Raven, a hit man who has been double-crossed by nightclub owner Williard Gates (Laird Cregar). As the club owner will soon find out, double-crossing a hit man is not a very good idea.

While on a train taking him to Gates, Raven meets nightclub magician and singer Ellen Graham (Veronica Lake) who is working with government agents to use Gates as a way of finding out who is manufacturing poison gas for the Japanese. Together they form an uneasy alliance against a common enemy. This film is credited with making Alan Ladd a star.

The 1940s and 1950s are considered 'the golden era' for film noir movies. These crime-based movies were able to provide many of the mystery and suspense classics that audiences loved to watch.


Carl DiNello is a Blog Owner whose passion is Hollywood history and those movies from the 1920's - 1950's that make up this rich history. Hollywood Movie Memories... Movies to Remember and Discover!The films referenced in this article are available for your enjoyment in the Hollywood Movie Memories Film Store under their release year and specific genre.

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