#130) Notorious (1946)
OR “Went to a Nazi Party”
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Ben Hecht. Based on the story “The Song of the Dragon” by John Taintor Foote.
Class of 2006
The Plot: Immediately following the conviction of her Nazi-spy father, Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) is recruited by American agent Devlin (Cary Grant) to track down a group of Nazis living in Brazil. While down there she has a rendezvous with Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains), alleged Nazi and former “playmate” of Alicia’s. There’s also a sub-plot about uranium, but who cares? This film is all about the suspenseful, dangerous, and surprisingly heated love triangle between Alicia, Devlin, and Alex.
Why It Matters: The NFR praises Hitchcock, Bergman, and Grant, and calls the film “[a]rguably Alfred Hitchcock’s best black-and-white American film”. Warranted praise for sure, but quite a few qualifiers there.
But Does It Really?: Oh yes. “Notorious” may not crack the top of people’s Best Hitchcock list, but it is still an excellent example of Hitch’s signature style. The first American film Hitch did without David O. Selznick as “the muscle”, you can see him start to blossom artistically with “Notorious”. The clockwork script and airtight direction are aided by the undeniable star power of Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. They both play their parts perfectly, but also exude the kind of radiance you can only get with classic movie stars. Of all the Hitchcock films, this one has earned its reputation as his most…infamous? Is that the word I’m looking for?
Everybody Gets One: Most of the supporting cast, most notably Leopoldine Konstantin, the renowned Austrian actor in her only American film. She was so revered that she’s listed in the credits as “Madame Konstantin”.
Wow, That’s Dated: For starters, this film literally dates itself as 1946 in the opening text. “Notorious” also gives us a classic “driving in front of rear projection” scene. And speaking of traveling, guests of “Notorious” fly Pan-Am!
Take a Shot: Wow, no one says the word “notorious” at any point in this film.
Seriously, Oscars?: “Notorious” only received two Oscar nominations: Original Screenplay, and Supporting Actor for Claude Rains. Rains lost to Harold Russell for “The Best Years of Our Lives”, while screenwriter Ben Hecht lost to the screenplay of “The Seventh Veil”. You know, that classic. Most egregious of the film’s Oscar snubs was Ted Tetzlaff for his brilliant cinematography.
- German worker? Were they not allowed to say “Nazi”? Or was it just too soon?
- Right off the bat I love this movie because of Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant. Here are two real movie stars doing what they do best. They know exactly where the camera is and how to play to it. These two performances are not only great acting, but also a full display of that indefinable star quality.
- Devlin has Alicia’s conversation with her father recorded on vinyl. Very hipster.
- Holy crap that kissing scene is pretty sexy. I don’t usually go for Old Hollywood romance, but you can feel the heat from these two! Also, if you’re reading this post, I assume you are familiar with how everyone snuck this kiss by the censors.
- Speaking of, Hitch seems to be restraining himself in the sexual innuendo department. Either it’s so subtle I missed it, or Alma was around to keep Hitch in line.
- Cary Grant really could do no wrong as an actor. He rarely played this dark or stoic a character, but it somehow fits his screen persona like a glove.
- Oh Hitch, you and your mother issues. Alfred’s mother died in 1942, and he starts exorcising some demons with this film. And it just gets more cathartic from there.
- Claude Rains is great as a man obsessively possessive over Ingrid Bergman. Wonder if he got any pointers from his director…
- Once we get to Alicia retrieving the missing key, the film really kicks into high gear and we see the Master at work.
- Speaking of that key, this is the best advertisement Unica ever got.
- I love that crane shot so much all I can do is make the fingertips kiss gesture and type it out as “mwah!”
- You know those phrases you’ve never heard before but once you do you start to hear them everywhere? That’s me and “his nibs” right now.
- Hitchcock’s cameo is a little late in the film. Where you going, Hitch?
- Is “Notorious” the reason TCM thinks they need a wine club? And while Devlin is looking for a bottle, might I recommend the ‘34 MacGuffin?
- Alex and Alicia sleep in separate beds? Is this the Rob & Laura Petrie mansion?
- Yes, the best part of waking up is your first morning cigarette in bed.
- Why does Ingrid Bergman always marry men that want to kill her?
- “Notorious” was remade for TV in 1992 with John Shea and Jenny Robertson. Its Wikipedia page has been removed, so that tells you the film’s success rate right there.
- The film was remade again in 2009. I haven’t seen it, but they seem to be taking a lot of liberties with the source material.
- The plot of “Notorious” has been heavily alluded to in such diverse titles as “Mission: Impossible 2” and an episode of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”.
- Jimmy Stewart casually can’t remember the name of this movie in “Rope”.
- Perhaps the film’s most touching legacy: after filming, Cary Grant kept the infamous wine cellar key. Years later he gave it to Ingrid Bergman, who presented it to Alfred Hitchcock in 1979 during his AFI Lifetime Achievement ceremony.