Hitchcock Blogathon #12: Notorious

Wowza!

Notorious (1946)

      Notorious was my favorite Hitchcock film for a long time (before I saw Rebecca). I was grabbed by the actors and the terrific story, so well executed. It offers spies, foreign locales, romance, sexual implications, and a woman whose life is endangered, all common Hitchcock elements.

     Ingrid Bergman plays Alicia Huberman, daughter of a Nazi traitor recently convicted. Cary Grant as a U.S. agent of some sort, T.R. Devlin, recruits the woman to infiltrate a Nazi operation in South America, to allow the gal to serve her country and make up for her father’s sins. Devlin uses Alicia’s connections through her father to reunite her with Claude Rains’ Alexander Sebastian, the head of the Nazi operation. Alicia begins dating the criminal while simultaneously falling in love with Devlin. Alicia gets stuck marrying Sebastian, causing tension in her relationship with Devlin, but she discovers that the villain is protective of a key to the wine cellar and that something peculiar persists with certain wine bottles. A large party at Sebastian’s home allows Devlin and Alicia to orchestrate the invading of that cellar where they discover bottles containing uranium ore. Discovering his wife is a spy, Sebastian and his wicked mother devise a plot to kill Alicia.

     The story and the actors do a great job of setting the viewer on edge as we panic that Sebastian will discover Devlin is a spy/the two were lovers. At the same time, the chemistry is so great between Grant and Bergman that we want nothing but for them to be together. A great scene between the too caught the negative attention of censors. When first arriving in Rio de Janiero, Alicia and Devlin have dinner in a hotel room. They spend a good deal of time kissing and talking, moving from the balcony inside. At the time, the Production Code allowed a kiss to persist only so long and this sequence defied that. Hitchcock was able to insist on the scene’s necessity, however, because dialogue was inserted between the nuzzling and developed the story. Another Hitchcock victory straight from the Hayes office. Hitchcock also managed to keep in the suggestion that Alicia was quite the experienced woman, in bed. She mentions adding Sebastian to her list of playmates before the two are married, hurting Devlin in the process.

     In 1979 when Hitchcock was recognized by the American Film Institute, Ingrid Bergman presented him with the prop key used in this movie, which she had kept as a souvenir.

The MacGuffin: What is in the wine bottles?

Where’s Hitch? The director sips champaign at the party at Claude Rains’ mansion.

Source: Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light by Patrick McGilligan

I will be posting reviews of Hitchcock movies every hour ending at 8 p.m. today, but other members of the Classic Movie Blog Association, which is hosting the blogathon, have plenty to offer also. Links to their articles is up at the CMBA site. Check them out!

2 Responses

  1. This was also my favorite Hitchcock film for a long time. I think Bergman’s performance here is completely flawless and made me instantly fall in love with her as an actress. I think the only reason why I don’t still consider it my favorite was because I only had a VHS copy for the longest time and was too lazy to hook up the VCR and watch it again; but just recently I’ve acquired Notorious on DVD so I am definitely going to have to re-visit it soon. Nice review!

  2. I am always going back and forth between “Notorious” and “Vertigo” as far as the top of my “best Hitchcock films” list is concerned. As you point out, the film has a great deal in its favor. Would like to mention another stand-out supporting performance – Leopoldine Konstantin as Madame Sebastian, Alex’s mother. She portrays one of the most chilling mothers on film, one who could probably eat her young…

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