Notorious

Ingrid and Cary. What a team.

1946 was a great year in film if you like Alfred Hitchcock, Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains.This post was dedicated to TOM AT DIGITALSHORTBREAD  who hosted a blogathon and called for submissions about one’s favorite film ending in the year six. Notorious is my favorite Hitchcock film for many reasons, and I am happy to share why.

The Plot

A WWII Nazi war criminal is caught and imprisoned. His daughter is Else (Ingrid Bergman), a party-loving bad girl. She is persuaded to be a spy for the U.S. government who is trying to break up the boys from Brazil. She falls in love with her co-conspirator, Devlin, played by Cary Grant, whose occupation has trained him to distrust everyone, especially the seductive charms of women. He knocks her lights out after she drives recklessly drunk. After the famous kissing scene on the phone, he allows her to prostitute herself with wily, love-sick Sebastian, and then calls her a harlot and a drunk for much of the movie. Now that’s love, gals.

Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman - kiss from the movie Notorious, by Alfred Hitchcock

The plan is to infiltrate the opulent manor of Sebastian and his creepy mother and spy on their operations. The cellar holds the secret, and the key to the door is the small prop with grave consequences for Else. Will Devlin save her in the niche of time and redeem himself?

Hitchcock creates an exotic mood of the thriller by taking full advantage of his exterior settings like the Florida drunk-drive at night, the shots from the plane of the statue of Jesus Christ at the summit of Mount Corcovado, Rio de Janeiro, the bustling city, the race track, and the manor home by the sea. Whether in a crowd or on a terrace with the harbor as a backdrop, you want to be there. There exceptional uses of cinematography for 1946 that are clever and bolster Alfred Hitchcock’s reputation for suspense and an innovative director.

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  1. Else has a hangover and sees Devlin’s silhouette in the doorway. When he approaches, you are Else and through her perspective, the camera turns upside down.
  2. The two and half minute kissing scene which bent censorship rules and joined sensory imagery and eroticism with a chicken in the oven.
  3. Else glides down a staircase with a key in her hand. Hitch uses a crane and zooms into the key in her hand in one graceful moment. The magnificent checkerboard floor, her Edith Head black velvet dress, the diamonds and general beauty of the setting merge with the people. It’s aesthetically balanced and luxurious.
  4. The reflective shots of mirrors in general whether they are binoculars at the race track or in cars or the house.
  5. A perfect final shot with the massive double doors; Sebastian must face his executioners.  If you have not seen this masterpiece, rent it soon. It’s one of the best movies ever, especially from 1946. It’s all the details that I find charming. A favorite is when he wraps the scarf around her midriff. What’s yours? 

25 thoughts on “Notorious

Add yours

  1. My favorite Hitchcock too, Cindy! The kissing scene is wonderfully handled…it never ceases to amaze me. Definitely my favorite scene!!

    1. Hi Rafael! I’m glad we are in agreement. I read somewhere, the code at the time demanded a kiss no longer than so many seconds. So Hitchcock had them talking and brushing lips and got away with it. 🙂

  2. One of his better films, undoubtedly. I always have time for Claude Rains, even though you generally know he will be the villain. I haven’t seen it in decades, but I do remember that staircase shot.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. Hi Pete! With your love for movies, too bad you don’t get to see more of them. I rent mine on Amazon or from the local library. Anyway, Claude, here, was such a chump–his mother henpecked him, he was a fool regarding Alicia, and to think he was the Alpha dog regarding his Nazi collaborators. I actually felt sorry for him at the end.

  3. Hi Cindy, I hope my emails with three reviews were okay to send to your yahoo account. I am a little embarrassed to say my phone accidentally misplaced or somehow deleted your notes to me. Let me know, or email me a different email if they don’t come through. 🙂

      1. I am so glad it all worked out and of course, I was truly honored to be part of your featured guests! I am happy you found this to be enough and would like to try this again in the fall or winter with another subject or choice of film subject matter. I enjoyed this but was also intimidated by this, ha ha! Thank you for trusting me, Cindy! When it comes out, will you mind my re-blogging your post! 🙂

      1. Oh I trust you! Btw, if you’re looking for an interesting psycho drama, check out my latest review. I think you’ll like the cast, too 😉

    1. Hi Eric, yep, I agree. I was thinking last time I watched it that Bergman’s role might have included another scene or two which made her naughty. Dev had a lot of disdain for her and other than the one party scene at the beginning, she was pretty honorable and sweet. I think if I had written the screenplay, I would have made her more naughty.

        1. Ah, yes! I hadn’t thought of that before. I love the moment Dev starts to defend her to the bureaucrats by bringing to light she was risking her life for the US while their wives were having tea and sandwiches in DC, yet she was considered disreputable by them all. Except Rains.

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