Notorious (1946)
Notorious (1946)

Genre: Romantic Drama and Film Noir Running Time: 1 hr. 41 min.

Release Date: September 6th, 1946 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Alfred Hitchcock Actors: Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains, Louis Calhern, Madame Konstantin, Moroni Olsen, Ivan Triesault

 


 

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nsympathetic Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) attends the sentencing of her father at the Miami, Florida District Court in 1946, where he unapologetically receives twenty years in a penitentiary for treason, for collaborating with the Nazis. Followed by the police and the press, Alicia then hosts a party, where she drunkenly meets the mysterious crasher Devlin (Cary Grant). Intrigued by his coolness and confidence, she takes him for a drive, only to get pulled over for swerving and speeding. But she’s not arrested, for Devlin flashes his identification and is rewarded with a patriotic salute. The following morning, she awakes to a terrible hangover and the smugly smiling, sharply-suited Devlin propositioning her to aid the U.S. government in catching remaining German gentry working in Brazil.

Although initially reluctant, the next day finds Alicia flying out to Rio with Devlin. The two spend a couple of weeks together, unintentionally awakening an unavoidable attraction, before her assignment is introduced. She’s to seduce German businessman Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains, in a role nearly as pitiable and complex as the lead, and one that would earn him an Oscar nomination) to get inside his home and discover what his cohorts are up to. Upon hearing the details of the job, she pleads with Devlin to demand that she refuse, hoping he’ll admit his love for her and acknowledge her transition from alcoholic vamp to a virtuous, proper woman. Conflicted, but loyal to Uncle Sam, he gives her nothing but icy coldness in return, resigning her to the fate of the lamentable mission. As her undertaking grows steadily more successful and perilous, Devlin continues to keep his distance, which escalates into an inevitable, emotional confrontation that the two lovers can’t delay forever.

There are plenty of opportunities for Bergman and Grant to flirt and spat, with the film building a romance prior to delving into the tense game of cat and mouse. This smartly allows the audience to generate greater, more sincere concern when the troubles begin. Devlin’s intentions are muddied by dutiful obligations; placing Alicia in danger is a mission he’s expected to initiate. But as his love for her deepens, his motives grow accordantly intricate and contradictory. The dialogue is sensational, with an unequaled, moving script (by Ben Hecht, who would also garner an Oscar nod); so too are the subtle expressions and nuances from every participant, signaling masterly acting abilities from a stellar cast. The supporting role of Sebastian’s devilish mother, played by Madame Konstantin, is a particularly strong portrayal, exhibiting the distrust and intentness of a maladjusted traitor and the complex jealousy of a controlling matriarch unused to losing attention or being disobeyed by her son (perhaps a harbinger of the perverted relationship in 1960’s “Psycho,” with a hint of Mrs. Danvers from 1940’s “Rebecca”). She’s a most unforgettable villainess.

Flawlessly directed by Alfred Hitchcock, “Notorious” employs a striking love story amidst treacherous postwar crises and political instability – a combination explored to varying degrees in his previous pictures “Lifeboat,” “Foreign Correspondent,” and “Secret Agent.” Hitchcock’s signature, nail-biting suspense ratchets up exponentially by the minute as the plot of uncountable duplicities reveals itself – but only after a worthwhile romance is established, crafting victims with something to lose. And suspect activities are flooded by apprehension and paranoia as heroes entangle themselves with antagonists who covertly outsmart them all the way until the very end. Interestingly, there are no secrets kept from the audience, making it just that much more exasperating as planned calamities approach. Fortunately, in the manner of the very best, cheer-inducing filmic finales, debonair Cary Grant swoops in for a daring rescue just in the nick of time, cementing “Notorious” as yet another monumental achievement for the master of suspense.

– Mike Massie

  • 10/10