Notorious (1946)

Grant, Bergman, Konstantin and Rains

'Notorious' is a classic psychological suspense Thriller made in 1946, directed and produced by Alfred Hitchcock, and starring Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains. It was Hitchcock's ninth American film and it received only a lukewarm critical reception On release, but it is now held in high regard as a masterpiece of the romantic thriller genre, and as one of Hitchcock's finest works.

It received two Academy Award nominations - Claude Rains for Best Supporting Actor, and Ben Hecht for Writing Original Screenplay. In 2006, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

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David O. Selznick originally intended to be the producer of the film and to this end he reunited the successful team of director Alfred Hitchcock, star Ingrid Bergman, and writer Ben Hecht from Hitchcock's psychoanalytical drama 'Spellbound' in 1945. He pushed through with customary enthusiasm the development of the classy, romantic spy story, but he eventually sold the whole package to RKO and let Hitchcock produce it himself.

The plot seems simple, but of course isn't. Toward the end of World War II, suave spymaster T.R.Devlin (Cary Grant) recruits loose-living Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman), the American estranged daughter of a convicted Nazi agent, to infiltrate a group of Nazi exiles in Rio de Janeiro. Having fallen for the man who has rescued her from her aimless, wasteful lifestyle, revolving round drink and men, Alicia is agonized when she feels Devlin is pimping her for the cause, and she is driven to take her mission to extremes by marrying the almost-fatherly fascist Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains), the better to spy on him.

Inside Sebastian's chilly, luxurious mansion, Alicia earns the hatred of the true power among the evil exiles, Sebastian's smothering monster mother (Leopoldine Konstantin, a famous pre-war German actress giving an unforgettable performance in her only American film role), who supervises the slow poisoning of Alicia. At a party, with a classic suspense mechanism in the dwindling supply of champagne that will eventually lead to a servant venturing into the wine cellar where the angelic Alicia and the devilish Devlin are snooping, Hitchcock produces his most elegant and yet topical detail: wine bottled full of uranium being used to create a Nazi A-bomb. the payoff is an agonizing moment of discovery when Sebastian is duped into believing that his wife is only unfaithful as opposed to a spy.

'Notorious''s intense drama and masterly character development constantly forces you to change your feelings about the three leads, with Rains even showing a bizarre heroism in the finale that should be unseemly in an ex Nazi. It's a recipe for danger, disaster and death that comes magnificently to the boil in these final moments. The story is tightly woven, and brilliantly sustained, and timeless in its portrayal of human character and emotion. The film is also a sumptuous romance, with Grant and Bergman sharing what was, at that point, the screen's longest close-up kiss which flouted the Production Code regulations of the time which restricted the length of kisses to only three seconds each.

Beautifully shot by Ted Tetzlaff in luminous monochrome, with the stars looking (and acting) their best, the camerawork is often stunning. In one shot, Alicia, with a monstrous hangover, sees Devlin upside down, and as the camera pulls back we see him sliding across the floor towards her. This conveys a lot about Devlin's devious, untrustworthy character than mere words could ever manage. Hitchcock, it hardly needs saying, certainly knew how to use the visual medium to full and satisfying effect.

Main Cast

Ingrid Bergman ... Alicia Huberman
Cary Grant ... T.R. Devlin
Claude Rains ... Alexander "Alex" Sebastian
Leopoldine Konstantin ... Madame Anna Sebastian
Louis Calhern ... Captain Paul Prescott
Moroni Olsen ... Walter Beardsley
Ricardo Costa ... Dr. Julio Barbosa
Reinhold Schünzel ... Dr. Anderson
Ivan Triesault ... Eric Mathis
Eberhard Krumschmidt ... Emil Hupka
Alex Minotis ... Joseph, Sebastian's butler
Wally Brown ... Mr. Hopkins
Sir Charles Mendl ... Commodore
Fay Baker ... Ethel


Director ... Alfred Hitchcock
Producer ... Alfred Hitchcock
Distribution Company ... RKO Radio Pictures
Written by ... Ben Hecht
Music ... Roy Webb
Cinematography ... Ted Tetzlaff
Format ... B & W
Release date ... August 15, 1946
Running time ... 101 minutes

Academy Awards

No Wins:
Two Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Supporting Actor ... Claud Rains
Writing Original Screenplay ... Ben Hecht