“You’re sore because you’ve fallen for a little drunk you tamed in Miami and you don’t like it. It makes you sick all over, doesn’t it? People will laugh at you. The invincible Devlin, in love with someone who isn’t worth even wasting the words on,” Alicia Huberman says to T.R. Devlin.
Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman were dazzling together in Stanley Donen’s 1958 classic Indiscreet. This was not their first pairing, however, as they had first collaborated together 12 years earlier on Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious, a spy noir that had reunited Grant and Bergman with Hitchcock (Grant had previously appeared in Hitchcock’s 1941 thriller Suspicion and Bergman had previously appeared in Hitchcock’s 1945 mystery noir Spellbound). I saw Hitchcock’s Notorious on the big screen 12 years ago at the Museum of the Moving Image as part of a five-week Cary Grant retrospective that showed his work with five different directors: Hitchcock, Leo McCarey, George Cukor, Donen, and Howard Hawks (each weekend featured a different director collaboration). This review of Notorious is my first entry in the 2nd Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon hosted by The Wonderful World of Cinema.
1946’s Notorious follows a woman who is recruited by a CIA agent to spy on a group of former Nazis in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Things get complicated when she and her handler fall in love with each other prior to the operation, and then she must proceed to seduce a former Nazi who happens to be an old friend of her father’s. Hitchcock assembled a terrific ensemble that included Grant (as T.R. Devlin), Bergman (as Alicia Huberman), Claude Rains (as Alexander Sebastian), Louis Calhern (as Paul Prescott), Leopoldine Konstantin (as Madame Anna Sebastian), Reinhold Schünzel (as Dr. Anderson), Moroni Olsen (as Walter Beardsley), and Ivan Triesault (as Eric Mathis). Grant gives a restrained performance as a spy who falls in love with the woman he must use as spy bait. Bergman gives one of her best performances as the daughter of a convicted Nazi spy who becomes entangled in a love triangle with her CIA handler and one of her father’s Nazi friends. Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee Rains is one of Hitchcock’s most sympathetic villains who is too loving and trusting of Alicia, and Konstantin is cold, calculating, and emasculating as Alexander’s mother.
Hitchcock’s direction draws strong performances and enhances the visuals of the film through camera movements that were the most complex ever attempted in a Hitchcock film (up until that). The Oscar-nominated screenplay by Ben Hecht crafts an excellent spy thriller containing a complicated love story. It also explores the theme of trust (withheld and given freely). Ted Tetzlaff’s black-and-white cinematography provides a noir atmosphere loaded with shadows (appropriately for spies “working in the shadows”). The production design by Carroll Clark and Albert S. D’Agostino is top-notch, particularly the Sebastian household. Theron Warth’s editing keeps the film moving at a good pace. Edith Head’s gowns for Bergman are just gorgeous, and Roy Webb delivers a thrilling, dramatic score. Hitchcock’s Notorious is an Oscar-nominated classic noir with standout performances, represented an artistic leap for Hitchcock (Notorious is noteworthy for being his first attempt to craft a serious love story), and featured a then record-breaking two-and-a-half minute kiss (Grant and Bergman disengaged every three seconds to avoid any issues with the Production Code).