Notorious (1946)


Notorious was a Hitchcock film, released shortly after World War II ended. The story heroine, Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) is an american born daughter of a german spy. After the conviction of her father she was hounded by the press for her notorious past and her stand point against her father and her nation. At a party, she was approached by a US government agent, TR Devlin (Cary Grant), to work as an undercover agent. Alicia agreed, perhaps out of guilt, perhaps to atone his father’ sin, perhaps to show where her stance really are. And quite predictably, her entanglement with Devlin stirs romantic sparks between the two. But how far does she have to go undercover to assure the success of the investigation?

My familiarity with Hitchcock is probably very limited. Though i am a fan of his Vertigo (1958), i have only seen several of his film, including Psycho as well as his earlier silent films from the 30s. Notorious is another Hitchcock film that prove the man’s notoriety in building suspense in his films, all good things of course. While espionage genre evolved into more action-packed films nowadays, earlier films of that genre develop suspense from mysterious element of the plot, not gun ablaze or high-speed car chases. Notorious build up the thrill from early on in the film and grew more intense as the film reach its ending. According to Donald Spoto, his biographer who wrote The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock, Notorious was made when Hitchcock was 46, yet it is his first attempt to bring his talent to create a serious love story.

Layers upon layers of mystery envelope the film. Alicia hesitantly trying to prove her devotion either to the country of the men she love, her relationship with the mother-in-law (Leopoldine Konstantin) and the son, Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains) that becomes another source of tension, the mysterious behaviour of party guest, the secret tryst she shared with her love interest. These mysteries and secrets surrounding Alicia become the most enticing thing from the film. The relationship between Sebastian and his mother is quite intriguing to see. Leopoldine Konstantin delivers a strong portrait of maternal figure that stood her own principles and fiercely protective to her offspring, probably on the overprotective to the verge of castrating, even. Romantic entanglement between Alicia and Devlin and Sebastian and Alicia is one of the backbone of the story. While i love how Alicia and Devlin developed their relationship, i actually symphatize to Sebastian for he also loved Alicia, although his love to here were clouded by his relationship to his mother. Clearly Alicia’s interest to Devlin started early on, only to be coldly treated by his aloofness. The two shared momentous scene, that is probably does not seem like much, but back in the 40s it defied Production Code’s ban on kisses longer than 3 seconds. Grant and Bergman shared a romantic ‘kiss’ where they interspersed their multiple 3-second long liplock with nuzzles and murmurs, exuding impalpable intimacy and eroticism that was ahead of its time.

Hitchcock has his way for capturing tension, not only relying on his actors and actresses acting skills, but also from working camera angles and production design. Something that made the man famous for what he did. Long tracking shots, tilted camera angles, and putting emphasis on certain objects help to create the intended effect and atmosphere for the film. Like from the screencap bellow, where a cup of beverage filled with arsenic (slightly out of focus) is put in the foreground while Ingrid Bergman’s Alice is on focus in the mid-ground, showcasing the relationship between the object and the actress, whose

Alicia: This is a very strange love affair.
Devlin: Why?
Alicia: Maybe the fact that you don’t love me.


Ever since its release, Notorious has been adapted to several radio show as well as a TV movie in 1992. There’s a strong suspicion that Mission Impossible II paid an homage to the film, with similar premise, scenes, and some of its dialog borrowed from Notorious.



GENRE Espionage, Romance, Drama, Thriller 
DIRECTOR Alfred Hitchcock | PRODUCER Alfred Hitchcock | WRITER Ben Hecht | CINEMATOGRAPHER Ted Tetzlaff | MUSIC Roy Webb | EDITOR Theron Warth | DISTRIBUTOR RKO Radio Pictures | COUNTRY United States | RUNNING TIME 101 minutes | RELEASE August 15, 1946
STARRING Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman

Stills are screencap’d by yours trully IMDb | Trailer

This post is a part of 2013 August’s MovieCube.


One thought on “Notorious (1946)

  1. Pingback: Monthly Digest: 2013 August | kinema kinema to karamel

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