Notorious (1946)

Notoriousnotorious poster
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Ben Hecht
RKO Radio Pictures
Repeat viewing/Criterion Collection DVD
#193 of 1001 Films You Must See Before You Die


Madame Sebastian: Wouldn’t it be a little too much if we both grinned at her like idiots?

If I had a gun held to my head and was forced to name my favorite Alfred Hitchcock film, there could be only one answer. This one.

After the arrest of her father as a Nazi traitor, Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) becomes a party girl and budding alcoholic.  One night. a tall, dark, handsome stranger, Devlin (Cary Grant), crashes one of her parties.  She is immediately attracted, then repelled when she discovers he is one of the many “cops” who are tailing her.  It turns out he has a proposition to make. The U.S. government wants her help in rooting out some Nazis in South America.  She is more attracted than repelled by Devlin and he appeals to her patriotism, so she agrees.

After they leave for Rio, the two rapidly become an item.  Alicia is unabashed in her love but Devlin has evidently been burned before and keeps his emotions tightly in check. It turns out that the job Devlin’s superiors have in mind for Alicia is basically to prostitute herself to get close to Nazi cell leader Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains).  Devlin, not trusting in Alicia’s redemption by love, neither puts up a fight with the authorities nor discourages Alicia from taking on the assignment.  Broken hearted, Alicia agrees to take on the job.  She is successful beyond anybody’s wildest dreams in that Alex asks her to marry him.


Devlin continues to be Alicia’s handler and their meetings continue to stick the knife into Alicia’s heart.  Meanwhile, Alicia is informing on all of Alex’s associates and some suspicious circumstances surrounding the wine cellar.  Matters come to a head when she gets Devlin invited to a big bash at the house so that she can slip him the stolen key to the cellar.  With Madame Konstantine as the mother-in-law from Hell.


I have no problem in pronouncing this movie perfect.  It combines a lush and beautiful romance with some serious suspense.  No matter how many times I see it, I still get a little nervous in that wine cellar.  Devlin’s conflicted feelings give the romance its own suspense.  And just looking at Grant and Bergman as photographed by by Ted Tetzlaff is pleasure in itself.  This time around, I focused especially on Claude Rains’ performance. The movie would not have worked as well as it does if he had not been able to make us feel pity for his situation.  My highest recommendation.

Claude Rains was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Notorious. Although non-professional-actor winner Harold Russell was very good in The Best Years of Our Lives, I think Rains got robbed.  The film was also nominated for Best Writing, Original Screenplay.

The Blu-Ray DVD contains two commentaries by film historians, one on the context of the making of the film and one on the film itself.  I really enjoyed learning about the history of RKO, the history of David O. Selznik and the collaboration of the two on Notorious.

Trailer – talk about a trailer that gives away the whole plot!


5 thoughts on “Notorious (1946)

  1. NOTORIOUS is indeed a perfect movie. I just revisited it, though I can run in my mind’s eye. It never grows old. Sometimes, The Production Code was our friend. Without it we likely would not have the excruciatingly wonderful telephone embrace. It just doesn’t get better than Cary and Ingrid. Toss the wonderful Claude Rains in the mix . . . perfection!

  2. We can definitely agree on Claude Rains. He is in my mind the best of the cast. What I really like is that he is a complex person, not simply a villain, and at the end of the movie I actually hoped that he and Alicia would run away together. Strange that Rains was always a supporting actor and never a lead.
    A movie I think I have to see again and soon.

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