Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious (1946): Nazis! We Hate Those Guys!
Believe it or not, my first experience with Notoriouswas
when I saw, not Sir Alfred Hitchcock’sintense 1946 romantic
thriller, but rather a 1992 made-for-TV retread starring John Shea (Missing)
and Jenny Robertson (Bull Durham), because the video rental folks didn’t
have the original version at the time! Really? Really?! Please! I
remember my dear late mom and me having a better time fun poking fun at the
dull, witless script! What were they thinking with their silly attempts to
“improve” upon it? It’s like those wackos in H.P. Lovecraft’s supernatural
stories about the evil monster Cthulu, whose followers always think the beast
will be their best buddy after they summon it, only to be stunned when the
monster lays waste to the villains. It just goes to show that when it comes to
classic movies, film fans must accept no substitutes!
Screenwriter Ben Hecht (Spellbound; His Girl
Friday) introduces us viewers to the beautiful but troubled Alicia Huberman
(Ingrid Bergman from Casablanca; herOscar-winners Gaslight
and Murder on the Orient Express) has been a party girl and a heavy
drinker for some time. In fact, she’s only been along for the ride in life ever
since her father was convicted of treason and collaborating with the enemy.
Since then, Alicia broke family ties with her disgraced father, and made booze
her constant companion, aside from partying. After another one of her parties,
Alicia chats up a potential conquest, a handsome stranger. When Alicia speeds
way past the speed limit without the cop him giving him a summons, she realizes
the handsome stranger is a Fed, one T.R. Devlin (Cary Grant, who also worked
with Hitchcock on Suspicion and North by Northwest), and boy, is she furious when she discovers he’s a Fed!
Dev doesn’t let Alicia’s wildcat antics bother him—it’s just lights out for
Alicia! The next morning, she wakes up at Dev’s place with a splitting
headache, a glass of milk (always popular in Hitchcock movies), and bittersweet
news: Alicia’s father has died by his own hand. Even Alicia herself is
surprised at her own unexpected sorrow for her late father: “I don’t know why I
should feel so bad. When he told me a few years ago what he was, everything
went to pot. I didn’t care what happened to me. But now I remember how nice he
was he once was, how nice we both were, very nice. It’s a very curious feeling,
as if something had happened to me and not to him. You see, I don’t have to
hate him anymore, or myself.”
Make a note of that, Crime-stoppers!
Alicia and Dev work with spymaster Paul Prescott (Louis Calhern of Duck Soup;The Asphalt Jungle)and his Washington colleagues, who send her and Dev to infiltrate the
Nazi scum in Rio (by the sea-o)! Don’t let their suave clothes and good manners
fool you—they’re no-goodniks, no matter how sensitive and dashing they look
underneath it all! With Alicia sobering up, both she and Dev succumb to each
other’s magnetism and they can’t help falling in love with each other, in spite
of the fact that they both have more issues than a Hudson’s News stand!
Dev can be a prickly pear in any case, considering his serious trust issues
where women are concerned. In fact, sometimes Notorious feels like a
version of The Lost Weekend with sexier
stars! But when Alicia and Dev do let their hair down, those scenes are
among the hottest, most romantic scenes on film; I’m surprised the film stock
didn’t simply burst into flames! Notice how cold Dev acts when Prescott
mentions how their main target, Alexander Sebastian (Oscar nominee Claude Rains
from The Invisible Man; Casablanca) acts toward Dev when Prescott
mentions Alicia’s long-ago “hunger” for Alicia when he was in love with her.
Tsk, tsk, Devlin sure isn’t being very business-like! What would
James Bond say?
Emile freaks out when it seems he’s got the wrong bottle of wine at dinner. Maybe he’d prefer a nice Ripple? Or maybe cement shoes?
Alicia makes contact with Alex, thanks to the old runaway horse trick, and suave
Alex and Alicia pick up where they left off, while Dev acts like a jealous lover
instead of the cool spy-type guy he needs to be on this assignment. It’s amazing
any work gets done at all with these two, especially when jealous Alex takes the
next big step: marrying Alicia! Prescott thinks it’s a swell idea; now it’ll
be even easier for the new Mrs. Sebastian to keep her eyes and ears on the Nazi
scum, to Prescott’s delight and Devlin’s passive-aggressive frustration!
Frankly, Devlin is especially in danger of shooting himself in the foot, perhaps
literally! Someone needs to give those crazy kids a time out, or maybe just a
smack in the head! No doubt it must annoy Dev no end that Alex is so suave and
attentive to his lovely new wife. Too bad Alex is both a Nazi and an
insecure older man trying to keep his new bride happy. Sheesh, where’s Ingrid
Bergman in another romantic Hitchcock thriller when you need her: Dr.
Constance Petersen from Spellbound!
A key moment in the film!
Instead of a honeymoon, our sexy spies throw a party to celebrate the newlyweds,
with their old pal Dev keeping their eyes and ears open. They hit pay dirt when
Dev accidentally knocks over a wine bottle that’s actually “vintage sand!” In fact,
it's actually metal ore; that’s one way to perk up a honeymoon, as well as giving Dev
and Alicia an opportunity for some romance, by George! But jealous Mama
Sebastian (the regal, superb Leopoldine Konstantin) has Alicia’s number, and it’s gonna
come up snake-eyes unless Dev stops acting like a jealous dolt and saves Alicia
so that, as Grant said in North By Northwest:“You and I are going to do a lot of apologizing in private!”
Ingrid Bergman gives one of her very best performances as Alicia, juggling
danger and romance in a relationship that’s complicated, to say the least! Dev
can be glacial or sizzlingly romantic at the blink of an eye. The “Good Guys”
essentially force Alicia to prostitute herself by marrying her off to suave
Alex. The hell of it is that Alex, an old friend of her father’s, is far more
loving and romantic than Dev, despite his insecurity about his beautiful young
wife, especially with Alex’s Mother-in-Law From Hell. In any case, this sure tosses a monkey wrench into
Alicia’s sizzling yet stormy romance with Dev! It’s one of the most adult
movies Hitchcock ever made; despite Bergman and Rains seemingly sleeping in
separate beds, this film was quite adult for its era. It’s not only a
crackerjack espionage thriller, but also a moving, disturbing look into the dark
recesses of the human heart.
For goodness sakes, hasn’t Bing Crosby ‘s horse come in yet?
In Robert A.
Harris & Michael S. Lasky’s book The Films of Alfred Hitchcock (Citadel Press, 1976), Hitchcock realized he and co-author Ben Hecht
(Spellbound; His Girl Friday), had
turned out to be ahead of their time when they decided to make uranium metal ore
Hitchcock’s MacGuffin, a.k.a the item that makes our heroes hot and
bothered, suspense-wise! Indeed, Hitchcock used the uranium gambit even before it was
used at Hiroshima! Nobody was supposed to know about its powers, or that
it would be used in an atom bomb for the movie. In fact, producer David O.
Selznick thought it was such a preposterous idea that instead of producing
Notorious himself, Selznick sold the package to RKO (including Duel in
the Sun). Apparently even having the term “uranium” in the script was
scaring the producers! I was amazed by the visuals of Director of Photography
Ted Tetzlaff (My Man Godfrey; The More the Merrier), especially that long
shot at the party that ends on the key in Alicia’s hand—wow!
Can't you fix it for me? For old times' sake?
Hitchcock’s talented daughter Patricia Hitchcock O’Connell was a triple threat
herself, having co-starred in her father’s films; Stage Frightwas her debut); then Strangers on a Train;(for which she deserved an Oscar nomination, if you ask me); Psycho; and many appearances on TV's Alfred
Hitchcock Presents as she eventually became a producer. I was lucky
enough to interview Pat (if I may be so bold) in 1990 for Video Review,
and she explained: “My father was really able to do all the things he enjoyed
doing artistically and technically. He also used brilliant actors down to the
smallest parts, like the Germans—especially Leopoldine Konstantin as Alex
Sebastion’s mother…The only problem was that because of the politically
sensitive plot about making a bomb out of uranium, my family was followed by the
FBI for months.” How’s that for cinematic realism?
The whole cast is absolutely stellar, including the always-suave Rains, terrific in a complex role that requires him to be believable not only as a suave lover and villain, but also a doting yet jealous and insecure husband of a lovely young wife, as well as being a villain, and having to put up with a domineering mother to boot; to quote North by Northwest, I'm beginning to think Rains was underpaid! I think his Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination was richly deserved. (I understand Rains was quite the romantic lover in real life!) At times, I almost felt sorry for Alex, knowing Alicia was just stringing him along and coping—and even worse, he has to put up with The Mother From Hell, too, always a staple in Hitchcock’s wicked little arsenal! With a forbidding matron of a mom like Mme. Leopoldine Konstantin as Alex’s mother, it’s no wonder Alex is still under Mama’s thumb despite his suave manners. I must admit that the first time I watched the climactic love/rescue scene with Alicia and Dev’s “pillow talk,” in which Dev rescues Alicia from an agonizing death from slow poison had seemed a little corny at first. But when I watched it again after all this time, now with a fresh outlook, I found it touching my heart! Roy Webb’s swoony score is excellent, yet sometimes I wish I could somehow build a time machine or Way-Back Machine or the like, so that Hitchcock could have met and worked with Bernard Herrmann earlier in his career!
Claude Rains was only 5' 6" tall, a good three inches shorter than Bergman. They were able to hide the difference when everyone was moving about, and in scenes where they stood next to each other, he just stood on a small platform. But when he was moving and Ingrid stood still, they had to rely on strategically-placed ramps he'd walk up as he approached. Watch how much taller he gets as he walks towards the camera here!
Steve Martin used footage from Notorious in his comedy Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid. Here's how two scenes from very different parts of the film were stitched into one very differently-toned one!
I could use one of those ramps in real life! ;)ReplyDelete
Thanks for the great review and the fun tidbits
Thanks for your playful praise of our take on NOTORIOUS, Fritzi! I must admit I could use one of those ramps myself, if only because I'm the shortest person here at Team Bartilucci HQ! :-DDelete
one word about your post Dorian....AMAZING! I loved it! Ok that's four words but it was really good!ReplyDelete
Monty, you're a gent, bless you! Many thanks for your enthusiastic kudos for our NOTORIOUS labor of love; it was fun for all of us here at Team Bartilucci! Have a wonderful week, my friend!Delete
Dor, it's been a long time since I've seen either "Notorious" or "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid". I wonder if "Dead Men/Plaid" has been re-released on DVD or Blu-ray??ReplyDelete
Anyway, I loved your tongue-in-cheek review. Wonderful post!
Hey, Ruth, beaucoup thanks for your praise on behalf of both me and my dear hubby Vinnie & GIF-meister Vinnie! We're delighted you enjoyed our goofy yet affectionate take on NOTORIOUS.Delete
Even better, you'll be glad to hear that as of this writing, DEAD MEN DON'T WEAR PLAID is available on DVD Amazon.com for the sensible price of $ .$7.86! Perhaps it's even on Blu-Ray by now; you never know. Anyway, both movies are well worth owning. Glad we could catch up with each other and talk NOTORIOUS, dear pal! :-D
Enjoyed this post immensely and thanks for adding that clip.ReplyDelete
Alicia and Dev - oh, those crazy mixed-up kids!
Hitch at his best. We can say that about so many of his films.
Caftan Woman, many thanks indeed for your kind kudos for our NOTORIOUS comments! They're crazy mix-up kids, all right -- but wouldn't you love to listen to their kids explaining about their wild and crazy adventures? ;-D As you say, C.W., NOTORIOUS is definitely at his best! Glad you joined the party, and be careful of the those wine bottles with the funny labels! :-)Delete
Woof! Woof, Huberman, Woof! C'mon. Let's go dancing.ReplyDelete
(I find I can no longer watch NOTORIOUS without flashing on that line from DEAD MEN DON'T WEAR PLAID, and thanks for including it in your review.)
(Would Hitchcock mind if people giggled through his films? I've sometimes wondered.)
"Believe it or not, my first experience with Notorious was when I saw, not Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s intense 1946 romantic thriller, but rather a 1992 made-for-TV retread starring John Shea (Missing) and Jenny Robertson (Bull Durham), because the video rental folks didn’t have the original version at the time! Really? Really?!"
You mean like cable channels that run the 1986 version of STAGECOACH, instead of the John Ford original? Or the 1998 version of PSYCHO? Or the 1993 version of THE THREE MUSKETEERS? And yes, that makes the kindly and serene Uncle Mikey absolutely grind his teeth in homicidal agony whenever it occurs.
Ah me . . . NOTORIOUS.
I happen to love Hitch's giving us the additional bit of datum regarding the time when the story begins. It's that extra stamp of verisimilitude that provides an additional anchor (Sir Al hedging his bets in case the audience tends to feel he's gone over the edge . . . Heaven forfend!). It's almost like the coroner at the crime scene, determining the time that the murder took place.
Also love the scene where Grant strolls into the room after bringing Bergman home (the POV titled for Bergman's prone position). Were there people in the original audience who saw the glass of milk and shrieked "OMIGOD! DON'T TAKE THAT FROM CARY GRANT!"?
"But jealous Mama Sebastian (the regal, superb Leopoldine Konstantin) has Alicia’s number."
No kiddin', Red Ryder! I need to find some of Konstantin's other film appearances to see if she ever played a nun at a leper colony, or something along those lines. Her performance in NOTORIOUS easily ranks among my five favorite villainous roles. If I'd been living at the Sebastian house I would've checked the medicine cabinet to make sure there was enough antivenin on hand. Seriously. One wonders if throwing a bucket of hot water at Mama Sebastian would've done the trick?
Konstantin's performance also helps inject a great deal more dread into Claude Rains final moments in the film. We're pretty much left with a definite idea as to what's going to happen to him, but Hitchcock wisely didn't portray the event (realizing that he probably couldn't produce anything as ghoulish as what was being staged within our imaginations).
("You've been a naughty boy, Alex!" "Y-yes, Mother." "Und you know vot happens to Naughty Boys. They spend der rest of their acting careers in B-movies . . . directed by Irwin Allen und co-starring Jill St. John!" Cue bloodcurdling shriek from within the mansion.)
Perhaps one of Hitchcock's better examples of juggling romance with slightly over-the-top drama. And, as you mentioned, having such a stellar cast to play with certainly didn't hurt matters any.
Michael, I'm still laughing over "Woof, Huberman, woof!" :-D Happily, both you and "Sir Al" have always had a delightfully droll sense of humor. I'm a glad we both are equally rankled when we have to put up with bad remakes of Hitchcock films! At least we're getting more of the classic Hitchcock films. Regarding your query: "Would Hitchcock mind if people giggled through his films? I've sometimes wondered.) Actually, I think Mr. Hitchcock would be pleased. After all, one of his most famous quotes was: "Most movies are a slice of life. Mine are slices of cake."ReplyDelete
I wish Leopoldine Konstantin had been nominated for her chilling performance as Alex Sebastian's sinister mother. My favorite scene is the one where Alex discovers Alicia is "an American agent." Look how her queenly bearing (albeit more of a wicked queen) slowly but surely erodes, showing her true self as she lights a cigarette and her face turns hard, like a grade A-gun moll! Your wit and wisdom leaves us smiling and witty, my friend, as always! Watch those wine bottles, OK? :-D
Just yes to everything you wrote. Great movie I should probably rewatch sometime soon. The cast is so fantastic, and NO WAY! about Rains walking up the ramp! haha. love him and mean him no disrespect, that is a brilliant idea. I put Claude in my tippy top of greatest actors ever. thanks as usual and best to you allReplyDelete
Kristina, my friend, you're a sugar bowl with 2 handles, as always! :-D Claude Rains is always a dashing gent whether he's a good guy or a bad guy, but I think his clever ramp trick is among my favorite examples of movie magic! :-) If anything, it makes us love him all the more; hooray for clever Hollywood trickery! Thanks for joining the NOTORIOUS party, and the very best to you and your nearest and dearest as well! :-DDelete
Dorian, the first version of LAURA I saw as the made-for-TV one with Robert Stack and Jackie O's sister! As for NOTORIOUS, I am fan and always find it compelling. But--dramatic pause--it doesn't rank among my ten favorite Hitch pics.ReplyDelete
Rick, it's perfectly OK to enjoy NOTORIOUS without having it among your 10 favorite Hitch Flicks! I must admit that when I first saw NOTORIOUS on the late-night movies as a young'un, it actually took me a while to warm up to it. I kept asking my older siblings why Cary Grant was being such a jerk to Ingrid Bergman! :-)Delete
How cool that you actually had the opportunity to watch the TV version of LAURA with Lee Radziwill, at the very least from sheer curiosity! Did you by any chance find it on the Fox TV Network as a series called HOUR OF STARS? Once in a while I'd come across it, though not that particular episode, but I do remember an episode of LAURA, starring George Sanders and and Dana Wynter. Glad you found it compelling in any case! :-D Thanks for dropping by to talk NOTORIOUS in any case!
Dorian, This is one of my favorite half a dozen or so Hitchcock's that I consider a masterpiece of filmmaking combining both art and entertainment. I love that clip you have here where Claude Rains "grows" about three inches (LOL). Wow, I never noticed that!. The famous kissing scene between Grant and Bergman is brilliantly done and one of the sexiest scenes ever put on celluloid.ReplyDelete
John, thanks for your rave review of NOTORIOUS! Vinnie and I are especially delighted that you enjoyed our ode to NOTORIOUS, including Hitchcock's clever way to give suave Claude Rains an extra leg up! :-D Warmest wishes to you and Dorothy from all of us here at Team Bartilucci HQ!Delete
I've always enjoyed this film, Dorian though occasionally I'd feel like slapping Cary Grant upside the head. (And for that matter, Ingrid as well.) I can't stand the scenes where he ignores the fact that she is very obviously ill (slow poison will do that to you). I always had to control myself from throwing something at the screen. Ha!ReplyDelete
But you are so right, this is a marvelous film made even more marvelous by the brilliant camera work and dark forebodings. Poor Ingrid is putty in the hands of her spymasters - jeez, could they ask for more? She marries the Nazi guy! She does exactly what they ask of her and what happens? They lose respect for her. How exactly does that work? GAK!
Dorian and Hitchcock together again. A terrific post as usual, m'dear.
Yvette, you had me smiling at "Dorian and Hitchcock together again." Aw, thanks, my friend! I'm also glad you that you too were itching to smack surly Cary Grant for his foolishness, as well as Ingrid Bergman being treated in such a infuriatingly passive-aggressive way! At the very least, our heroes deserve a big fat raise and an all-expense-paid the very least, not to mention free therapy! :-) But boy, there's no denying Hitchcock sure knows how to press us viewers' buttons, bless Hitchcock's devilishly clever mind! :-) Thanks for your kind kudos and your witty comments, and if you're watching the Oscars, I hope your favorites win, and hugs to you and your lovely family! :-DDelete
Thanks for the kind words, Dorian. :) I'm not watching the Oscars - actually, I'm watching Netflix - 'The Bletchley Circle'. But I have my eye on the Variety website just to check in now and then and seeing who won what. Hugs back you, m'dear.Delete
WOW!! This is perhaps one of my favorite pieces from ToTED!! From the title to all the tidbits of fabulous info you manage to pack into one post. It's hilariously written as usual. I haven't seen NOTORIOUS in years. I have a special fondness for Claude Rains. I think he is spectacular in everything he does. Like Fritzi mentioned, a ramp would come in handy for me too! I know I've lost at least two inches over the years. And Brava on your interview with Pat. How wonderful that you chat with her. I got chills just thinking about how thrilling it must have been.ReplyDelete
You really made NOTORIOUS come to life for me. Last weekend it was REAR WINDOW and this weekend it's NOTORIOUS thanks to your nugget packed post of wicked goodness. - Your pal Joey
Joey, I hope you're not tired of saying sweet things about your truly charming comments about us here at Team Bartilucci HQ, because your latest kind kudos about our NOTORIOUS post has bowled us over! Truly, my friend, as always, you're a sugar bowl with two handles and sweet as a delicious peach and then some! Your kind praise of our NOTORIOUS post was a labor of love, so it really meant a lot to both Vinnie (my dear hubby and GIF-Meister :-)) that you enjoyed it so much. Although Pat wasn't there in person, when I called her, she was happy to talk with us; we were super lucky that Patricia Hitchcock happened to be home that day, because it was looking like Pat might have had a previous engagement, but the movie gods must have been smiling on us, because she was a real sweetheart: upbeat, kind, down-to-earth, and happy to talk with a young'un like me (I was just out of of college at Fordham University at the time)! Thanks again for being my Pal Joey, and I hope you'll hope you'll enjoy our upcoming post in March: THE BIG CLOCK, starring Ray Milland, Maureen O'Sullivan, and one of our favorite husband-and-wife duos, Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester, based on Kenneth Fearing's best-selling novel! Warmest wishes to you and Wendy from all of us here at Team Bartilucci HQ, and enjoy the Oscars on Sunday! :-DReplyDelete
A fun look at a cool movie, Dorian ... "A key moment in the film" ... groan! Love those groaners! You've reminded me how long it has been since I last saw Notorious. Now I have to see it. Oh, and I loved your highlight of the scene where Claude Rains gains height as he walks toward Ingrid Bergman. Gotta love the movies!ReplyDelete
Becky, we're tickled pink to have you joining the NOTORIOUS frolic and suspense! :-) (While we're also watching the Oscars, by the way. Can Team Bartilucci multitask, or what? :-)) Sorry, Big Sis, couldn't resist a groaner or two! I'm glad you got a kick out of Claude Rains' clever ramp, too. Who needs CGI? :-D As you say, my friend, Gotta love the movies!" Have a wonderful evening, my friend, and if you're watching the Oscars on TV, I hope your favorites win!Delete