Tuesday, October 15, 2019

CONSENSUS #57 - Notorious (1946)

SYNOPSIS: "Notorious" is a Hitchcock film set in Rio De Janiero after WWII. Alicia (Ingrid Bergman) is the daughter of an executed Nazi who is recruited by the FBI to infiltrate a gang of Nazi refugees that is plotting in Argentina. The plan is for her to renew her relationship with the gang leader (Claude Rains) and find out what they are planning. Things get compilicated as she develops a love/hate relationship with her FBI contact (Cary Grant).

BACK-STORY: “Notorious” is a classic Hitchcock film released in 1946. It was shot in crisp black and white and has many of the iconic Hitchcock touches. It was one of four movies where Hitchcock teamed with Cary Grant and his second picture in a row with Ingrid Bergman ( the first was “Spellbound” ). The film was a big hit and was nominated for two Academy Awards – Claude Rains for Best Supporting Actor and Ben Hecht for Best Original Screenplay. Leopoldine Konstantin ( Rains’ mother ) made her only appearance in an American movie. She was actually only four years older than Rains. Another problem that the magic of movies handled was Rains being several inches shorter than Bergman. This was overcome with ramps and elevator shoes so well that in the movie Grant and Rains appear to be the same height. The use of uranium for an atomic bomb as the Maguffin the plot needed supposedly was prescient by Hitchcock and Hecht and got Hitchcock tailed by the FBI for a while. The movie has a famous two and a half minute kissing scene where Hitchcock circumvented the Production Code rule of maximum of three seconds of lip-locking by having Grant and Bergman nuzzle between smooches. This actually works on film.
TRIVIA:  Wikipedia
1.  Hitchcock got around the Production Code’s restriction of kisses to three seconds by having Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman disengage every three seconds to nuzzle and whisper sweet nothings for two and a half minutes. 
2.  The studio wanted Joseph Cotton to play Devlin (for contract reasons), but Hitchcock insisted on Grant. 
3.  Hitchcock wanted Clifton Webb to play Sebastian, but David Selznick talked him into Claude Rains for box office reasons.
4.  It was Leopoldine Konstantin’s only American movie.
 5.  Hitchcock makes his appearance drinking champagne at the party at Sebastian’s party.
 6.  Rains was three inches shorter than Bergman so ramps and boxes were used to fix it.  He also wore elevator shoes.
 7.  Grant kept the UNICA key and later gave it to Bergman.  She delighted Hitchcock by presenting it to him at a tribute dinner for him sponsored by AFI to present him with a lifetime achievement award.
 8.  Hitchcock claimed the FBI had him under surveillance for several months because of the use of uranium as a plot development.

Belle and Blade  =  no
Brassey’s              =  5.0
Video Hound       =  no
War Movies         =  no
Military History  =  #57
Channel 4             =  no
Film Site                =  yes
101 War Movies  =  no
Rotten Tomatoes  =   no

OPINION: I am a big Hitchcock fan, but I have to swim upstream and state that I do not think this is one of his best films. It is well written and well acted. It has its moments of standard suspense.  By far the best reason to watch the film is the dialogue and acting. The sparring between Alicia and Devlin is priceless. Grant and Bergman are at the top of their games, but Rains is outstanding as well. He portrays a sympathetic Nazi who ironically is more in love with Alicia than Devlin is. He also has those terrible mommy issues that we can sympathize with. You almost feel sorry for him. He is a cultured, urbane Nazi sap. As his mother, Konstantin is one of the great villains of filmdom.  This is the second Hitchcock film on the list and it is even less of a war movie than “Foreign Correspondent”.  Even the loosest definition of war movie would not include this movie.  


  1. South American Nazis are a moderately popular choice for supervillains, which I can understand: they're known baddies and it isn't hard to imagine an unrepentant group of them working together on some shadowy conspiracy out of the public eye.

    Historically, though, it seems that nothing like this has happened, at least not to my knowledge; the refugee Nazis instead focusing on keeping their heads down and establishing lives for themselves.

    That also makes sense to me. Even if such people remained true believers in Hitler's ideology, they would have no hope of accomplishing anything toward it without the resources of a nation-state behind them.

    So what groups would more plausibly work as a hidden scheming remnant group? I can think of four possibilities: (1) communists, since other Communist regimes exist and in any case that ideology does not necessarily require a supporting nation-state; (2) loyalists to a deposed dictator or king, waiting for a chance to return to power; (3) a losing faction from a Civil War, organizing attacks in the homeland from the safety of a neutral bordering country; and (4) a crime syndicate that has been pushed out of its original territory.

    I don't know whether many movies have used these kinds of groups as villains, though I suppose that Key Largo may arguably touch on number (4).

    1. Interesting. Thanks. How about the militias in America today?

    2. I hadn't though of militia groups. They certainly are popular baddies in fiction.

      I wouldn't call them a "remnant," though, because as far as I know none of them have any continuity with former countries or organizations. For good or ill these are locals who decided to get together for their own reasons.

      I suppose that the original Ku Klux Klan might be another example of a remnant. To what extent former Confederate leaders guided it is debatable, but its members did engage in violence and intimidation for political ends until it was ultimately crushed by President Grant.

    3. You are right that militias don't fit because they are not remnants. I hadn't thought of the Klan, but it fits. It was started by a Confederate general - Nathan Bedford Forrest. I wouldn't say they were trying to reverse the results of the war. They were mostly interested in keeping white supremacy in the South.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.


Please fell free to comment. I would love to hear what you think and will respond.