Notorious (1946)

notorious poster 1946 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great looking, strong acting, tense ending

Slow to get going

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Notorious

Studio:  RKO Radio Pictures/Vanguard Films

Genre(s):  Mystery/Suspense/Drama/Romance

Release Date(s):  August 15, 1946 (Premiere)/September 6, 1946 (US)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

notorious cary grant

You seem to like to party…want to party in Rio with some Nazis?

Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) finds herself in a touch situation when her father is discovered to be a spy.  Contacted by federal agents, Alicia finds herself recruited to be a double-agent by T. R. Devlin (Cary Grant) and is shipped to Rio de Janeiro with Devlin as her contact.  In Rio, Alicia finds herself falling in love with Devlin, but Alicia has assigned to shadow her father’s former contact Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains)…and love and espionage don’t always go hand-in-hand.

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Notorious is a romance-thriller.  Following Spellbound in 1945, Notorious received critical acclaimed and received Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Rains) and Best Original Screenplay.  The film was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2006.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #137).

Hitchcock is great, and he always manages to bring something special to the table.  Many saw this film as a big step up for Hitchcock because the scripting and the style of the film feel more mature plus the addition of a believable romance was something new for the director.  Notorious is another classic by the Master of Suspense.

notorious ingrid bergman cary grant

Don’t worry…you’re clearly in no danger whatsoever…

The story is a post-war thriller.  With Bergman recruited to help find and stop Nazis in Brazil, it feels like it has higher stakes than some of the other Hitchcock films…but the fact that she becomes a woman in peril because she is trapped between two men also changes it up.  Both male leads seem to genuinely love her, and the love triangle spirals out of control by the end of the movie.  The movie is a bit slow to start, and Hitchcock sometimes feels that he doesn’t always stick the landing and ends a movie when he is finished telling the part he likes…Notorious feels a bit like that with an ending that could have been expanded.

This was Ingrid Bergman’s second outing as one of Hitchcock’s woman (Spellbound was released just before this in 1945).  She isn’t as good as some of the later Hitchcock women, but she does give a nice foreign and exotic feel to her character with her accent.  Grant is Cary Grant…much like George Clooney today, you can’t disagree that he has screen presence, but his characters all seem to be the same.  Claude Rains gives a nice performance as the bachelor who is really in love with Bergman’s character, goes against his domineering mother (played by Leopoldine Konstantin) and gets burned for doing it (this is a theme that shows up time and time again in Hitchcock films from here to Psycho, to The Birds…mothers always seem to get in the way).

notorious ending ingrid bergman cary grant claude rains leopoldine konstantin

No…this stranger is simply taking my wife to the hospital…nothing weird here.

The movie is classic Hitchcock.  It has a real style and feel to it as a tense thriller.  The movie has a number of great shots that really tell the story and show his skill at framing a scene. The famous sweeping shot of the party which starts wide and goes from the second floor shot to a shot of the wine cellar key in Bergman’s hand is classic and still pretty amazing.  The movie did face some issues with censors over the amount of kissing Bergman does, but Hitchcock got around the “time limit” rules by having them break their kisses after three seconds (only to start again).

Notorious might not be the flashiest Hitchcock film, but it is still strong and a classic with great mystery, suspense, romance, and drama.  The end sequence alone has enough real tension in it that movies nowadays will kill for.  It is definitely a must for Hitchcock fans but also a must for other fans of suspense and mystery.  Hitchcock followed Notorious with The Paradine Case in 1947.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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