Considered one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best, and a film treasured by fans of Bergman and Grant.
1946’s Notorious is also notable for the freedom it provided Hitchcock. Distracted by his production of Duel in the Sun, David Selznick — who had Hitchcock under contract — decided to sell the entire package to RKO. The director now became a producer for the first time.
Notorious was the right project at the right time with two of Hitchcock’s favorite stars in the leading roles. It is easily one of the director’s best Forties films, perhaps only eclipsed by another of our favorites, 1943’s Shadow of a Doubt.
With a superb script by veteran Ben Hecht, Notorious tells a tale of high-level espionage based in Rio de Janeiro. Cary Grant is a hardnosed government agent luring Ingrid Bergman, daughter of a convicted Nazi spy, as a double agent to entrap a band of Nazi refugees. The two wind up falling in love.
The role shows off Grant in rare, disturbing form — tough, unemotional and more than a bit manipulative. Bergman’s character is instantly appealing and vulnerable. She is persuaded to marry a much older man (Claude Rains) to effectively penetrate the Nazi ring. She does to near disastrous results.
Rains is superb in his part, playing against the stereotype of a Nazi sympathizer as a nasty guy. He is charming, but dangerously under the wing of his poisonous mother ably played by Austrian actress Leopoldine Konstantin.
Grant and Bergman lovers will eternally cherish their inventive, circular- camera love scenes — sensuously photographed by Ted Tetzlaff. In the words of one critic, Notorious is the first Hitchcock film in which every shot is not only meaningful but beautiful.
It is by any stretch a suspenseful thriller; Hitchcock in fine form. See it at every chance.