Minister of Science and Chief Protector of the Faith

Monday, March 31, 2008

Alfred Hitchcock's "Notorious"


Last night on Turner Classic Movies played the Hitchcock film, "Notorious", a WWII spy thriller set in Rio de Janeiro. I had seen it once before, many years ago.

In the film, I thought that Cary Grant's character, T. R. Devlin, was a total dickhead. As a mater of fact, all of the Americans in the film were sanctimonious, holier-than-thou dickheads. From the very beginning of the film Grant's character is looking down his nose at the "loose" morals and carefree lifestyle of Ingrid Bergman's character. He says that he loves her in the beginning of the story, but treats her like dirt throughout the rest of the film.

On the other hand, It was difficult not to fall in love with Ingrid Bergman's character: fun-loving, German-born, daughter-of-a-convicted-Nazi Alicia Huberman. Her provocative romantic scenes were naughty fräulein, double-agent delicious!

And you had to love the Nazis. The Nazis were great! My favorite scene (part 6) was after one of the mousier Nazis, Emil Hupka, accidentally tips off Alicia Huberman to an important clue as to their nefarious plans at a dinner party. The other Nazis plot his demise behind his back over coffee and cigars in a wonderfully cold and calculated fashion. (Nazi Eric Mathis has a special road trip for Emil all worked out... "Nonsense! I'd love to go. Come on, Emil...")

Later in the film Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) marries the head Nazi (Claude Rains as Alexander Sebastian) to get information that will help the Americans. Devlin (Cary Grant) gets all weepy and pouty with jealousy. The ensuing Ménage à trois left me wanting to rescue Ingrid Bergman from both the evil Nazi Claude Rains and the sanctimonious Cary Grant.

Once Claude Rains figures out that Ingrid Bergman is an American spy, he goes to pieces. He is not afraid of the Americans, but his fellow Nazis! He fears that he will share the same fate as poor Emil Hupka did at the hands of Eric Mathis.

And who helps the evil mastermind out of this jam? His dear old mother! She gets the idea to slowly poison Ingrid Bergman so that no one will suspect the reason for her demise. (It's so deliciously Morticia Addams!)

Hitchcock is often accused of being misogynistic towards women in his films, but in "Notorious" the women are not only the strongest characters - they are also the most likable. (How can you not love a mother that helps you poison your wife so that your Nazi henchmen won't kill you?)

Claude Rains was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the film, but I don't think he was a very believable evil mastermind - and he just looked kind of short and old as Ingrid Bergman's husband. I think he was far better as Vichy Police Captain Louis Renault in the film "Casablanca".

In the beginning of the film, Bergman's character prophetically says this about Grant's characters patriotism: "Waving the flag with one hand and picking pockets with the other, that's your 'patriotism'". (good line! Gotta make a note...)

You can read more about the film at these links: Wikipedia, Turner Classic Movies, IMDB and

(I loved the type face they used for the title graphics.)

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At Mon Mar 31, 07:43:00 AM, Blogger Jess Wundrun said...

Ha! I gave you my quote of the week!
I forgot this was on. I spent my afternoon watching "Rear Window" on DVR. My personal favorite Hitchcock (Slightly above North by Northwest)

At Mon Mar 31, 11:04:00 AM, Blogger Dean Wormer said...

Wonderful movie.

Jess- Rear Window and North by Northwest are great but don't forget Lifeboat, The 39 Steps, Vertigo, Rebecca and my personal favorite - The Birds.

Guy was a frickin' genius.

At Mon Mar 31, 03:58:00 PM, Blogger Liberality said...

The Birds and Rebecca are my two personal favorites.

At Mon Mar 31, 05:32:00 PM, Blogger Bubs said...

Wonderful post, and I love that quote.

I agree with you about liking Rains better in Casablanca. I tell my kids, when I first saw Casablanca I identified with Victor Laszlo. Then, when I was in my late 20's or early 30's, I identified with Rick. Now, as a jaded civil servant in my 40's, I gotta say that Renault is the moral center of the movie for me.

At Mon Mar 31, 06:24:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I stayed up last night and watched this. I hadn't seen it in a while.

I love this movie, like most Hitchcock films. I'm partial to Marnie, Suspicion and Rear Window.

At Tue Apr 01, 12:52:00 PM, Blogger mwb said...

Ingrid Bergman the only woman I know who could wear paisley and still look sexy!

At Wed Apr 02, 02:04:00 AM, Blogger Batocchio said...

A great film. One of Hitchcock's three personal favorites. I

My favorites are still probably Rear Wndow and Psycho, but there are so many good Hitchcock flicks, I could go on...

(My favorite trivia bit is that they broke their looooong kiss periodically and then resumed to get around a Hayes Code restriction against kisses over so many seconds!)

At Thu Apr 03, 03:10:00 AM, Blogger Dr. Zaius said...

Jess Wundrun: Ha! Thank you! I am honored.

Dean Wormer: I didn't like "Lifeboat" so much, but the "The 39 Steps" was awesome! Don't forget "Speelbound." I loved that movie.

Liberality: I don't think that I ever saw "Rebecca"! I will have to look that one up. I saw the "Birds" when I wasa kid and it scared the livin' bejeezus out of me!

Bubs: That's a very interesting story. I like that. It's an interesting viewpoint. You should do a post about it!

DCup: Yay! You watched it too! "Marnie" was one of my favorites too.

MWB: I have a huge crush on Ingrid Bergman, paisley or not.

Batocchio: Ha! I didn't know about the kissing restriction! What rubbish.

At Thu Apr 03, 12:54:00 PM, Blogger Batocchio said...

Here's two more for ya, Dr. Z, although you may know them.

The censors weren't troubled by the shower murder in Psycho. They objected to seeing a toilet flushed on screen. That's even more puritanical than the Brits, American censors clutching pearls over acknowledging that people crap. Heavens! What if the children find out?

Also, remember the scene in Rear Window where the couple is sleeping out on the fire escape because it's hot, and they wake up and they're sleeping head to foot? That always struck me as weird, ever since I first saw it as a kid. It turns out that was a censor thing, too. They didn't want any suggestion that married people fuck - although there's plenty of sex going on (however discreetly) in that movie!

Oh, one more - the bad guy had to face justice in the end, that was a key element of the Code. Hitch very cleverly gets around this in Vertigo, because your focus isn't on that aspect of the story at all at the end. He also cleverly got around it on his TV show by showing someone get away with a crime in the actual show, but then he'd make some wry, funny announcement about how they were caught in his final on-screen tag, which I guess technically met the censor's requirements, even though he was mocking them. I gotta like his style.

At Fri Apr 04, 09:36:00 AM, Blogger Dr. Zaius said...

Cool! I did not know about the reason for his funny endings on his show. that hilarious! Remember the lady that killed her husband with a lambcop? Ha!

At Fri Apr 04, 02:25:00 PM, Blogger Batocchio said...

Well, I should add that I'm not sure the ending tags were just about that - it was the convention, it helped his publicity and he enjoyed being a wry smart ass - but I'd be really surprised if the Code was not a factor.

And yeah, I remember that episode. A classic. Hitch directed it himself.

At Sun Apr 06, 08:04:00 AM, Blogger Dr. Zaius said...

I think you are right, actually. And I am sure that Hitchcock loved to rub the censor's nose it it in that fashion. He was just that kind of guy!


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