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3. NOTORIOUS, 1946

A journey into suspense

You are about to see "Notorious", a film by a director that many believe to be the greatest film director of all time, Alfred Hitchcock. His films are filled with intrigue, tension, innovative cinematography, sound and editing, and lots of suspense, earning him the nickname, “The Master of Suspense”. Even though his films were often dark and suspenseful, they always had some humor to them. Born in England, his first films were made in his homeland, with several becoming classics. His first Hollywood film was “Rebecca” in 1940, which won the “Best Picture” Academy Award. Hitchcock was nominated for “Best Director” five times in his career, and surprisingly never won, but he did receive the Academy’s honorary ”Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award”, in 1968. He made MANY classic films, and many will be recommended on this blog.

Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock made cameo appearances in most of his films, and it is fun to watch for him. Usually appearing for a fleeting second, he is often easy to miss. He does appear in “Notorious”, and just in case you miss him, I’ll reveal where he appears in the “TO READ AFTER VIEWING” section below.

The script for “Notorious” was written by one of Hollywood’s great screenwriters, Ben Hecht (who was nominated for “Best Original Screenplay” for this film). Although it is said that he co-wrote it with Hitchcock.

“Notorious” stars two of Hollywood’s biggest stars, Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman (who is my second favorite actress of all-time, just a hair behind Katharine Hepburn).

Ingrid Bergman

Ingrid Bergman, who plays "Alicia Huberman”, is another of the all-time greatest actresses and screen legends. She was voted number 4 on the American Film Institute’s “100 Years...100 Stars” women's list of the "50 Greatest American Screen Legends”. She was born in Sweden, where she appeared in many films in Swedish and German. Hollywood producer David O. Selznick brought her to Hollywood to star in his remake of her Swedish film, “Intermezzo”, in 1939. It made Ingrid an instant international star. She brought a freshness, individuality, and warmth to the screen. She refused to undergo the Hollywood star treatment, not letting them modify her looks or change her name, and she usually wore little makeup. Besides her incredible talent, she was known for her natural beauty (with and without make-up), and was known to be one of the most beautiful women ever in person. Her screen persona was that of being unpretentious, very real and very natural. In 1949 she reached out to Italian film director Roberto Rossellini (whose films will be on this blog), saying how much she loved his work and would like to work with him. As a result, he cast her in his 1950 film, “Stromboli”. They fell in love during filming, and she had a child with him while married to her first husband, Petter Lindström. She left Petter and their child, Pia, and married Rossellini. This was quite a scandal in 1950, made worse by her angelic screen persona. She was even denounced in the US Senate. Regarding the scandal, Ingrid was later quoted as saying: "People saw me in 'Joan of Arc', and declared me a saint. I'm not. I'm just a woman, another human being”. She continued to make films in Europe, including five with Rossellini, and then returned triumphantly to Hollywood films in 1956 with, “Anastasia”. She won her second Academy Award for her work in that film, and would later win a “Best Supporting Actress” Academy Award for "Murder on the Orient Express", winning 3 of her 7 career nominations. This makes her one of the most Oscar awarded actresses in history (so far). She continued to give outstanding performances in films, TV and on stage (winning 2 Emmy Awards, and a Tony Award). She was married a total of three times, and is the mother of actress and model Isabella Rossellini. She has appeared in many classic films including "Casablanca", "Gaslight", "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", and "Autumn Sonata", which will appear on this blog. She died in 1982, on her 67th birthday. I cried the day she died.

Cary Grant

Cary Grant, who you just saw in “Bringing Up Baby”, plays “Devlin” in “Notorious”. This is the second of four films he made with Alfred Hitchcock, who was quoted as saying Cary Grant was the only actor he ever loved. The four films they made together (the other three being, "Suspicion", "To Catch a Thief", and "North By Northwest") spanned over twenty years, and each film in its own way, has become a classic. His role in “Notorious” is one of Grant’s darkest film roles.

Claude Rains

Also in the cast is Claude Rains (playing "Alexander Sebastian"), a fantastic actor who worked from the 1930s up to his death in the late 1960s. He appears in many classic films (including "Casablanca", "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington", "Now Voyager", "The Adventures of Robin Hood", and "The Invisible Man"), often as the second lead, occasionally the lead. He was nominated for four Academy Awards, including a “Best Supporting Actor” nomination for “Notorious”. You will definitely see him again several times, if you watch all the recommended films on this blog.

One of several famous scenes in this film is the kiss between Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. From 1934 until 1968 Hollywood enforced the Motion Picture Production Code, also known as the Hays Code, which set moral guidelines for what could and could not be shown in movies. I’ll explain more about that when we see a Pre-Code film. However, one of the rules in the code, was that an onscreen kiss could last no longer than 3 seconds. To get around this, Hitchcock, being ingenious as he was, had Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant extend their kiss by stopping and starting, over and over again. It was a very intimate and sexy scene, and became a classic in itself.

“Notorious” is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best films, and one of the great films to ever come out of Hollywood. Enjoy!



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TO READ AFTER VIEWING (contains spoilers):

In case you missed it, Hitchcock’s cameo in "Notorious" was at the big party in "Alexander Sebastian's" mansion. He drinks champagne and then quickly leaves.

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