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Film: Notorious

"A man doesn't tell a woman what to do. She tells herself."
Devlin

A 1946 film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Notorious stared Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains.

Alicia, daughter of a convicted Nazi spy, is recruited by agent T.R. Devlin for an important assignment. A few Nazis, led by one Alexander Sebastian, have relocated to Brazil for an evil plan. Her mission, should she choose to accept it, is to infiltrate the group and find out their goal. She infiltrates the group, and eventually marries Sebastian, over his mother's objections. How long can Alicia uphold her charade? Can Devlin save the day if her cover's blown?

Not to be confused with the 2009 Biopic about The Notorious BIG.

This film provides examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Sebastian is about the nicest, most debonair Nazi you'll ever meet—in fact he probably cares more about Alicia than Devlin does.
  • Argentina Is Naziland: Well, Brazil.
  • The Baroness: Madame Sebastian.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Devlin saves the day when it seems Alicia might die from the poisoning. How big? Count the steps, there are a lot more when he's going down than when he went up them.
  • Can Not Spit It Out: Invoked by Devlin who refuses to admit his love for Alicia because it would have endangered their mission.
  • Creator Cameo: As always with Hitchcock films. In this one, he's quaffing champagne at Sebastian's party.
  • Dutch Angle: Used in the first Impairment Shot (see below).
  • Driving a Desk: Some badly rendered shots of Devlin and Alicia tooling around Miami.
  • Epic Tracking Shot: A celebrated camera stunt in which the camera swoops down from a second floor balcony down to Bergman on the ground floor, and then gets a tight closeup of a key clutched in her hand.
  • Eureka Moment: Alicia's sudden realization that she has been poisoned.
  • Evil Matriarch: Madame Sebastian, again.
  • The Faceless: John Huberman, Alicia's father, is only shown from behind in the court room scene.
  • Fakeout Makeout / Refuge in Audacity: Devlin invokes a passionate kissing scene with Alicia in the basement to cover up their snoopery when Alex arrives at the scene.
  • Figure It Out Yourself: The Rule of Drama required the lead couple to keep quiet about their feelings. Devlin wanted Alicia to say no to the mission and she wanted him to tell her he loved her.
  • Forced Perspective: Hitchcock got the shot where Bergman is in the background and the coffee cup is in the foreground, with both in focus, by using a giant coffee cup placed farther away than it appears.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: Justified, it's Ingrid Bergman.
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Alicia runs to alcohol to help deal with her personal life, and the problems that arise from it.
  • The Hays Code: The Code said a kiss could not be held onscreen for longer than three seconds. This led Hitchcock to craft the famous kissing scene in this movie where Alicia and Devlin embrace, kiss each other, nuzzle a little, chat softly about making arrangements for dinner, kiss again, nuzzle, kiss again... A wonderful example of Hitchcock Getting Crap Past the Radar.
  • Honey Trap: Alicia is this for Sebastian. She seduces him and marries him to find out what he and his fellow Nazis are up to.
  • Impairment Shot
    • The first is early in the film. Alicia wakes up from a hangover to see a Dutch Angle shot of Grant, tilted sideways as he stands in the doorway. Then, as Grant approaches the bed, the camera turns until he is upside down.
    • The second is towards the end. Alicia, realizing that she is being poisoned, stands up and attempts to flee. Alexander and Ma Sebastian go out of focus and then are shown in silhouette before she faints.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Alexander doesn't really seem to be that evil at all. There's not even a single instance of Putting on the Reich, and he only comes to the decision to kill Alicia after being bullied by his mother, and after seeing what the other Nazis did to a scientist who let on too much.
  • MacGuffin: The uranium in the wine cellar.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: What they did to poor Dr. Hubka.
  • The Mole: A heroic version.
  • My Beloved Smother: Lady Sebastian, yet again. A particularly evil example. (Even before they learn the truth about Alicia, Lady Sebastian clearly hates the idea of her son having a girlfriend.)
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut: Devlin keeps sniping at Alicia about her promiscuous past and eventually suggests that she abandon the whole project, since he doesn't want his girlfriend to be that kind of girl.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Claude Rains didn't bother to sound like a Frenchman in Casablanca and he doesn't bother to sound like a German here.
    • Now, why would you want him to talk any differently?
    • Actually, entirely justified. Sebastian is an Anglo surname, implying that his father was British, and paralleling Alicia's mixed heritage. Both identify with their mother's country, but carry their father's surname, which in both cases would be very useful for espionage purposes. Sebastian's British accent conceals his true leanings, and the similarity to Alicia might further fuel his attraction to her.
  • Offscreen Karma: It's implied that Alex is going to be offed by his Nazi associates for marrying an American spy.
  • Oh Crap: Sebastian, when the other Nazis find out about his marrying an American agent.
  • Overt Rendezvous: Devlin and Alicia are strictly meeting in public, at the horse races and on a park bench in the city of Rio.
  • Perfect Poison: Averted. The Sebastians attempt to kill Alicia by spiking her coffee, but it is done gradually to give the impression that she is simply ill. This keeps their fellow Nazis from growing suspicious and also prevents Alicia from acting until it is already too late.
  • Playing Gertrude: Leopoldine Konstantin was a mere three years older than her on-screen son, Claude Rains.
  • Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo: Dr. Anderson mistakenly picks the poisoned coffee, but Alex and his mother are quick to let him know, which in turn sparks Alicia's Eureka Moment.
  • Pretty in Mink: Alicia wears an ermine wrap and a mink coat.
  • Really Gets Around: Alicia, in the backstory. This is one of the reasons why she's selected for the mission.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: This was just a year after the Nazi's defeat, at the dawn of the Atomic Age. There was considerable effort put into searching for hidden Nazis and bringing them to justice.
  • Scully Box: Used for the diminutive Claude Rains in some of his shots with Ingrid Bergman.
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: Devlin gives one to Alicia after she decides to taunt him for falling in love with a bad girl like herself.
  • Sleeping Single: Alicia and Sebastian are shown doing this in one scene, which must have seemed odd even in 1946 what with all of Devlin's jealousy and talk of Alicia's "playmates".
  • Those Wacky Nazis
  • Would Hit a Girl: Devlin, although he's partially justified in doing so, as she nearly killed him with her drunk driving, then became hysterical upon realizing he is a government agent.

SpellboundFilms By Alfred HitchcockGregory Peck
NosferatuRoger Ebert Great Movies ListOn the Waterfront
North by NorthwestCreator/The Criterion CollectionOn the Waterfront
Take the Money and RunCreator/Magnetic VideoRebecca
My Darling ClementineFilms of the 1940sThe Postman Always Rings Twice 1946
Red DustNational Film RegistryBlazing Saddles

alternative title(s): Notorious
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