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Customer Review

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I guess I'm the girl nobody remembers, 16 Oct. 2011
This review is from: Notorious [1946] [DVD] (DVD)
With the long,varied and successful career as a director that Alfred Hitchcock had it's inevitable that some of his films are remembered and feted more than others. Indeed some great films are inexplicably elevated to classic status, other minor films get a billing higher than their merits deserve and occasionally an absolutely cracking film gets somewhat lost in the shadow of a great back catalogue.

Notorious is in the latter category for my money.

It's brilliance starts even before the first scene. Hitchcock rarely got the cast he wanted (and on some occasions when he did he was mightily disappointed with the results or used the benefit of hindsight to bemoan casts "forced" upon him) but here he got the two big names, together, that he had always wanted since the very early days of script development. It's worth pointing out that David Selznick, despite this being a film made under a loan-out agreement with RKO, pushed the cheaper, and studio-contracted, Joseph Cotton for the main role here). Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman's performances here are so good in part due to the fact that their parts/characters were written with their casting in mind. Grant's more thoughtful/ambivalent real life attitudes (as opposed to his predominant screwball comedy screen personae) greatly influenced the writing of the character and if Hitch somewhat miscued his attempts to turn Grant into a wife killer (Suspicion) he succeeded in successfully presenting Grant in a different light here. It's also difficult to appreciate 65 years on what a shock it would have been for contemporary audiences to see Bergman playing an alcoholic, willing to sleep her way through a conspiracy in order to salve her conscience. Throw in the superb Claude Rains and a great back up cast and the excellence of the film comes as little surprise.

The film mocks the Hayes Code, helped in no small part by the genuine chemistry between Grant and Bergman and the scene where they kiss is work of genius in itself but arguably the most shocking aspect of the film at the time could be said to be the presentation of Rains' Alex Sebastian as a pleasant, amiable and, dare I say it, likable Nazi. Indeed the juxtaposition between his actions and those of Grant's Devlin towards the lady in their love triangle often leads the audience to question just whose side they are on in that particular battle. Indeed can one feel anything but sympathy for the man who manages to keep cool even when faced with the sight of his wife kissing another man? The fact that it is his tyrannical mother who leads him to attempting to poison his wife gives us even more reason to sympathise. Indeed, right at the end of the film, when Sebastian's choice is to face the either the Nazi's or his own mother, it's impossible to not lament his fate.

As I said, Notorious, for all the plaudits it receives from Hitchcock fans, does get lost in the shuffle as bigger, bolder but not necessarily better, films grab the populist vote. A superb cast, a great script and Hitch's traditional pulling of our sympathies make for a perfect film. I love it.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 26 Jul 2012 21:42:51 BDT
A wonderful review and I agree entirely that this is scandalously under-rated as far as the general public is concerned. The marvellous script is largely the work of Ben Hecht (His Girl Friday, Spellbound etc). It's the daring moral ambiguity of it all that I still think makes this Hitch's most "grown-up" film.

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Aug 2012 15:12:39 BDT
IWFIcon says:
Thanks. Not mentioning Hecht by name in the review was an oversight I think!
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