by guest writer
Notorious (1946) was Alfred Hitchcock’s first chance in the US to be out of David O. Selznik’s dictatorial authority, being leased to the RKO studios for a brief period of time. At this studio, Hitch had his own way; in other words, the movie went exactly as he planned with no interference whatsoever from any executive. He had the final word on editing and on the final release, which was kind of unusual for those days. Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) plays the spoiled daughter of an industrialist and Nazi agent who is sentenced to jail. Devlin (Cary Grant), on the other hand, is the handsome government agent who seems to request the impossible from Alicia, convincing her to undertake a secret mission.
Notorious is the perfect example of what film noir should be: mysterious and fragile at the same time, with a deep concentration on human tolerance and endurance, with dark and vengeful thoughts as its background, with a bit of a twist on what the usual ‘femme fatale’ element is – in fact it lacks one, but it keeps the tension at the highest peaks by placing the usual Hitchcockian ‘innocent’ character inside of a dangerous ring with no apparent way out. Ben Hecht was the director script writer and the right person for the resulting screenplay. Ted Tetzlaff was the cinematographer and his wonderful work is felt through the mild chiaroscuro touch, deep focus on key characters and long shots that seem to transcend time and different geographical locations. I am sure you will agree, only Hitchcock could have directed such a movie – it was in fact François Truffaut’s favourite Hitchcock picture (“at any rate, the one I prefer in the black and white group”, as he says in his extraordinary book, Hitchcock: A Definitive Study of Alfred Hitchcock), about which the French director and film critic said that it was the very quintessence of Hitchcock.
photo: movie still | credit: RKO Radio Pictures