Published April 20, 2008

WORDSLINGER’S NOTE: Part Four in a series highlighting films that may have escaped the notice of younger film lovers.

If you frequent this site, you’ve no doubt seen the plethora of PSYCHO movie banners in page rotation. I’m a longtime Hitchcock aficionado, so I’m surprised I’ve waited this long to post anything regarding his work. I intend to remedy that right now.

While I’ve long considered Hitchcock’s top 5 films to be Rear Window, Vertigo, North By Northwest, Psycho and The Birds, over recent years, one of his earlier films has crept into my heart and become one of my favorites.
Notorious poster
Notorious (1946) is Hitchcock’s tale of beautiful party girl, Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman), the daughter of a recently captured and convicted German spy. After her father commits suicide in prison, Alicia is approached by an American agent, T.R. Devlin (Cary Grant), who asks her to ingratiate herself among her father’s old Nazi friends — especially Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains), who was once smitten with Alicia. In order to convince Sebastian of her loyalties, Alicia agrees to marry him. The catch: Devlin is in love Alicia (and vice-versa), but in order to ensure her safety and help her performance, he must convince her that he feels nothing for her. As an American spy married to a Nazi, Alicia’s life is in constant danger. Can Devlin get her out before it’s too late? Suspense, espionage, and romance abound in this wonderful film — one of The Master’s best.

Criterion gave this movie a decent DVD upgrade a few years ago. While I think many titles in the Criterion Collection are overrated, this one is a must for both serious and casual collectors.
Notorious - the Criterion Collection
I’d dare say movie stars have rarely been so beautiful and charismatic as they are in this film. The scene where Alicia and Devlin kiss while he is on the phone is one of the most passionate and believable onscreen kisses in history. Later, when Devlin must convince Alicia he doesn’t love her so that she can pull off her undercover mission, one can see the conflict and pain in his eyes.

A lovely, powerful film. If you have never seen it, I envy your chance to watch it for the very first time.