Ingrid Thursdays: Notorious (1946)

The Film: Alfred Hitchcock was and still is known as the master of suspense and for just reason: He was able to keep his films Notorious Postercurrent with the times and utilize his actors effectively within the plot. Notorious is one such film that, while its content is dated to the film era, the viewer can at least see Hitchcock utilizing the news and information available during his time to establish and create Notorious. Nazis hiding out in South America is the theme of the film while the film also formulates American patriotism by having covert American agents seeking to expose these men and have them face justice.

The film follows Alicia Huberman (Bergman), the disgraced daughter whose father was arrested and tried for treason against the United States. With her being known as a boozy flirt, this is used to the advantage of Devlin (Cary Grant) who party crashes Ingrid Bergman 05at a gathering of hers to get close to her. Once he has the opportunity to get a one-on-one conversation with her, he offers her a proposition: To go undercover in South America and infiltrate the Nazis in hiding there and expose their whereabouts to the American authorities. Her entry point is with Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains), who has relocated to South America, is suspected of having connections with these Nazis, and has a past with Alicia. Despite growing romantic feelings for Devlin, Alicia reluctantly agrees and what follows is her determination to help the American authorities and maintaining her cover under the watchful and suspicious eye of Alexander Sebastian.

The suspense Hitchcock provides for the film is the fear that Alicia will be exposed, to which this threat is hovering over her throughout her performance. The true conflict stems from Sebastian, who genuinely has feelings for her. His suspicions of Ingrid Bergman 04her are entirely related to romantic feelings and the fear she will betray him. Despite being a villain, Rains effectively gives his character enough humanity that the viewer can at least understand his reservations about Alicia, not because he fears that she is an agent, but because he fears she will break his heart. Therefore, Hitchcock brilliantly interjects two differing styles of love within Notorious, a sort of love triangle between Grant, Bergman and Rains, even though the film is not framed in such a manner. Yet the chance of the enemy discovering Alicia’s true intentions is the prevalent threat and Hitchcock’s masterful direction is precise enough to build the momentum with the risk and have it come to a momentous climax by the film’s conclusion.

The Performance: When assessing Bergman’s performance it is necessary to compare, albeit it being unfair to do, with her performance in Spellbound. While her performance falls within the expectations Hitchcock typically gave to his leading actresses, Ingrid Bergman 02Bergman is astounding by how much growth she gave her character in a one year span between the two Hitchcock films she starred in. Even though her Alicia Huberman is more of a fragile character than her Dr. Peterson in Spellbound, she exhibits more strength and liberation than her latter performance. It seems evident that Bergman allowed her own perception of the character to be interjected into the performance instead of complying to Hitchcock’s insistence of the feminine he had his leading ladies commonly do with their acting.

As a result of giving her performance strength, the male leads are reduced to being secondary in contrast to her. This is a rare Hitchcock film to which its male leads are entirely reactionary to its female lead, which is a direct result of Bergman showing minimal weakness in her performance. It is only at the beginning of the film that she allows her character to be entirely vulnerable by her own Ingrid Bergman 03doing, which is in line with the progression of her character. Once her character is involved in undercover operations, Bergman shifts her performance into dual roles. Her interactions with Cary Grant are more overtly feminine, thus in line with the typical Hitchcock role, yet her interactions with other actors, especially Claude Rains, is a performance of careful strength. She doesn’t relinquish her femininity, but rather uses it to fain submissiveness and the impression that she is relegated solely to her gender. It is a performance-within-a-performance and Bergman is effective in selling it to both the characters she is deceiving and the film audience that is watching her.

As a result of the strength that is the foundational basis of her character, this is the better role of the two Hitchcock films she starred in that gained notoriety with film audiences. Her character is both believable and has a genuine functionality with the film, Ingrid Bergman Notoriousopposed to her performance in Spellbound which hinged on Michael Chekov’s performance to validate the integrity of her role. With her role in Notorious Bergman stands on her own and doesn’t have a dependency upon any of her co-stars, and while this may have to do partially with the script, it has more to do with Bergman deviating from the fragile female performance and instead conveying her role, and herself, as someone making her own conscious decisions and expecting others to respond accordingly to them.

Performance Rankings:
Autumn Sonata: 5/5
Gaslight: 5/5
Murder on the Orient Express: 5/5
Casablanca: 5/5
Anastasia: 5/5
Cactus Flower: 5/5
A Woman Called Golda: 4.5/5
Notorious: 4/5
Spellbound: 3.5/5
For Whom the Bell Tolls: 3.5/5
Joan of Arc: 3/5
The Bells of St. Mary’s: 3/5

Film Rankings:
Casablanca: 5/5
Autumn Sonata: 5/5
Murder on the Orient Express: 5/5
Gaslight: 5/5
Cactus Flower: 5/5
Notorious: 4/5
A Woman Called Golda: 4/5
Anastasia: 4/5
For Whom the Bell Tolls: 4/5
Spellbound: 3.5/5
The Bells of St. Mary’s: 2.5/5
Joan of Arc: 2/5

Links for other Ingrid Thursdays can be found here:
A Woman Called Golda
Autumn Sonata
Joan of Arc
Murder on the Orient Express
Cactus Flower
For Whom the Bell Tolls
The Bells of St. Mary’s


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