Pairing Cary Grant with Ingrid Bergman along with Hitchcock directing, Notorious tells a story of spies in South America after World War II. Bergman is the daughter of a former Nazi so she is enlisted by a T.R. Devlin (Grant) to spy on other Nazis in South America. Pretty soon Bergman has been accepted and is married to one of the men (Claude Rains). Bitter and cold, Devlin shows no pity for her plight. However, during a party an important discovery is made that puts her in danger. To make matters worse, she is now sick and the others are suspicious. Showing his true loyalty, Devlin comes to her aid before she is harmed and brings her to safety.
To some extent we feel for Claude Rains who will be terminated if it ever comes out he married a spy and that pity is a credit to his portrayal. This film also seems to speak well of Grant as an actor since he plays so against type here. Hitchcock memorable used the key in the film to move the plot forward effectively. Aside from that a couple of sequences stand out to me. The first occurs when Grant enters a room and then we have the POV of Bergman’s heroine. She is lying in bed and drunk so as he gets closer he appears up side down in the frame. Then, there is the famous kissing sequence that all happens simultaneously while Grant is on the phone. The final one I recall is the tracking shot at the party that closes in on the key hidden in Bergman’s hand. Hitchcock practically shoves it in our faces so we know its importance. I think these moments reflect the great direction and showmanship of Hitch.
Partially for this reason Notorious is undoubtedly one of Hitchcock’s best films with a truly stellar cast of characters. If Casablanca was the beginning of the story then this seems to be the perfect sequel. You have a WWII related plot, Bergman, Rains and Cary Grant to stand in for Bogart after all. But that is a topic for another post in the future!