Friday, October 17, 2008

Notorious (Rhoades)

Grant and Bergman Remain ‘Notorious’

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Alfred Hitchcock loved spy stories, in that they formed a perfect framework for his suspenseful movies. Just think about such Hitchcock classics as “Secret Agent,” “Lady on a Train,” “The 39 Steps,” “Sabotage,” “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” and “North by Northwest.”

Another was “Notorious,” the 1946 spy thriller starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman that’s the next entry in Mary Sparacio’s Monday night film series at the Tropic Cinema.

Here Grant is a suave spy seducing a fragile Bergman in order to trap her Nazi-sympathizer husband. Just as in an earlier Hitchcock outing called “Suspicion,” we find Grant portraying a morally ambiguous hero. Does he love her, does he not? Is he just using her to catch bad guy Claude Rains or does he really care?

The film features a “famous kissing scene,” where Hitchcock flaunted the censors by allowing Grant and Bergman to osculate for more than the limited few seconds. A notable film history moment!

The MacGuffin (a term Hitchcock applied to whatever device set the plot in motion) in this case was uranium hidden in wine bottles. The studios were nervous about this reference to a highly sensitive war material, so he offered to change it, saying it was unimportant what motivated Grant to go after Rains. In the end, the uranium stayed in the script.

Hitch and screenwriter Ben Hecht visited Nobel Prize winner Dr. Robert Millikan to ask how to build an atomic bomb. The physicist refused to tell them, but admitted uranium was the principal ingredient and that a wine bottle could hold enough to create such a weapon.

There’s a terrific (and highly suspenseful) moment in “Notorious” in the wine cellar when we’re on the edge of our seats as Grant’s tampering with the wine bottles might be discovered. Whew!
Although Hitch never won an Oscar for his directing, he was voted “The Greatest Director of All Time” by Entertainment Weekly. However, he did win an Irving Thalberg Memorial Award at the 1967 Oscars.

Entertainment Weekly’s “100 Greatest Films of All Time” includes more films directed by Hitchcock than by any other director (four in all). “Notorious” ranked #66.

When asked why his films were so popular, his answer was: “Everybody likes to be scared.”
He also said, “I am scared easily, here is a list of my adrenaline-production: 1. Small children, 2. Policemen, 3. High places, 4. That my next movie will not be as good as the last one.”

No comments: