Notorious (1946), a classic psychological suspense thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock, is thematically concerned with both political and sexual betrayal, interwoven with the issues of trust and friendship. It is a love story with tangled turns, in which Alfred Hitchcock injected the darker shades of suspense and passion with the help of Hollywood’s two beloved stars, starkly against the type to represent a heightened thematic maturity. It is the subtle tale of the dissolute daughter of a convicted Nazi spy, a beautiful but confused American spy, Alicia Huberman, known for her drinking habit and apparent promiscuity.
She was recruited by Devlin, a suave and mysterious intelligence agent, to fly to Rio and insinuate herself into the household of a spy ring led by Alex Sebastian, to seduce him who had previously been infatuated with her. Ultimately, a love triangle develops among the three protagonists, the Nazi villain Alexander Sebastian portrayed by Claude Rains, the cool federal agent T R Devlin, played by Cary Grant and the enigmatic beautiful woman Alicia Huberman represented by Ingrid Bergman. While her notorious reputation encouraged Devlin to recruit Alicia, that reputation almost got her killed, when the man she loves mistrusts her and his misimpression is at the centre of a plot in which all of the pieces come together with perfect precision, so that two of them walk down a staircase to their road to freedom and the third person had no way out, but to accept his doom.Notorious (1946), is a serious love story of two men in love with a shady woman and at the same time, a thriller of rare perfection.
It all started in a heady evening in April 1946, when in a wild party in a middle-class residence in Miami, Alicia Huberman, a German-born naturalised American, was smiling, giggling and talking incessantly and drinking heavily, after her father was found guilty of treason against the United States and sentenced to 20 years in a penitentiary. Suddenly, she noticed a man in mysterious shadow, watching silently as the other party guests either leave or pass out in distended stupors.
He was sitting perfectly still and unresponsive, watching her thirst, being satiated by drink. Brightly lit and animated, Alicia acts romantically footloose, flirts with him and after taking the last sip from his glass, invites him to a picnic, outside the stuffy room.
When they go outside into the breezy evening air, he covers her bare midriff with his scarf, as she may catch a cold, symbolising covering up her bold and aggressive sexuality. Alicia takes him for a drive and while she drives recklessly weaving along the palm-fringed road, he positioned his hand near the wheel, ready to grasp the wheel if she falters, as she was drunk. As she complains that she cannot see because of the fog, he points out that her windblown hair is obscuring her view. However, when a chasing motorcycle cop stops their car for rush driving and wants to see her identity card, he passes his identification card in front of her and the cop salutes him and rides off.
The move makes Alicia suspicious and when she comes to know that he is federal agent T R Devlin, she becomes furious and accuses him of being another cop who has been deliberately hanging around her to get something from her. As she desperately struggles to get him out of her car, he knocks her out with a quick punch to her jaw to take over the wheel.
The next morning, Alicia finds the unwelcome Devlin gently urges her to drink a glass of juice next to her bed, a cure for her hangover. As she expresses her suspicion about his motive to cure and revive her, he explains that he is an American intelligence officer with a secret mission to enlist her to make intimacy and spy on the Rio de Janeiro home of her father's old associates, called Sebastian. When Alicia refuses to agree, Devlin plays recordings of her fighting with her father, in which she opposed her father and refused to work for him as a spy of Nazi and expressed her love, patriotism and loyalty to the US. Devlin thus insists that as she detests her father and his fascism, she should accept the job, for the love of her adopted country. Moreover, as the daughter of a Nazi, she is in a good position to earn the trust of Sebastian and spy for the Allies and that makes her an ideal person to do the job.
While awaiting the details of her assignment in Rio de Janeiro, Alicia and Devlin fall in love, though his feelings are complicated, since he is aware of her promiscuous past and at the same time, it always plays in his mind that he is on duty and Alicia is her working partner. However, the intimacy between Alicia and Devlin grows and they sightsee and tour around the city.But as she continues to tease and mock him for being afraid of falling in love with her, Devlin suddenly grabs and kisses her passionately, which was unusual for Grant, as almost always it was women who kissed him passionately on screen. The film contains a famous love scene on the balcony of Alicia’s Rio apartment, when Devlin goes out on the balcony as a solitary figure and looks at the beach in the distance. However, soon he is joined by Alicia, who takes his arm and he puts his head next to her head, almost diffidently and they kiss, while Alicia puts her arms around his neck and pulls him in tightly. She keeps caressing and nibbling at Devlin and throwing her head back in intense ecstasy, while he stays very still and accepts her passion, almost keenly.
The dreamy, romantic situationended abruptly, as Devlin leaves Alicia in response to a call to meet his seniors urgently, where he gets instructions to persuade Alicia to seduce Alex Sebastian. Although Devlin tries his best to convince his superiors that Alicia has no training in that kind of job, he fails and at the same time, becomes somewhat surprised to know that Sebastian had a crush on Alicia in the past. Back at Alicia's apartment where she is bubbling over with happiness and preparing a chicken dinner, she welcomes and greets Devlin with more kisses on the balcony, but he remains cool and unresponsive, visibly upset and tense beneath his charming look. When insisted by Alicia, he divulges that she is expected to exploit her feminine charm, sexuality and attractiveness, like famous Mata Hari, to extract news from Sebastian, plotting to restore the Reich. Alicia feels disheartened with the indifferent attitude of Devlin and concludes that he was merely pretending to love her as part of his job.
As planned by Devlin, Alicia meets Sebastian at a riding club, where he recognizes and quickly invites her to dinner the following night at his home, arranged for some of his few business acquaintances. Alicia, in her apartment, passes the information to Devlin and Captain Paul Prescott of the US Secret Service and is advised not to ask any questions to anybody, but to use her eyes and ears and also try to memorise the names and nationalities of the guests. But at dinner, when Sebastian falls head-over-heels with Alicia all over again and proposes marriage, his domineering mother gives her a frosty welcome, as somehow she believes that Alicia deliberately left the side of his Nazi father by refusing to testify on his behalf. During the dinner, Alicia notices with amazement that suddenly one of the guests becomes visibly agitated at the sight of a certain wine bottle and when he apologizes and tries to go home, another of the Nazi group insists on driving him, which clearly implied that he will be killed. Later, when Alicia informs Devlin that she has conquered Alexander and he proposed marriage, Devlin turns icy, coldly tells her to do whatever she wants. Deeply hurt by his proud, cruel and pretentious indifference, she marries Sebastian.
After returning from their honeymoon, Alicia informs Devlin that the keyring her husband gave her lacks the key to the wine cellar. As it may have some link with the bottle episode at the dinner, Devlin advises Alicia to steal the key from Sebastian and arrange for a grand party, so that he can have an opportunity to investigate the cellar. As advised, Alicia secretly steals the key from Sebastian's ring, and during the dinner, Devlin and Alicia sneak to search the cellar, when Devlin accidentally breaks a bottle, which instead of champagne, contained black sand, which is uranium ore, an important ingredient for making atom bombs. Devlin takes a sample, cleans up and substitutes another bottle to leave everything as it was. When he just locks the door, Sebastian comes down for more champagne and discovers them by the garden door. He rightfully concludes that they love each other and immediately realizes that the cellar key, which was missing from his keyring, was returned overnight. He rushed to the cellar and finds the glass and sand from the broken bottle.
Sebastian realizes that he has married an American agent and Alicia must be silenced. But as he cannot expose her without revealing his blunder to his fellow Nazis, he confides the situation with his mother, who readily suggests that Alicia is to die slowly by poisoning. Without any delay, they poison her coffee and she quickly falls ill. By the time Alicia learns from Dr Anderson during his visit, all about where the uranium has been mined and what is causing her sickness, she collapses and is taken to her room and the telephone is removed from the room, leaving her all alone, too weak to leave and detached from the world outside. In the meantime, Devlin becomes alarmed when Alicia fails to appear at their regular meeting point for continuous five days and sneaks into Alicia's room to learn from her that Sebastian and his mother poisoned her. He took all the risks to confidently carry his ladylove out of the mansion in the presence of Sebastian and his co-conspirators. Sebastian desperately begs to go with them, knowing that the Nazis suspect the truth, but Devlin and Alicia drive away, leaving Sebastian behind to meet his fate.
Since the censor forbade screen kisses lasting longer than three seconds, the famous kissing scene in the film lasts two minutes and forty seconds without music, the longest kiss in film history, interrupted every three seconds, but without breaking the embrace of the lovers. However, the two stars had doubts about the long kiss, as it did not feel natural to them and were worried about how strange it would look. But Hitchcock prolonged the scene, considerably ramped up the eroticism by the nuzzling and murmuring of the kissing lovers. Notorious, directed by Hitchcock, is not just a spy film, it is a very strange love story that presents one of the most anguished relationships in American film