Notorious Study Guide

Released in 1946, Notorious is a rather uncharacteristic Hitchcock film, in that it does not employ many of the horror-filled tropes of his other films, but it is nonetheless considered to be one of his greatest works and touted as one of his finest directorial achievements. Fusing together espionage and romance, Hitchcock created a compelling film about the pitfalls of commitment and the dangers of the post-WWII political landscape, with two of the brightest stars of Hollywood at the time, Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman.

The opening sentence of Bosley Crowther's 1946 review of the film reads, "It is obvious that Alfred Hitchcock, Ben Hecht, and Ingrid Bergman form a team of motion-picture makers that should be publicly and heavily endowed," and called it "one of the most absorbing pictures of the year." Other reviews of the film were similarly glowing, with reviewers celebrating the thrill of the plot, the brilliant cast, and Hitchcock's subtle direction. In a retrospective on the film, Frank Cottrell Boyce, reviewer for The Guardian begins his piece by stating simply, "Notorious is perfect. Everyone knows that." Indeed, the film has received very little criticism over the years, and remains a beloved classic to this day. One particular moment in the film that has fascinated film buffs for years is an iconic kiss shared by Bergman and Grant, in which the two stars begin to kiss, stop, then start again, amounting to a nearly 3 minute sequence of strung together kisses, in order to elude a Hays code censorship rule that dictated that no kiss could last longer than 3 seconds. The result is one of the most erotically charged and iconic kisses in film history.

The film made around $4.8 million at the box office at the time of its release, was a huge hit, and became an official selection at the Cannes Film Festival in 1946. Ben Hecht was nominated for an Academy Award for the screenplay, and Claude Rains, who portrayed Alexander Sebastian, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.