“I guess I’m the girl nobody remembers.”

That’s the line Ingrid Bergman’s Alicia Huberman utters in Notorious as her lover pushes her into the arms of another man.

This is my second post focusing on Hitchcock’s overshadowed heroines: the brunettes.

It’s well known Hitchcock, as most gentlemen preferred blondes, but before Grace, Tippi and Kim there was Ingrid Bergman. Their first collaboration was in 1945 with Spellbound, then they would work on Notorious (1946) and Under Capricorn (1949).

In 1946, Bergman was at the height of her career. She had her classics Casablanca, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Bells of St. Marys under her belt and had just won an Oscar for Gaslight. While Ilsa Lund may be Bergman’s most famous role, her turn as Alicia Huberman is (in my opinion) her best.

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Notorious would find Bergman playing another strong female making a romantic sacrifice against Nazi’s but this Hitchcock directed masterpiece has a much more complex plot. When I talk about Notorious, I often find myself having trouble even describing it because it’s part love story, part moral test, part espionage thriller.

In the film, Huberman’s German father has just been convicted of treason by the United States government. She is recruited by government agent T.R. Devlin (perfectly played by a perfect Cary Grant) to spy on a group of her father’s Nazi friends in Rio de Janiero as a chance to clear her name but along the way she falls in love. The love between Huberman and Devlin cause each of them to doubt the other when the assignment calls for Huberman to seduce another man, who happens to be a former lover (because of course, it’s a Hitchcock movie and nothing is ever easy in these films).

Bergman gives a masterful portrayal as Huberman. In it we see a promiscuous beauty who uses her looks and body  to trap a group of Nazi spies. Of course this being 1946, we don’t exactly “see” this behavior, rather it is implied by Hitchcock and it’s not very difficult to deduce. Bergman’s character transforms in many ways over the course of the film and her chemistry with Cary Grant is sizzling, you’ll find yourself having to drink a glass of water after the famous kissing scene overlooking Rio. It’s amazing how more than fifty years later it’s still titillating compared to today’s standards and the characters are fully clothed and just kissing! One of my favorite aspects about her performance is Bergman is emotional. It’s one of the few Hitchcock films where we see our heroine go through stages of vulnerability, strength, and heartbreak among others. Unlike the stoic icy blondes, Bergman is all over the place (in a good way) and that’s what makes her character worth remembering.

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