When I was 14 I remember going with my dad to Best Buy to get a VHS copy of Casablanca. I had seen it on tv or rented it maybe, and I needed to own it. I had fallen in love with Ingrid Bergman. She was the best woman I had ever seen; I couldn’t stop thinking about her. When the newspaper came I would look through the TV listings to see if her movies came on that week; if they did, I would tape them. One year I read a biography of her, and to this day it remains the saddest book I’ve ever read, because Ingrid Bergman gets sick and dies at the end. She was the first movie star I really went nuts for.
My favorite movie star
Notorious is the best Ingrid Bergman movie. Well, we can’t count Casablanca; it’s too perfect. It’s not in the running. So, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1946 masterpiece Notorious is the best Ingrid Bergman movie. The movie is a tale of espionage, intrigue and Nazis up to no good in post WWII Brazil. The plot doesn’t need explaining here. Trust me, it’s fucking awesome and you just have to see it.
The pedigree on this movie is unmatched in Hollywood history. Hitchcock, who was in the zone since coming to America a few years earlier, was at the height of his powers when he directed Notorious. The screenwriter, Ben Hecht, is not as famous as the legendary director, but he may very well be the greatest screenwriter in the history of Hollywood. In the late 1960s Jean Luc Godard said that Ben Hecht “invented 80 percent of what is used in American movies today.” Hecht wrote a ton of screenplays, many of them legendary, and a few, Notorious among them, are perfect.
The stars of the movie are the best. Cary Grant is definitely on the short list for greatest leading man of all time, and I personally think he’s tops. Here he plays it very cool as Devlin, an intelligence agent who finds himself falling for Alicia (Ingrid Bergman, duh), a beautiful playgirl whose father was a high profile Nazi. I don’t know if there is any other role where Cary Grant is so tense. Devlin’s not sure if he should love Alicia, and his torrent of emotions are kept in check by tight-lipped professionalism. That is, until he and Alicia wrap each other in one of cinema’s most passionate, desperate embraces.
Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman
Ingrid Bergman is so fantastic in this movie it is absurd. I don’t know how she didn’t win an Oscar for this; it is her best performance. Alicia is so in love with Devlin she’s going crazy, and she is so hurt when he acts coldly towards her, I almost want to punch Cary Grant, which I would never ever do. It’s hard to think of any of the other great female stars ever having starred in a movie as good as Notorious, and Ingrid was in her absolute prime when she did it.
I love a lot of actresses. The list is long and includes women from all over the world. But I never fell for any of them the way I did for Ingrid Bergman. Maybe it’s because I was just 14, but I did not merely love the Swedish actress, I was in love with Ingrid Bergman. I still am.