Friday, August 28, 2015

Notorious (1946)

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“There's nothing like a love song to give you a good laugh.”

            Today is Ingrid Bergman’s 100th birthday. Bergman is one of my all time favorite classic film actresses. Without her I would not be as into classic films and Hollywood as I am now. I remember picking up a few of her films when I worked at Best Buy many moons ago. It was at a time when classic films were starting to come out on DVD. The first of her films I bought were Spellbound, Casablanca, and Notorious. I bought Notorious because I love Cary Grant and so did my great-grandmother who told me about the film. From the moment I first saw Bergman in Notorious I was hooked. In honor of Bergman’s 100th birthday I have decided to review the first ever film I saw her in.
            A German man is convicted of being a Nazi spy in America. The press is abuzz outside the courtroom not so much for the German man but for his beautiful young daughter Alicia Huberman (Bergman). That night she has a wild party at her place and gets tossed. At the party is a man she has never seen before. Apparently a friend of hers brought the man along. The mysterious man’s name is Devlin (Grant) and he is the last one left among the guests at her party. In her drunken stupor Alicia wants to go for a drive and she will be the driver. On the road she gets pulled over but Devlin shows the officer a card and they are free to go. This angers Alicia because she realizes that Devlin is some kind of government worker sent to watch over her.
            The next morning Alicia wakes up severely hung over to see Devlin standing in her doorway. He has an assignment for her. She refuses to do so until Devlin plays her a record of a bugged conversation between her and her father where she professes her love for America. Alicia’s assignment is to get close to a man named Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains) who was an associate of her father’s. Sebastian lives down in Rio De Janeiro where other ex-Nazis also live.
            Down in Rio, Devlin and Alicia fall in love. They share a passionate kiss on a hotel balcony and profess their love for one another. Before they can even have dinner Devlin receives news that Alicia is to get close to Sebastian. Devlin is not happy about this and begins to pull away from her as soon as he gets back to the hotel room. Devlin is told Sebastian will be out riding the following day and that is where Alicia is to catch his attention. Devlin moves their meeting along by kicking Alicia’s horse so Sebastian will ride after her.
            Soon Alicia is invited over Sebastian’s house where he lives with his domineering mother. Also invited to dinner that night are a few of Sebastian’s fellow Nazi sympathizers. While sitting down at the table one of the men nearly has a panic attack when he sees a bottle of wine on a sideboard. After dinner the men sit in the dining room  discussing what had happened before dinner. They decides that the man who saw the bottle must be gotten rid of because he has other slips in front of people before.
            Not long later Alicia announces to Devlin and his bosses that Sebastian has asked her to marry him. She did not answer him right away because she wanted to know what they thought she should do. The boss of the operation thinks Alicia should marry him and so she does. Devlin is still angry with her even though she was assigned to get close to Sebastian and she is angry and spiteful to him because he is the same way towards her. Sebastian and his mother throw a party for his friends to meet Alicia. She has told Devlin at one of their secret meetings that Sebastian is hiding something down in the wine cellar and he has key he keeps on his key ring. Before the party she takes the key off the ring so she and Devlin can find what he is hiding during the party. They do not have long before the champagne and wine run out and Sebastian will have to go down to the cellar. Devlin and Alicia find that Sebastian is hiding a chemical that looks like sand in the bottles. They get out of the cellar just in time but not before Sebastian catches them together. Devlin pulls Alicia close and kisses her and tells Sebastian the kiss was his fault. That night Sebastian comes to the realization from finding his key all the sudden back on his ring and the chemical on the floor that his wife is an American spy.
Notorious (1946).
            Sebastian tells his mother about Alicia. Being the sweet caring mother she is tells her son that something must be done about her and she decides to have Alicia slowly poisoned. The mother’s plan works and soon Alicia is too ill to leave the house to see Devlin. Devlin and his boss become worried about her. He tries to go see her but he is told that Alicia is not to be disturbed. Devlin finally has enough and goes to the house, heads up to Alicia’s room and takes her away. As he is leaving with Alicia, Sebastian comes out of another room where he was meeting with his associates. Devlin know Sebastian cannot do anything. Some of the men come out from the other room and see what is happening. They realize that Sebastian has known that his wife is a spy and has not done anything about it sooner. Devlin is able to get away with Alicia without incident and Sebastian’s fate is left to the men in his house.
            Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant are complete perfection together. Both of them were so outrageously talented as actors that worked so well together. Their onscreen chemistry just oozes out of the film. The scene where they kiss on the balcony is incredible because of their chemistry and because of the fact that the Production Code only allowed for a couple to kiss for three seconds at a time so Alfred Hitchcock had Bergman and Grant kiss then pull away while still in each other’s arms and then kiss again multiple times. That kiss is my all time favorite onscreen kiss. Grant is the epitome of classic Hollywood leading man. He was always so handsome but I do not think he ever was more so than in Notorious. Ian Flemming based the look of his character James Bond off of Cary Grant and you can see why so clearly in this film (although Flemming said he based Bond off of Grant’s character in North By Northwest). Ingrid Bergman was beautiful in every film she made. She was a woman who never needed the flash of costumes or jewelry to help make her beautiful she just naturally was. Her acting in Notorious is fantastic especially at the beginning where she is this bitter drunken woman and also later on when she is spiteful and angry with Devlin. I believe in the hands of a lesser actress Alicia Huberman would not have been convincing or worked as well as she did.

Cary Grant in Notorious, 1946
            Alfred Hitchcock is one of my all time favorite directors because he knew who he wanted for his films and how he wanted his films to look and feel. The man had a knack for picking out the best talent for his films. Besides the kiss scene my other favorite scene is the push up from the upstairs of Sebastian’s home during the party to the key in Alicia’s hand in the foyer. There have been several scenes where it goes from wide angle to a detail within the frame but what makes this scene more interesting and awesome is that there were no camera cranes in 1946 when this film was made. A scaffold-like structure had to be made where the camera could be lowered and as the camera was lowered the lens zoomed out into Bergman’s hand.

Start focusing on Ingrid Bergman. August 29 will mark her centennial.

            Notorious is one of my all time favorite films as a whole and for the actors and directors. The more I watch it the more I fall in love with it and with Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant. I do not think I could imagine a better film to become a fan of Ingrid Bergman’s she was amazing. If you have yet to see Notorious see it as soon as you can and any way you can.

Cary Grant & Ingrid Bergman, Notorious, 1946

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Silent Sundays: Oh, Doctor! (1925)

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We all know a hypochondriac or we are one ourselves. I can be a bit of a hypochondriac I cannot lie about that but I am working on not being too bad. But imagine being someone who always thinks they are sick or if you know someone who always thinks they are sick? For both that would suck. The silent film Oh, Doctor! is the story of a hypochondriac who would never leave the house to being a daring adventurous person when he meets a girl he wants to impress.
            Rufus Billhop (Reginald Denny) was born with the projection that he was a sick boy and would not live long. He proved the doctors wrong and lived to boyhood with a thermometer in his mouth. And yet again, Rufus lives longer than expected and outlives his parents. Rufus goes to live with his aunt out in California. His aunt wants to feed him red meat and he almost has a melt down because he believes that red meat can kill him. He insists that he have a doctor. The aunt knows a doctor who lives next door and them over. The doctor turns out to be a big bulking woman who Rufus is not too comfortable having check him out. The doctor literally manhandles poor Rufus and he calls out as loud as he can for another doctor. Luckily for him a male doctor, Seaver, was walking by the house and comes in. He takes over for the woman and becomes Rufus’s doctor.
            Doctor Seaver hears about how Rufus has always believed he is sick and dying and asks his patient why he has not gone to a sanatorium. Rufus tells Dr. Seaver that he does not have the money but he will have the money in three years when he comes into $750,000. Dr. Seaver tells Rufus he knows a few people that could help him get that money sooner. He goes to see three men who can advance Rufus $100,000. Before they advance Rufus the money the four men have him checked out by other doctors. One doctor tells the four men that all Rufus is suffering from in hypochondria. They give Rufus the $100,000 along with his signing over his entire estate since he will not be dying any time soon.
            With the money he has been loaned, Rufus hires a specific nurse who is known as Death Watch Mary. She has the reputation that whoever she watches over will be dead within two weeks. Dr. Seaver and the three men freak out and immediately get Rufus a younger livelier nurse. The young nurse is Dolores Hicks (Mary Astor). She takes her job seriously and seems to look at Rufus as a little crazy. When Rufus first sees Dolores his heart starts racing and thinks his temperature is spiking out of control. Dolores gives him some dirty looks and he just laughs and says they will get along just fine.
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            From that Rufus begins to do things he never would have thought to do until he met Dolores. He eats red meat, goes outside and buys himself some new clothes and even a new car. He hires a driver to drive him around a speedway. The driver is notorious for being a speed demon on the track and has killed two people within a month! Dr. Seaver and the three others have a panic attack and nearly die watching Rufus and the driver go around the track. Rufus takes over driving and immediate crashes.
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            To make a long summary short, Rufus tells Dolores that he is doing all his crazy things because he is trying to impress her. She likes him for finally being brave. Dolores decides that now that Rufus is not sick anymore that he does not need a doctor he needs a lawyer. The lawyer draws up papers that the four men must sign so they do not take Rufus’s money. While doing an insane stunt Rufus makes the men so nervous that Dolores finally gets them to sign the papers. She gets Rufus to stop his stunt by telling him she will not marry him if he does not stop. He comes down from what he was doing and plants a kiss on Dolores which he never would have had the courage to do before.
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            Oh, Doctor! is a cute silent film. I loved seeing Reginald Denny being this silly, anxious, eccentric hypochondriac. I am so used to seeing him as Frank Crawly from Rebecca and this proper handsome British man in his later films that seeing him as Rufus Billhop was so enjoyable. Mary Astor was great as this straight faced nurse. Her seriousness and tough attitude is life goals. Oh, Doctor! is a silent film I definitely suggest seeing. It is available to view in full on YouTube
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