Where Alfred Hitchcock’s other espionage thrillers such as North by Northwest (1959) are witty, light-hearted affairs, Notorious is an emotionally tortuous love story.
Ingrid Bergman plays Alicia Huberman, the society daughter of a condemned traitor, who is approached by US agent Devlin (Cary Grant) to ingratiate herself with the suave Sebastian (Claude Rains), a Nazi associate of her father’s in South America. Falling for Alicia, Devlin nevertheless stands by when her subterfuge leads Sebastian to ask her to marry him. In the masterful party sequence, Alicia helps Devlin gain access to the wine cellar where Sebastian is storing reserves of uranium ore; Hitchcock pits their furtive search against the clock by intercutting shots of the party’s steadily dwindling champagne supply. Notorious is among Hitchcock’s richest and most seductive films.