Today happens to be the 115th birth anniversary of, one of the greatest film directors, who ever lived, Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980). To commemorate the legendary Hitchcock’s birth anniversary, Rob of movierob & Zoë of The Sporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger started a blogathon, last month. I chose to critique Notorious (1946) & The Paradine Case (1947). Two movies I had already analysed for my, 30,000 worded, final dissertation, ‘Marriage in Hitchcock Film: from Rebecca to Marnie’, for my M.A. in International Cinema (2002-2003). Of course that was more than a decade ago. This post is a more of a fresh (or rather refreshed) approach towards the two Hitchcockian classics.

Notorious & The Paradine Case

Notorious (1946); starring Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains and Leopoldine Konstantin; is set just after the war, where Alicia Huberman (Bergman) has gained notoriety for her father’s crimes. An American Intelligence agent, Devlin (Grant), recruits her to spy on a Nazi collaborator, friend of Alicia’s father, Alexander Sebastian (Rains), in turn risking Alicia’s life, as a modern day Mata-Hari.

The Paradine Case
The Paradine Case (1947); starring Gregory Peck, Alida Valli, Louis Jourdan, Ann Todd, Charles Coburn, Charles Laughton and Ethel Barrymore; is about a psychological extra marital fling, without any physical contact, between a married lawyer, Anthony Keane (Peck) and his client, a convicted murderer, the widow Paradine (Valli). Keane cheats on his wife, Gay Keane (Todd), on a psychological level.

Hitchcock, in general, is superb at creating tension, within his films, within relationships of his characters, between husbands and wives, friends and foes, the show and it’s spectators, the film and it’s audience. He brings out some superb character sketches, suspenseful plots and tense viewing, with excellent results. Notorious & The Paradine Case are famously known as the zenith and nadir of Hitchcockian Cinema, of the 1940’s, i.e. the highest and lowest points of Hitchcockian classics of that decade, respectively. But if The Paradine Case, is supposedly the lowest film by Hitchcock, in the 40’s; I wonder what, the majority of crap we see today, should be called. Notorious, is an excellent movie, and The Paradine Case, is near excellence.

In Notorious, we see Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman), a beautiful Hitchcockian blonde, being used by the American intelligence, as a modern day Mata-Hari; while Huberman only risks her life, less for patriotic reasons, and more for the man she loves, Devlin (Cary Grant), to the extent of marrying the enemy, Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains). Devlin is an adamant, cold shouldered, character, who not only does not talk Alicia out of it, but he also never conveys his true feelings towards her, until the slowly poisoned Alicia is bedridden and unable to save herself from the physical and psychological entrapment befallen her. Sebastian is ruthless, yet a typical mama’s boy, who can never seem to say no to his mother (Leopoldine Konstantin). When he discovers, his wife is an American agent, the Nazi collaborator, runs straight to his mother for help. Sebastian is both jealous, of the debonair looking Devlin, and broken, to believe he fell for an American Agent, Alicia Huberman. It hurts his male chauvinistic ego. The Matriarch, Madame Sebastian, Huberman’s mother-in-law, rules the Nazi household. She controls Sebastian’s every move, except for his choice in marriage. When her son comes running to her, after realising he is married to a spy, she is the pragmatic one, who schemes to kill her daughter-in-law slowly, by poisoning her coffee daily, so as nobody else suspects, while Alex Sebastian, just wants to kill her off at once and be done with it. Notorious is a beautiful, unpredictable and tense movie, one of the best of Hitchcockian-noir-cinema.

In The Paradine Case, we see a bewitchingly beautiful woman, Madame Paradine (Alida Valli), accused of being a man eater, more for her beauty, than actual proof (though she has lead a colourful past, before she was married), who is being prosecuted for killing her blind husband, by poisoning him. The widow Paradine, is an ambiguous character, for we find it difficult to evaluate her, until the end of the film, whether she is a femme fatale or a heroine. For we see her being honest, about her past, and she states she has nothing to do with her husband’s death, at the same time she doesn’t like any innocent party being accused of the crime; yet everything points accursedly towards her being the criminal, and everything suggests she’s a man eater even now. Meanwhile, we see Anthony Keane (Gregory Peck), the widow Paradine’s defence lawyer, being infatuated by her, and believing he’s in love with her, despite being happily married for eleven years to a beautiful classy lady, Gay Keane (Ann Todd). Thus we see Tony Keane suffering with a guilty conscience and the famed ‘Seven-year-itch’ syndrome, after eleven years of marriage. Gay Keane is an understanding wife, though jealous of Mrs. Paradine, she wants her husband to win the case, for she’s afraid if Mrs. Paradine gets the death sentence, she’d lose her husband for good, as he’d brood over Madame Paradine’s death, and his failure, for the rest of his life. Yet Gay Keane, doesn’t let her husband even kiss her, while that Paradine woman is in his mind. This movie, with a massive cast, has a load of interesting character sketches. But I shan’t continue to that extent. The court case is one of the most intriguing court cases ever seen on screen. The Paradine Case, is a must watch for any film buff, especially a Hitchcock buff.

Both, Notorious & The Paradine Case, are two Hitchcockian greats, worth checking out. Notorious is among my favourite films ever.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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Thank you Rob and Zoë, for letting me work on these two classics.
Nuwan Sen