Alfred Hitchcock: Notorious

The Love between Devlin and Alicia

Seminar Paper, 2005

21 Pages, Grade: 1,3



1. Introduction

2. Alicia Huberman
2.1 Alicia’s Two-sided Personality – Appearances are Deceptive
2.2 The Influence of her Father’s Past
2.3 The New Miss Huberman

3. T.R. Devlin
3.1 T.R. Devlin – a Professional Spy
3.2 Duty versus Love - Devlin and Women

4. The Relationship of Alicia and Devlin – Love and Rejection
4.1 Their First Meeting
4.2 Alicia’s Assignment as a Spy – between Job and Private Matters
4.3 The Love Triangle Devlin - Alicia - Sebastian
4.3.1 Alicia’s Point of View
4.3.2 Devlin’s Point of View
4.3.3 Sebastian’s Point of View
4.4 The Situation Collapses – The Interference of Sebastian’s Mother
4.5 The Rescue of Alicia – A Final Confirmation of Devlin’s Love?

5. Conclusion

6. Bibliography

1. Introduction

In 1946 the director and “Master of Suspense” Alfred Hitchcock published a film named Notorious[1]. The plot of this film is said to be about “a compelling spy mission interwoven with a romantic love story”[2]. Hitchcock comments on the idea of his film as follows: “In Notorious geht es einfach um einen Mann, der verliebt ist in eine Frau, die in offiziellem Auftrag mit einem anderen Mann geschlafen hat und gezwungen wurde, ihn zu heiraten.”[3] Concluding from his statement Hitchcock’s most important issue was to realize the love story between the two protagonists Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) and T.R. Devlin (Cary Grant). In fact the struggle of Alicia and Devlin, who are meant to be the heroic figures[4], is running like a central thread through the film until they are finally able to come together in the end. In the following analysis of the film Notorious from 1946 will be discussed how this struggle affects and changes both characters and their relationship to each other.

2. Alicia Huberman

2.1 Alicia’s Two-sided Personality – Appearances are Deceptive

The character of Alicia Huberman is introduced to the audience as a “beautiful, young, spoiled playgirl”[5], who drowns her problems with alcohol to stand them. Alicia is used to perform for everybody and to display her beauty and sexuality in public and finally has the stigmata of a “scandalous reputation”[6] on her and is reduced to an “object of man’s curiosity and voyeurism”[7]. Even men only seem to be interesting for her as long as she can use and despise them. But during the development of the film another side of her comes to light: She is not just a drunken party girl, the Alicia behind this mask is an intelligent, sensible and powerful young woman. To overcome this contradiction between her role as a playgirl and her “real” personality is a long and hard way for Alicia, but as “a ‘notorious’ woman is a disturbance to the order of things from a male perspective”[8], she will only then be allowed to regain her former social and moral status in a more or less patriarchal society of the 1940s[9]. Ironically Alicia needs a man, like T.R Devlin, as a mirror of her wrong behaviour and as a reason to start changing[10].

2.2 The Influence of her Father’s Past

The father-daughter relationship, which is displayed in Notorious, can be seen as one example of Hitchcock’s way of presenting disturbed family lives in his films. The reason why Alicia is suffering from her father is explained by Paula Marantz Cohen as follows: “The strong, protective father can become a monster when viewed with the knowledge and perspective of adulthood”[11] and “the good father of childhood is unmasked to the adult woman as a Nazi”[12].

The “adult woman”[13] Alicia suffers because of two reasons, after detecting what her father has done: First of all when a daughter finds out that her own father, may be the only person (except of the mother) she trusts with all consequences, has betrayed her about his life, it is questionable if she will ever be able to trust anybody again. His betrayal even “caused her to lack self-respect and she became a self-destructive, hard-drinking, promiscuous, ‘notorious’ playgirl”[14]. As no other family members are mentioned in the case of Alicia, she is rather on her own, when her father, to whom she had an “apparent closeness”[15], is imprisoned. This situation intensifies her feeling of being alone. Although she is not really alone, as her friends are still there, she feels lonely without anybody to talk about her deeper problems. As Hitchcock presents her friends in the beginning, they may be good for having a party, but not for a serious conversation. Secondly Alicia’s father did not just steal a lollipop from a child, he is sentenced for treason. In this respect Alicia Huberman can be seen as the ideal American patriot. When it comes to a decision between her father’s group and the United States, her answer is direct and unmistakable: “I hate you all. And I love this country. Do you understand that? I love it.”[16] But as Devlin offered her to spy for the United States, she expresses a different point of view: “I don’t go for patriotism, nor, or patriots.”[17] or “Waving the flag with the one hand and picking pockets with the other. That’s your patriotism.”[18]. Nevertheless she feels guilty for her father’s crime and tries to make up for it instead of her father by punishing herself[19]. This may explain why she is not willing to confess in the presence of Devlin that she is still patriotic and would do everything for her country, in the same way like she said to her father: “My mother was born here. We had a right of citizenship.”[20]. It is also a reason for the dissonance of “Alicia’s public image and her private virtue”[21], for her drinking and playing with men. With all that she wants to compensate for her father’s guilt. She pays by hurting her body with alcohol and parties and the feelings of others with her behaviour. Because of that Alicia runs more and more into some kind of vicious circle of alcohol and falling prestige by offending men[22]. Although Alicia’s penalty will be with vain endeavour, she resists on pretending that her life in Miami is perfect: “I have my own life to lead. Good times. That’s what I want, and laughs with people I like. And no underhanded cops who want to put me up in a shooting gallery, but people of my own kind, who treat me right and like me and understand me.”[23]. Because of this point of view solving her problems seems impossible at this point of time, if she is not willing to allow anybody to help her and hiding behind her mask.

2.3 The New Miss Huberman

Alicia’s life changes abruptly as she agrees to Devlin’s offered appointment to spy for the FBI and to fly with him to Rio de Janeiro. Rio can be seen as a turning point of her life as she obviously falls in love with Devlin and promises to quit drinking alcohol and makes with this an attempt to end her former party-life in Miami. Both things would not sound so revolutionary, if it did not mean breaking old habits for her: To quit drinking alcohol and seducing men. What makes this step a little bit easier for Alicia is the information that her father committed suicide in prison by taking a poisoned capsule. Alicia suddenly confesses her problems to Devlin: “I don’t know why I should feel so bad. When he told me a few years ago what he was, everything went to pot. I didn’t care what happened to me. Now I remember how nice he once was. How nice we both were, very nice. It’s a very curious feeling as if something had happened to me and not to him. You see, I don’t have to hate him anymore or myself.”[24]. Symbolically Alicia expresses with this confession that “she has also died along with her father and that her death has allowed her to stop hating herself and her father.”[25]. So her father’s death can be seen as some kind of reconciliation in the father-daughter conflict and with that a relief for Alicia. But this only means the first step of her purification, as she will still be punished throughout the film, by loosing her ability to see properly for instance. This impression can be made when she is driving her car and is not able to see because of her hair, when she is lying on her bed with a hangover or in the last sequence when she is nearly dieing in the Sebastians’ house[26]. Although Alicia spends a great effort on changing her behaviour, Devlin “perceives her as the woman he met in Miami”[27] and so the basis of their inner conflict still exists and will be a burden on their new relationship.

3. T.R. Devlin

3.1 T.R. Devlin – a Professional Spy

T. R. Devlin, who is played by Cary Grant, can be seen as an antithesis of Alicia’s father, as he is a representative of the law[28]. He is introduced to the audience in a very unusual way for a potential hero: Devlin is sitting on a chair with his backside to the viewer. This way of filming may foreshadow that there seems to be a secret about his identity. In fact the audience learns nothing about his age, his past or intentions. The only information the viewer can get, is from a woman at Alicia’s party, that he “is not a party crasher”[29], which is not very helpful for an analysis. Even his behaviour during the film is totally unemotional and cold until he finally rescues Alicia. As a consequence it is hard for the viewer to identify with him until that point of time. This lack of emotions is even more apparent in contrast to Alicia, who is able to show feelings of love and passion and to stand by her mistakes.

3.2 Duty versus Love - Devlin and Women

As the professional spy Devlin falls in love with Alicia he runs into a conflict of duty for his job and his love to Alicia. With this situation one can analyse his general behaviour towards women. Devlin’s point of view perfectly represents the opinion about women of his time. The scene, when he tries to cover Alicia’s naked belly with a scarf, for example, displays his prudish behaviour. Another example is the sequence when the drunken Alicia is driving the car and Devlin is ready to take over the wheel each minute. The observation that he is even able to knock Alicia out in the next scene intensifies the argument that he likes to have the power and control over women and asserts himself with all means[30]. In fact women of the 1940s were still supposed to fit into the rules of a male dominated society or they would be punished, like Alicia, to be purified[31].


[1] Notorious, Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, Euro Video, 2003.

[2] Tim Dirks, “Review by Tim Dirks”, rev. of Notorious, Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, The Greatest Films, 30.08.2005 <

[3] François Truffaut, Mr. Hitchcock wie haben Sie das gemacht? (München: Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, 2004), p.161.

[4] See Paula Marantz Cohen, Alfred Hitchcock: The Legacy of Victorianism (Lexington: Kentucky UP, 1995), p.156.

[5] Tim Dirks, 30.08.2005 <

[6] Thomas Leitch, The Encyclopedia of Alfred Hitchcock (New York: Checkmark Books, 2002), p. 236.

[7] Tania Modleski, The Women who knew too much: Hitchcock and feminist theory (New York (u. a.): Methuen, 1988), p. 63.

[8] Tania Modleski, p.60.

[9] See Tania Modleski, p.60.

[10] See Elizabeth Abele, “The Feminine Gaze in Notorious and The Paradine Case “, Images, 30.08.2005 <

[11] Paula Marantz Cohen, p.73.

[12] Paula Marantz Cohen, p.73.

[13] Paula Marantz Cohen, p.73.

[14] Tim Dirks, 30.08.2005 <

[15] Thomas Leitch, p.236.

[16] Notorious, Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 0:13:46-0:13:49.

[17] Notorious, Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 0:12:42-0:12:46.

[18] Notorious, Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 0:12:48-0:12:52.

[19] See Tania Modleski, p.58.

[20] Notorious, Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 0:13:24-0:13:27.

[21] Thomas Leitch, p. 236.

[22] See Tania Modleski, p.67.

[23] Notorious, Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 0:14:24-0:14:38.

[24] Notorious, Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 0:16:52-0:17:23.

[25] Robert Samuels, Hitchcock’s Bi-Textuality (Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 1998), p.62.

[26] See Tania Modleski, p.61.

[27] Elizabeth Abele, 30.08.2005 <

[28] See Tania Modleski, p. 57.

[29] Notorious, Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 0:03:15.

[30] See Tania Modleski, p. 68.

[31] See Tania Modleski, p. 62.

Excerpt out of 21 pages


Alfred Hitchcock: Notorious
The Love between Devlin and Alicia
University of Trier
The American Films of Alfred Hitchcock
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ISBN (Book)
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Alfred, Hitchcock, Notorious, Love, Devlin, Alicia
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Anne-Mareike Franz (Author), 2005, Alfred Hitchcock: Notorious, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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