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Hitchcock and the Censors$
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John Billheimer

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780813177427

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813177427.001.0001

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Notorious (1946)

Notorious (1946)

(p.118) 14 Notorious (1946)
Hitchcock and the Censors

John Billheimer

University Press of Kentucky

Notorious is one of the few Hitchcock films that were actually improved by the involvement of the Production code. Code censors objected to the original plot, in which a woman of loose reputation is hired by the FBI to use her wiles to infiltrate a group of ex-Nazis hiding out in Rio de Janeiro. Code officials suggested that the woman, played by Ingrid Bergman, be someone who lived by her wits, rather than someone with loose morals, and who is recruited because the head of the exiled Nazi ring, played by Claude Rains, was once in love with her. These suggestions greatly improved the film, making both Bergman and Rains more sympathetic characters. Notorious contains a kissing scene between Bergman and Cary Grant that Hitchcock concocted specifically to get around the supposed ‘three-second rule,’ according to which lips locked for more than three seconds were considered unduly lustful. Grant and Bergman remain in each other’s arms for nearly three minutes as they travel through her Rio apartment exchanging at least twenty kisses, none of which exceed three seconds. Hitchcock also had to contend with close scrutiny from the FBI as a result of the use of uranium as a plot point in pre’atom bomb days. The film has gone on to become one of Hitchcock’s most venerated masterpieces, partially because of the Production Code insights that improved the plot and gave Hitchcock the impetus for a memorable romantic sequence.

Keywords:   Alfred Hitchcock, Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, uranium, Production Code Administration, three-second rule, Claude Rains, Nazi exiles, Notorious

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