Cary Grant as T.R. Devlin, American government agent
Rio de Janeiro, Spring 1946
Release Date: September 6, 1946
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
With a tight screenplay from Ben Hecht, a dream cast including Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, and Claude Rains, and a finely developed cinematic maturity as the by-product of a quarter-century of directing, Notorious is considered a career high in the filmography of Alfred Hitchcock.
Released across the country 72 years ago last week, Notorious includes the director’s traditional elements of suspense, romance, and comedy in a contemporary espionage tale of a Nazi spy’s daughter (Bergman) recruited by a dashing agent (Grant) to infiltrate her father’s organization by seducing the urbane Alexander Sebastian (Rains). Hitchcock’s research for the film’s MacGuffin of uranium had him placed on an FBI watch list for a time, but it was a kiss rather than radioactive materials that brought Hitch closer to actual trouble with the U.S. government.
The Motion Picture Production Code was introduced in 1930, but it wasn’t until 1934 when code administrator Joseph Breen began strictly enforcing the rigid code that censored profanity, sexuality, drug use, and other “immoral” content (including “ridicule of the clergy”) from American films for nearly 35 years to follow. Filmmakers wishing to obtain the necessary seal of approval would need to adhere to the code’s restrictions or face making a film that could never be released. (Some directors fought back, as Howard Hughes did with The Outlaw, though it took five years of fighting Breen for Hughes to get a wide release.)
“Excessive or lustful kissing” was one of many items prohibited by the Hays Code, preventing even the most passionate of on-screen couples from locking lips for more than three seconds. Aware of this restriction and more than willing to circumvent it, Hitchcock designed a sequence that would have Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman kissing for a full two-and-a-half minutes, though the two would break apart every three seconds as they walked and nuzzled together through the scene.
The director was reportedly inspired when he was traveling by train through France and spotted through the window a young woman who was helping her male companion balance against a wall while he was peeing. “And that was what gave me the idea,” he later explained. “She couldn’t let go. Romance must not be interrupted, even by urinating.”
Grant and Bergman, who began a lifelong friendship while filming Notorious, displayed enough chemistry on-screen to conceal the awkwardness they felt while filming the scene. “Don’t worry, it’ll look right on the screen,” he told the actress.
And how right he was. Along with this film’s impressive tracking shot that begins on a second floor balcony and ends with a key clasped in Bergman’s hand, the two-and-a-half minute kissing scene is regarded as one of Hitchcock’s superlative sequences from his career.
What’d He Wear?
When not in his sharply tailored suits or evening wear, Cary Grant’s T.R. Devlin dresses down for an afternoon in Rio with a single-breasted sport jacket in classic gun club check. This criss-crossing four-color pattern was adapted by the American Gun Club in 1874 from the original Scottish “Coigach” estate check.
Update! A comment from BAMF Style reader R.M. brought my attention to this marvelous color photo from early 1946 that appears to show Grant getting dressed for the role of T.R. Devlin. If the colors in this photo are indeed original, then Grant’s jacket appeared to be checked in navy and brick red on a beige ground, differing from the contemporary lobby cards and promotional art that colored it closer to olive green. The trousers appear to be dark brown, and the tie follows the same earthy color scheme, in an olive shade of brown with a red-bordered tan foulard pattern.
The notch lapels of the jacket roll to the top of three woven leather shank buttons, and Grant typically wears the top two fastened. There are also four smaller woven leather buttons on the end of each sleeve.
The jacket cut is contemporary to the mid-1940s with a fashionably full cut, wide shoulders, and draped chest. There is a single back vent. The hip pockets are jetted but the set-in flapped pocket on the left breast adds a sporty detail that slightly dresses down the jacket while adding a unique identifying element.
By his mid-40s, Cary Grant was already enough of a confident style authority to know what he found to be both comfortable and flattering, a must-have combination for a man who spends many hours in front of the camera. His style experimentations resulted in the establishment of an otherwise uncommon fusion of an Ivy League-style button-down collar shirt with double (French) cuffs. These are almost impossible to find off-the-rack, though Brooks Brothers does offer a limited number of shirts – like this one – available in this combination.
“As a younger man, I tried wearing a flared, too-high collar that, although modish amongst those I regarded as the sophisticates of that day, looked ridiculous on my 17 1/2-inch neck,” Grant told GQ for his now-famous advice section in the publication’s winter 1967/1968 issue. “Luckily, after the embarrassment of viewing myself from almost every angle on screen, that mistake was soon rectified. Button-cuffed shirts are simplest to manage, but if you wear cuff links, as I do, don’t, I beg you, wear those huge examples of badly designed, cheap modern jewelry. They, too, are not only ostentatious, but heavy and a menace to the enamel on your car and your girl friend’s eye.”
Grant’s GQ advice doesn’t mention his preference for the soft button-down collar, but those who have tracked his style through his career notice its frequent presence in his films. With his suits and this sport jacket in Notorious, Grant wears a white cotton shirt with a luxuriously rolled button-down collar and double cuffs fastened with a set of engraved round links.
With such a noticeable pattern, Grant wisely keeps his shirt and tie subdued. His dark tie has a mid-colored foulard pattern and is tied in a neat four-in-hand knot with a dimple.
Despite his English heritage and debonair continental style, Cary Grant made a career-long habit of embracing quintessentially American casual fashions from head to toe, whether it be the button-down shirt collar popularized by Brooks Brothers or the penny loafer introduced by G.H. Bass. Grant expressed his appreciation for the penny loafer in his GQ entry, where he stated that “the moccasin type of shoe is, to me, almost essential and especially convenient when traveling, since they can be easily slipped off in the airplane or car.”
Exactly a decade before Notorious was produced and released, G.H. Bass of Wilton, Maine, introduced the “Weejun” to the world. This slip-on shoe soon gained its “penny loafer” moniker for the prep school habit of slipping pennies in the diamond-shaped slot across the shoe’s top strap. At the time of its 1936 introduction, this shoe was mostly worn in extremely casual situations or at home, but it grew to more formal acceptance with sport jackets and blazers within the following decade.
By the time Notorious was produced in 1946, the penny loafer was perfectly acceptable footwear for an American gent to wear with a casual sport jacket and tie as T.R. Devlin does in Rio. Based on the shade of the leather seen on screen and Grant’s frequent on- and off-screen practice of wearing brown loafers with gray hosiery, we can assume that T.R. Devlin’s shoes in Notorious are brown leather weejuns with light gray socks.
When in the city, Devlin balances the patterned jacket with a pair of solid trousers in a mid-colored flannel. These pleated trousers have side-pockets and are finished on the bottoms with turn-ups (cuffs).
However, a day on horseback calls for attire better suited for the activity. Devlin’s sporty gun club check jacket is appropriate for a ride in the country, and his favored button-down style keeps his shirt collar from flapping up into his face during the constant equestrian movement, even with the top two buttons undone in the absence of neckwear.
Devlin’s equestrian gear includes tall brown leather boots that rise to just below his knee. His light gabardine riding breeches have seven lace eyelets visible down from the knee area to just above where the trouser legs tuck into the boots.
Only a glimpse of Devlin’s wristwatch is available under his shirt cuffs, but he most likely wears the same Cartier Tank on a dark leather strap that Cary Grant wore in real life.
How to Get the Look
Cary Grant often brought his own tasteful tailoring to his roles, and T.R. Devlin in Notorious is no exception. Devlin adds sophistication to a sporty dressed-down outfit with a uniquely detailed jacket, a button-down shirt worn with cuff links and a tie, and slip-on penny loafers.
- Beige gun club check wool single-breasted 3-button sport jacket with notch lapels, woven leather buttons, flapped set-in breast pocket, straight jetted hip pockets, 4-button cuffs, and single vent
- White cotton shirt with button-down collar, front placket, and double/French cuffs
- Brown foulard pattern silk tie
- Brown flannel pleated trousers with side pockets and turn-ups/cuffs
- Brown leather moc-toe penny loafers
- Gray socks
- Cartier Tank gold dress watch with square white dial on brown leather strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.