This blog post is part of The 3rd Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon. Check out the other entries here.
Ingrid Bergman is one of my favorite actresses – her beauty, accent, talent, and height all combine to make her one of the most striking women on Hollywood’s silver screen. I’ve only seen her in four or five films, but she’s impressed me in every single one. Today, I wanted to compare two of her most famous films – Notorious and Casablanca. Both movies were made around the same time, both star Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains, and…um, that’s good enough for me to write a comparison post (seriously, though, I’ve considered comparing The Lorax and The Giver just because of their similar themes – plus, Taylor Swift’s in both).
Anyway. Enough rambling.
// The Story //
I’m horrible at plot summaries.
Notorious: A German-American woman is recruited by the US government to spy on…other spies? Not entirely sure what Alex is, actually. Anyway, the woman, Alicia (Bergman), falls in love with her handler, Devlin (Cary Grant), but things become chaotic when Alicia marries one of the enemy.
Casablanca: Talk about a ‘tale as old as time’. The story of Casablanca is known around the world. Rick owns a cafe in Casablanca. Everyone comes to it over the course of the story and the romances, intrigues, political plot points, etc., etc. make for an addictive cinematic experience.
// The Heroine //
Because they’re both played by Ingrid Bergman.
Notorious: Alicia Huberman (later Alicia Sebastian) is a wonderful heroine. Though her father was a member of the Nazi party, she herself is a loyal American on the side of truth, liberty, and justice. However, she ends up having to lie constantly to her husband, her liberty is curtailed when Alex finds out who she really is, and there’s no justice in the way Devlin treats her throughout the movie (until the very end). Yet she rises above all this to emerge as one of the most memorable Hitchcock leading ladies of all his films.
Casablanca: Most people view Casablanca as a ‘Humphrey Bogart picture’ and I have to say that that’s true. He’s the main character and the moral centre of the entire thing, but without Ilsa, there would be no story. From the moment she walks into Rick’s cafe until the moment she leaves on the plane to Lisbon, she is constantly in Rick’s – and our – mind. She is the catalyst of the entire story (well, the letters of transit play a big role, but they’re more a MacGuffin than anything) and a great character in her own right.
// The Hero //
Because they’re both awesome.
Notorious: As I’ve mentioned before, Devlin is one of the only Cary Grant characters I like. And he’s a jerk for most of the film! Like, a serious jerk. I can never quite figure out if he loves Alicia at the beginning – at least, as much as she loves him – but by the time she marries Alex, you know he does. And he’s so very heroic in rescuing Alicia at the end. ❤
Casablanca: Rick is one of the most famous heroes (or is he an anti-hero?) in the history of film. He’s hard and bitter and cynical at first – but not without reason. The bit in the cafe at night where he’s drinking and talking to himself/Sam along with the part where Ilsa leaves him at the train station…always give me a huge lump in my throat and an ache in my heart. He does an incredibly awesome, brave thing at the end as well and that’s mostly what defines him as a great hero, even though he doesn’t get the girl.
// The Love Triangle //
Because they’re required in every great story.
Notorious: Alicia, Devlin, and Alex. The scenes with all three of them are so tense, no matter what’s going on. Alex gets jealous easily because he’s so much older than Alicia and, come on, it’s obvious that she and Devlin are in love. It really is.
Casablanca: Ilsa, Rick, and Laszlo. May I just say that I really like Laszlo? He grows on me with every viewing. Anyway, this love triangle is unique because the story ends with the girl still with the same guy she was with at the beginning (that’s sounded so awkward, but you get the idea).
// The Villains //
Because they’re crafty and clever and I dig villains.
Notorious: Besides Alex, there’s also his creepy mom and his creepy Nazi friends. Alex is a sympathetic villain, almost, because you can kinda tell that he really does care for Alicia (until he discovers she’s a spy, that is). But his mom is distrustful of her daughter-in-law right from the start. And those Nazi friends are diabolical.
Casablanca: Does Captain Renault count as a villain? Not really, I don’t think. And Major Strasser is just…there. Doesn’t do much, truth be told.
// Ending //
Because both are perfect.
Notorious: Mannnnn. I LOVE the ending to this film. Devlin rescuing Alicia and finally admitting that he loves her and then “Alex, come inside. We want to talk to you.” (not an exact quote, but still) *shivers* So great. Hitchcock really knows how to end a movie (except for The Birds – that was just weird).
Casablanca: Who doesn’t know the ending to Casablanca? Even if you’ve never watched it, over half of the most iconic quotes are found in the last ten minutes or so. “Hill of beans”, “usual suspects”, “looking at you, kid” (okay, that one was said earlier on), and “always have Paris”, “beautiful friendship”…so quotable. And the ending is majorly tearjerking as well.
// Overall //
Both Notorious and Casablanca are outstanding examples of film-making at its very best. But Casablanca is my second favorite movie of all time, so it kind of wins by default, right? Notorious is still one of my top favorites, though. (And Ingrid Bergman is a luminous presence in both films.)
Which of these two films do you like best?