Apart from being in league with Nazis in Brazil and scheming with his mother to poison Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains‘ Alexander Sebastian — the elegant villain in Alfred Hitchcock‘s Notorious — is a fragile, sympathetic figure. He’s a compulsive romantic who falls head over heels in love with Bergman, and then becomes intensely jealous and possessive. Love runs him and gives him grief.
Rains loves with all his heart and soul and is betrayed for it, having been played as a sucker. Hard-ass CIA agent Cary Grant is in love with Bergman also, but he never expresses any caring or tenderness for her during the whole film…until the final scene. Rains is far more emotional and open. Not as tall or good-looking as Grant, but probably a better lover. Or at least a more expressive one.
What movie villain in recent decades has been as short as Rains, or was so refined and well behaved, or begged the hero for his life (“please…please!) at the finale and was turned down?
“One of my favorite movies would clearly be Notorious,” Sigourney Weaver recently told a Movieline reporter. “[Particularly] the scene where Cary Grant visits Ingrid Bergman. Just seeing how ill she is. To me that was such a hard picture. Such a steely picture. And then there’s this amazing soft center in the picture which is that she’s almost dead and he clasps her in his arms and talks to her. It’s like the whole movie turns into a different organism.”