A major, but frequently overlooked ingredient that contributed to the glamorous image of Hollywood’s greatest stars were their voices.
Under the studio system, actors were given rigorous voice training. They were taught to enunciate clearly, and how to emphasize certain words in order to give better line readings. They were drilled on how to breathe in order to speak their dialogue with confidence and ease.
Director Howard Hawks did not hesitate to make Lauren Bacall stand on a Malibu cliff and scream at the waves until her voice was raw and hoarse. He felt, correctly, that a deep, smoky voice on a female was, well, sexy.
We continue our series of the Twenty Greatest Movies of each decade. Here are our our picks for the last five great movies of the 1940’s.
16. Notorious, 1946. No American actor has tampered with his own charming image more successfully than Cary Grant. In Only Angels Have Wings (1939) he is the tough boss of a suicidal jungle mail service. In Suspicion (1941) one is forced to ask: Is Grant playing his usually charming self but capable of cold-blooded murder? In None But the Lonely Heart (1944) a film I loathe, Grant convincingly plays a Cockney tough with mother issues. And in Notorious, Hitchcock, who understood Grant’s image better than any other director, cast Grant as a sexually repressed government agent who recruits bad girl Ingrid Bergman, daughter of a convicted Nazi spy. Grant’s dark side is brilliantly exploited as his character initially treats Bergman with contempt but gradually falls in love with the damaged, vulnerable beauty. Notorious succeeds, not because of the plot—tedious spy stuff—but because the love story is central and brilliantly convincing.