Rio On Location: Cinelândia & Notorious

Credits: RKO - Paramount

“The main lines for the movie were already set: the female leading role, Ingrid Bergman, was to travel to South America accompanied by Cary Grant, the F.B.I. man, in order to enter the house of a Nazi group and unveil their activities.” 
(Alfred Hitchcock in the book Hitchcock/Truffau – Interviews .)

Notorious (1946), a black and white movie from the British master’s American phase, brings to Rio de Janeiro the German – turned American citizen – Alicia Heberman (Bergman). She arrives in Rio with a difficult mission ahead of her: defending American interests right after having seen her father being sentenced as a Nazi spy, at the end of World War II. To make things even harder, she falls in love with Devlin (Grant), and, though the love is mutual, he puts his job before his heart, and does nothing to stop her from marrying the bad guy, Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains).

Credits: RKO - Paramount
Sebastian, head of a Nazi group operating in Rio, had been a friend of Alicia’s father, and had always had feelings for the girl. He proposes to her, shortly after seeing her in town. Alicia accepts his proposal, against her will, taking the opportunity to follow through with her part in the mission. Considering that this is a Hitchcock story we are talking about, it is obvious that the deeper she dives into her husband’s criminal actions, the higher the stakes she puts on her own life.

A scenery fit for cinema
Photo: Fran Mateus
Alfred Hitchcock used images of the Praça Floriano (popularly known as Cinelândia) and of the beautiful buildings that surround it as a backdrop for important scenes in his story. On a tour around the area, you’ll have the opportunity to see the Biblioteca Nacional (“National Library”), the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts), the Cine Odeon (“Odeon Movie Theater”) and the Theatro Municipal (“Municipal Theater”).

Praça Floriano and its surroundings were designed between the decades of 1900 and 1920, with the intention of combining belle époque Parisian glamour with the aura of New York Brodway shows. It had just the right kind of elegance for Devlin and Alicia’s rendezvous. Their first scene in the city shows them drinking at a bar where, since 1924, the restaurant “Amarelinho” has continued serving clients.

Photo: Fran Mateus
A few scenes later, Devlin is seen arriving at the American Embassy, following his boss’s orders. With Alicia on his mind, and a bottle of champagne in his hand, he climbs the stairs of what is actually the building of the National Library. The neoclassical style of the building appears in several of the movie’s scenes – in one of them, Alicia goes there to speak to the Americans about the unexpected proposal from Sebastian. The bewildered young lady wants to know the course of action for the situation. The answer given her is a classic example of ends justifying means.

Curious about Devlin’s “work place”? What you should first be aware of is that the National Library was built between 1905 and 1910 for storing the remains of the collection from the Royal Library of Lisbon. It didn’t take long for it to become the biggest library in the country – over nine million books! – as well as one of the biggest in the world, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). If you want to enjoy your visit as much as you can, arrange to go on a guided tour of the library. As soon as you walk into the main hall, pay attention to the stunning iron staircase, with its bronze banisters, adorned with a red carpet and beautiful Corinthian columns – you will only be allowed to take pictures in this hall. The guided tour lasts about 30 minutes and has to be scheduled at the entrance of the Library. (Biblioteca Nacional – Av. Rio Branco, 219;

Once you’ve left the library, go straight to the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes (“National Museum of Fine Arts”). It was inspired by the Louvre, in Paris, and appears for just a few frames in Hitchcock’s movie – one of the walls on the side can be spotted in a short scene – but every second of it is pure art! The building was founded in 1909 as the Academy for the Fine Arts, and it became a museum in 1937. If we consider the museum from its very first collection – that of King Dom João VI of Portugal and Brazil – up until present-day collections, we’ll reach a sum of sixteen thousand works of art, making it the largest art collection in the country. Some of the highlights include works by Brazilian painters (such as Vitor Meireles, Tarsila do Amaral and Cândido Portinari) and foreign artists (like Frans Post and Jean-Baptiste Debret). Be sure to leave the museum only after having explored the hall filled with charming statues of Greek myths, such as the copies from the statues of the Winged Victory of Samothrace or the Venus de Milo, of which the originals can be found in Paris. (Museu Nacional de Belas Artes – Av. Rio Branco, 199;



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