Alfred Hitchcock Used Some Hollywood Magic To Hide Ingrid Bergman's Height In Notorious

Ingrid Bergman might be one of the most beloved old Hollywood actors of all time, but she faced a fair amount of pushback in the pursuit of her craft. Even before Bergman was a proper Hollywood star, her stark — but still stunning — look made it difficult for anyone to see her as a leading lady. David O. Selznick, the film studio exec behind some of Bergman's first American pictures, had major reservations about the actress. Upon Bergman's introduction to Selznick, the producer was convinced that the actress "was too tall, her name sounded too German, and her eyebrows were too thick" to make it on the silver screen.

Of course, Bergman had more than enough talent to make up for the inconvenience her height posed — and Hollywood had no qualms with using a little trickery to mask her height for her shorter male co-stars. Humphrey Bogart had to stand in specially made platform shoes and sit on top of cushions when acting opposite Bergman in "Casablanca." And when Bergman reunited with another "Casablanca" co-star, Claude Rains, in Alfred Hitchcock's "Notorious," the director had to get similarly creative.

A short king and his tall queen

Hitchcock thoroughly recounted the process of making "Notorious" with François Truffaut in 1962. During that interview, the topic eventually turned to the pairing of Bergman and Rains, which Truffaut always found fascinating — at the very least because of their height difference. For the record, Rains was 5'7", and Bergman herself two inches taller at 5'9." Truffaut seemed to love the idea of a "small man in love with a taller woman." It only added to the sympathetic pull of Rains' character, who was perfectly cast as the jilted (but still evil) lover.

Hitchcock agreed that the actors made a great pair, but admitted that Bergman's height could especially noticeable sometimes. In closer shots, "the difference between them was so marked that if I wanted them both in a frame, I had to stand Claude Rains on a box," the director told Truffaut. Yet another trickier scene required some decidedly out-of-the-box movie magic:

"On one occasion we wanted to show them both coming from a dis­tance, with the camera panning from him to Bergman. Well, we couldn't have any boxes out there on the floor, so what I did was to have a plank of wood gradually rising as he walked to­ward the camera."

It's nice that Hitchcock never tried to make Rains too much taller than Bergman. Truffaut was valid in drawing attention to their height difference: Even by today's standards, a shorter male lead can be hard to find. So is a taller woman. Things haven't changed much since Bergman's day — Hollywood is still finding workarounds for their vertically-dissonant male-female pairings. But perhaps, one day, masking those differences won't be such a necessity anymore. More short kings with tall queens, please!