Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, Judith Anderson.
time: 126 mins..
Oscar for Best Picture of 1940 (and Best Cinematography, too)
- not a bad American debut for British director Alfred Hitchcock.
Rebecca has stood the test of time, full of atmosphere and
imaginative touches that still make it compelling today.
was a "pure" movie maker - the pictures and action
told everything, dialogue was the secondary consideration.
When Gone With The Wind producer David O. Selznick saw the
early British films of Hitchcock (The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes)
he recognized a special talent Hollywood could use.
brought Hitchcock to the U.S. in 1939 to make a movie about
the Titanic disaster, but instead the two collaborated on
Daphne Du Maurier's novel Rebecca.
opening of the movie sets the tone for what is essentially
a ghost story. Fog swirls around the ruins of a once-great
English country house in the 1930s as a woman speaks: Last
night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again.
voice belongs to the second Mrs. Max de Winter (Joan Fontaine),
who traces how she came to be married to Max (Laurence Olivier)
and what happened to the house called Manderley.
story proper begins in the south of France some years earlier
as a young woman (Fontaine) sees Max on the edge of a cliff
and fears he might fall. When she calls out, he is obviously
annoyed, but reassures her he is alright and sends her away.
pair later meet again in the elegant hotel where Fontaine
(her character has no name!) is a paid travelling companion
and assistant to Mrs Van Hopper (Florence Bates), a pompous
social climber who thinks she has a chance of snaring de Winter,
whose wife recently died. However, de Winter has his eyes
on the companion, a young naive girl years younger than he.
tentative romance begins while Mrs. Van Hopper is in bed nursing
a slight illness and to everyone's astonishment, de Winter
and the girl marry.
when de Winter gets his new wife back to Manderley that the
plot thickens, as they say. The essence of the first Mrs.
de Winter - the Rebecca of the title - haunts the place. Her
room, her letters, her desk are just as they were the day
she died, lovingly preserved by the scary housekeeper Mrs.
Danvers (Judith Anderson) - who obviously dislikes the second
is superb as the young wife who tries to banish the brooding
atmosphere of the house and the growing feeling that Max is
still in love with Rebecca. The film`s turning point never
fails to send shivers down my spine!
staged, Rebecca is full of suspense and eerie touches - for
example, Rebecca`s dog faithfully waiting outside her bedroom
cast is terrific - Anderson especially so as the manipulative,
obsessed Mrs Danvers.
Criterion Collection has done wonders with the film, giving
it a superb digital restoration and packing a two-disc edition
with great extra features on the making of the movie, screen
tests and more.