A good movie and interesting plot but the characters are a little bit exaggerated and the outcome is quite expectable.
A poor "lady's companion", so self-effacing that we are never given her name (Joan Fontaine), suddenly finds her life changed when a moody widower, Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier), proposes to marry her and take her to his splendid estate of Manderley. It seems like a fairy-tale turned true, but it is not. On reaching Manderley, the new Mrs. de Winter (still unnamed) finds herself out of place, as Maxim seems to drift away and the hostile housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson) repeatedly tells her that she will never live up to the standard set by Maxim's first wife Rebecca. What was Rebecca really like? The perfect English lady, or a hypocrite who dazzled the people around her? Where do Maxim's affections really lie? The questions not only create a great movie mystery, but a portrait of an unequal marriage between an arrogant aristocrat and a neurotically dependent young wife.
Absolutely perfect Gothic Thriller that has many imitators but few of equal quality. With "Rebecca" about to hit the Broadway stage (as a musical!), I thought it was time to write my review of perhaps my favorite Hitchcock film. I recall the first time I saw this on TV almost 30 years ago on the late show, I had set my VCR to tape it, but woke up to start watching a bit of it, and stayed up all night to watch it all. That's how good a film it is. Daphne Du Maurier's tale of a shy companion who shocks her employer by winning the most desired wealthy widow in England is gripping, suspenseful, and filled with innuendo. Joan Fontaine never gave a more lovely performance as the awkward bride who leaves her hysterically selfish employer (Florence Bates) to marry the brooding Maxim De Winter (Laurence Olivier) and finds animosity from the darkly dressed Mrs. Danver (Judith Anderson) who resents her intrusion because of her devotion to Maxim's late wife, Rebecca. The mystery of how Rebecca died and what kind of woman she really was is explored, and with the intrusion of scoundrel George Sanders and some well-meaning advice from Maxim's toothy sister (Gladys Cooper), the new Mrs. De Winter (her first name is never revealed) finds out more than she bargained for. If you thought Olivier's Heathcliff in "Wuthering Heights" was dark and somewhat depressing, wait until you meet his more civilized Maxim. Joan Fontaine's bride is as far from Merle Oberon's "wild and sweet" Cathy as you can find, but as far as Gothic tales of brooding men and their lost souls go, the two movies make a perfect double feature. Samuel Goldwyn and David Selznick were Hollywood's most famous independent producers, so sometimes their careers are compared. They share many of the same players, and in the case of these two films, the same photographer (Gregg Toland). Fontaine and Olivier work well on screen together, even though they apparently did not share a close working relationship. It is, however, the supporting players who are the shining stars. Anderson's Mrs. Danvers is a role we've already seen on screen (usually played by Gale Sondergaard), but being Anderson's second film (and first in 7 years), there was a lot of curiosity surrounding her considering her reputation as one of Broadway's hottest dramatic actresses. Mrs. Danvers isn't a one dimensional evil housekeeper; You understand her affection for the late Rebecca from the very beginning, and in every movement Anderson makes, you cannot take your eyes off of her. I can't praise her highly enough. Sanders' suave villain (who playfully calls Mrs. Danvers "Danny") is extremely likable and almost equal in stealing away the attention of the leads. Gladys Cooper and Nigel Bruce add on a delightful "pip pip" quality to their eccentric characters, while in her brief time on screen, Florence Bates is hysterically funny, putting out a cigarette in her cold cream, and coolly telling Fontaine how she can never truly be a "great lady". Every moment here is a classic movie memory, from the opening narration to Fontaine's first vision of De Winter, and then, the rainy ride down to where Fontaine sees Mandalay for the first time. The light first quarter darkens the moment we see Anderson pop into view as Mrs. Danvers. A cold pause, then "How Do You Do" reveals the tension, and from there, everything is set. Anderson explodes in two scenes-the first where she finds the hiding Fontaine in Rebecca's old room, and later, when Fontaine confronts Anderson after discovering her treachery. The film sags just a bit with the discovery of a body that might be Rebecca's, but that is minor. C. Aubrey Smith is memorable in his small role as Maxim's attorney. The final shot will live on in your memory, just as Mandalay lived on in the second Mrs. De Winter's. While "Rebecca" won Best Film at that year's Academy Awards, many film historians prefer the message drama "The Grapes of Wrath" as the better film. I find the two rank very close, and also quibble over between the choice of Jane Darwell for Supporting Actress over Anderson's Mrs. Danvers. A big mistake was not nominating Sanders. A BBC version years later is also very good, a bit more faithful to the novel, and benefits from Diana Rigg as a more approachable Mrs. Danvers and a very diva-ish performance by Faye Dunaway in the Florence Bates role.
Do you think the dead come back and watch the living? Rebecca is directed by Alfred Hitchcock and adapted to screen play from the Daphne du Maurier novel of the same name. It stars Laurence Olvier, Joan Fontaine and Judith Anderson. Cinematography is by George Barnes and music scored by Franz Waxman. After meeting and marrying 'Maxim' de Winter (Olivier), the Second Mrs. de Winter (Fontaine), finds life at his English estate, Manderley, far from comfortable because the servants and the house serve to remind her of the first Mrs. de Winter, whose death remains a source of mystery. What did happen to the first lady of the house? Can this newly married couple survive the oppressive cloud that looms large over the mansion? A Gothic emotional near masterpiece, Alfred Hitchcock's first American film may seem a bit too serviceable at times, something he was also aware of himself, but the production values are high and the story is played out supremely well. Within the story we can find Hitchcock's now famous trait of mistrusting Women, but in the main it stays the tragic tale of one young woman living in the ominous shadow of the previous Mrs. De Winter. Mood is often set as foreboding, with the director understanding the psychological pangs of the source material once the action switches to the de Winter home of Manderley. It arguably is a touch too long, and the restraint of Hitchcock, down to producer David O. Selznick overseeing things, stops it being a bit more unnerving than it should be. For Manderley the mansion here is one of the finest put on the screen, this is because Hitchcock and brilliant cinematographer George Barnes manage to make it bold & beautiful one minute, and then the next scene it comes off as a monolithic nightmare. It's wonderful case of the surroundings playing the extra character for maximum effect. Laurence Olivier is impressive, even if we would learn later on that this is the sort of performance he could do in his sleep. The supporting cast do great work as well, especially as regards the cold and terrifying turn from Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers. However, to me this will always be Joan Fontaine's show, she nails it perfectly, the new Mrs. De Winter wants to do right but can't seem to so for doing wrong, she infuriates at times, yet the next minute you just want to hold her, for she's so vulnerable, but beautifully so, it's a brilliant performance in a brilliant film. The ending is a switheroo from the novel, and it almost derails the success the film has achieved up to that point. And looking at it now it's hard not to curse the Production Code for enforcing a big change to what was revealed in du Maurier's wonderful novel. But the film has survived the "appeasing" ending to stand the test of time for all the ages. It won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and Barnes also won for Best Black & White Cinematography, it was nominated for a further nine awards, including Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. No nomination for Waxman, sadly, but his score is worthy of a mention for the evocative strains that sit nicely with the tone of the story. Rebecca, a hauntingly beautiful picture that's acted and produced with consummate skill. 9.5/10
We saw this quite recently on the big screen at Somerset House in London. One of those outdoor screenings - and the fact that it poured with rain on hundreds of us didn't matter one jot (though the hampers got quite sodden). Olivier and the eerily stupendous Judith Anderson provide the ultimate in sophisticated horror partnerships and make this by far my favourite Hitchcock film. Joan Fontaine is an expert at conveying the naive, adoring vulnerability of the second "Mrs. de Winter", combatting a foe she cannot hope to defeat and George Sanders is almost as sinister as he makes up the quartet in this bleak, frightening and totally enthralling two hours of cinema.
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