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Rebecca [1940 film] by Alfred Hitchcock

Rebecca [1940 film]

by Alfred Hitchcock (Director), Joan Harrison (Screenwriter), Robert E. Sherwood (Screenwriter)

Other authors: Judith Anderson (Actor), Gladys Cooper (Actor), Charles Dance (Actor), Reginald Denny (Actor), Daphne Du Maurier (Original novel)5 more, Joan Fontaine (Actor), Laurence Olivier (Actor), George Sanders (Actor), David O. Selznick (Producer), Franz Waxman (Composer)

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Showing 5 of 5
A self-conscious bride is tormented by the memory of her husband's dead first wife. (From IMDb) ( )
  DrLed | Nov 4, 2017 |
Rebecca (1940)

Laurence Olivier – Maxim de Winter
Joan Fontaine – Mrs. de Winter
Judith Anderson – Mrs. Danvers
George Sanders – Jack Favell
Gladys Cooper – Beatrice Lacy
Nigel Bruce – Major Giles Lacy
Reginald Denny – Frank Crawley
Florence Bates – Mrs. Van Hopper

Screenplay: Robert E. Sherwood and Joan Harrison, based on the novel by Daphne Du Maurier.
Director: Alfred Hitchcock.

Black and White. 130 min.


What a masterful piece of work! It is hard to believe this, but at the time of making the principal authors of this movie’s timelessness were still relatively young and far less famous than they became later.

Laurence Olivier was not yet 33 and with little screen experience. But this included Heathcliff in William Wyler’s Wuthering Heights (1939), Larry’s self-confessed watershed as a screen actor.[1] He invested Maxim with the same quiet intensity. The great monologue in the beach hut is a darn fine piece of acting. The late Joan Fontaine, who died just a few years ago at the age of 96[2], was only 22 at the time of shooting. She would go on to have a distinguished career, but she will always be remembered as the pretty, timid and confused, but also smart and brave, second Mrs de Winter. Hitch himself was just 41 years old and a long way from his string of classics in the 1950s. But he was already a master of those deep shadows, so much more effective in black-and-white, which really amount to a character of their own. In a way, however, the biggest star in this movie is Judith Anderson, who looked younger than she was (42). Mrs Danvers, much like Rebecca herself, manipulates the action with a sort of supernatural remote control. She glides like a ghost, stares hypnotically, and talks in deliberate monotone. In short, she can scare you stiff. Imagine how Judith must have looked, and sounded, a few years earlier when she played Lady Macbeth in the Old Vic against Olivier’s brooding Scottish general.[3]

The supporting cast is uniformly flawless, though a slimy George Sanders and a touch of “old school” class from Gladys Cooper[4] stand out. Even Franz Waxman’s score has a dark edge that seems to complement the prying camera. Hitch was also lucky to have cinematographer George Barnes (who got an Oscar, mind you). I suppose the ominous Gothic feeling comes from him. Last but actually first, the screenplay is beautifully written. Whether or not it’s a good adaption, I don’t know. But it’s an excellent raw material for the cast, and this is what matters. There is even some light relief in the beginning. You have to love the Riviera comedy with the brash Mrs Van Hopper: “Tennis lessons, my foot!”

So, did you dream last night you went to Manderley again? You can do so tonight, too. Just play this movie, or film if you like, and enjoy the ride. Alternatively, you can read the novel. Now that’s something I should do.

[1] See On Acting [1986], Sceptre, 1987, pp. 162-4, for an entertaining account of the effect “wily old Wyler” had on Olivier. “If any film actor is having trouble with his career”, Larry wrote in his chatty old age, “can’t master the medium and, anyway, wonders whether it’s worth it, let him pray to meet a man like William Wyler.”
[2] Joan’s older sister, Olivia de Havilland, no less, is 101 at the time of writing!
[3] Judith Anderson’s Lady Macbeth was preserved for posterity twice on video, first in a drab black-and-white live television (1954) and then in a slightly more expensive colour production (1960), unfortunately both times with the dull Maurice Evans as the General. I must say Dame Judith, though very good, is disappointingly un-scary on both occasions.
[4] Gladys Cooper (1888–1971) had an impressive career on stage and screen that spanned nearly seven decades (1905–72). She was greatly admired by Somerset Maugham and had notable success in some of his plays. She created the character of Leslie Crosbie in The Letter (1927) which run for 338 performances in the Playhouse. She played both Stella (1929, British premiere, 209 performances) and Mrs Tabret (1966) in The Sacred Flame (1928). Though some critics were dissatisfied with her Victoria in the British premiere of Home and Beauty (1919), the play run for 235 performances. Maugham wrote an introduction to Without Veils: The Intimate Biography of Gladys Cooper (1953) by Sewell Stokes in which he praised Gladys for her hard-working professionalism. ( )
1 vote Waldstein | Aug 29, 2017 |
A newlywed's household appears to be obsessed with her husband's dead wife.

It might have been great, but there are a few major faults. One is how frustrating it is to continually see the protagonist not doing anything about her problems. The bit that almost ruined the movie for me is the costume ball scene; it's extremely suspenseful, but for all the wrong reasons (you know exactly what's going to happen, it's horrible and awkward and you don't want it to happen, and you have to sit there just waiting for it...).

Concept: B
Story: B
Characters: D
Dialog: A
Pacing: B
Cinematography: A
Special effects/design: A
Acting: A
Music: B

Enjoyment: B

GPA: 3.2/4 ( )
  comfypants | Feb 13, 2016 |
The Du Maurier novel this is based on is a favorite--and I think is even better than the film, but I don't expect this particular adaptation to ever be matched. Joan Fontaine as the new Mrs de Winter, Laurence Oliver as her husband, Judith Anderson as Mrs Danvers and directed by Alfred Hitchcock. What more needs to be said? A classic. ( )
  LisaMaria_C | Sep 18, 2013 |
The second best romanic suspense film ever made. ( )
  Coach_of_Alva | May 3, 2011 |
Showing 5 of 5
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» Add other authors (30 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hitchcock, AlfredDirectorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Harrison, JoanScreenwritermain authorall editionsconfirmed
Sherwood, Robert E.Screenwritermain authorall editionsconfirmed
Anderson, JudithActorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cooper, GladysActorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dance, CharlesActorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Denny, ReginaldActorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Du Maurier, DaphneOriginal novelsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fontaine, JoanActorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Olivier, LaurenceActorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sanders, GeorgeActorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Selznick, David O.Producersecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Waxman, FranzComposersecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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A young bride is brought by her new husband to his manor house in England. There she finds that the memory of her husband's first wife haunts her, and she tries to discover the secret of that mysterious woman's death.

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