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Rebecca
Year:
1940
Country:
USA
Genre:
Drama, Thriller, Mystery, Romance
IMDB rating:
8.2
Director:
Alfred Hitchcock
Laurence Olivier as 'Maxim' de Winter
Joan Fontaine as The Second Mrs. de Winter
George Sanders as Jack Favell
Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers
Nigel Bruce as Major Giles Lacy
Reginald Denny as Frank Crawley
C. Aubrey Smith as Colonel Julyan
Gladys Cooper as Beatrice Lacy
Florence Bates as Mrs. Edythe Van Hopper
Melville Cooper as Coroner
Leo G. Carroll as Dr. Baker
Lumsden Hare as Tabbs
Forrester Harvey as Chalcroft
Philip Winter as Robert
Storyline: A shy ladies' companion, staying in Monte Carlo with her stuffy employer, meets the wealthy Maxim de Winter. She and Max fall in love, marry and return to Manderley, his large country estate in Cornwall. Max is still troubled by the death of his first wife, Rebecca, in a boating accident the year before. The second Mrs. de Winter clashes with the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, and discovers that Rebecca still has a strange hold on everyone at Manderley.
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Reviews
Did he do it?
I was so scared when I watched this film as a kid. Mrs. Danvers is scarier than any vampire, she appears and disappears almost like a ghost, so ominous it's clear something must be terribly wrong with this household. One almost expects her to announce, "This is Hell and I am the Devil." For the young woman that moves into this house (Joan Fontaine), she sure is. A new wife of the owner, Max de Winter, she feels small and insignificant, constantly unfavorably compared to Rebecca, the deceased first wife, by Mrs. Danvers, the housekeeper. We see her roaming about the gigantic house, lost and confused. She doesn't even have a name and Rebecca does, still the lady of the manor, as ever. We never see a picture of Rebecca though, and our mind, just like the young Mrs. de Winter's, can't stop trying to imagine the greatest beauty to ever grace the earth. She was prettier than Joan Fontaine! Her husband Max, played by Laurence Olivier, doesn't help her much with his constant put-downs. Olivier was perhaps a better film actor than he had thought of himself. The film shifts from romcom, to psychological, to very real horror. Cynics would say, the natural stages of any marriage. But in the masterful hands of Alfred Hitchcock, it's art. The Selznick production - impeccable, as always. Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers will forever give me nightmares. Oh, the glory days when women were villains!
2017-06-19
All around, an excellent production.
his movie is a 10 from the very beginning. The casting is brilliant, the story is hauntingly beautiful, the performances are the best of what Hollywood once was, and the sets are of quality design and architecture. The direction is awesome, but it's Hitchcock, and I expect nothing less from his productions.

Rebecca is a glamorous, beautiful socialite who has won the hearts of all who knew her. Well, almost all. But a year after her untimely death, her grieving husband near his wit's end, has grown seemingly suicidal and aloof.

He engages his grief while on a trip to Monte Carlo, and meets the beautiful personal secretary and maid of a long-time friend, Mrs. Edythe Van Hopper. She is young, naive, and completely unprepared for the life which is awaiting her; all qualities which George Fortescu Maximillian 'Maxim' de Winter finds endearing.

I won't detail the events in this movie, as the story itself is quite haunting, with surprises around every turn.

This is a definite "must have" in any suspense / horror / Hitchcock / classics movie collection, and a mandatory must see for all fans of all movies.

It rates a 10/10 for its absolute perfection, from...

the Fiend :.
2003-12-03
the first Hitchcock masterpiece
"Rebecca" was the first Hitchcock film I ever saw, and I was mesmerized by it from the start, convinced that I had to see more of the director's work. It richly deserved the Oscar it received, but it's a real puzzle that the Academy saw fit to withhold a best director award for Hitch. Would one possibly give an award to a work by Picasso and not to Picasso himself?

"Rebecca" was the first of the director's American-made films, and it shows. It's quite different from his earlier British-made films, such as "Young and Innocent" and even "The Lady Vanishes," which somehow seem more amateurish by comparison. (I know little of the British cinema of that era, but it's difficult not to conclude that Hollywood was better at producing more sophisticated efforts.) I would even judge "Rebecca" the best of his films of the early 1940s, with the possible exception of "Shadow of a Doubt." It is true, of course, that much of this film has become cliché (remember the spoofs on the old "Carol Burnette Show"!), but it still weathers the decades very well. The acting is uniformly excellent. Olivier is the hardened Maxim de Winter, untitled lord of Manderly, trying to forget the past and given to unexpected bouts of anger and coldheartedness. Fontaine is perfect as the unnamed mousy heroine, innocent yet deeply in love, still carrying with her the aura of an awkward schoolgirl. Even character actor Nigel Bruce, best known for his role in the Sherlock Holmes films, makes an appearance and plays, in effect, Nigel Bruce!

But it is Judith Anderson's role as Mrs. Danvers that viewers are likely to remember best. Her presence is as dark and foreboding as that of the deceased Rebecca herself, and Fontaine is evidently cowed by her icy stare and unnervingly formal manner. The dynamics between the two actresses are wonderful. Who could fail to empathize with Fontaine's unenviable position as, in effect, the new employer of such an intimidating personage? On the other hand, Olivier seems quite unfearful of Anderson, despite her representing so much of the past he is trying to block out. This part of the plot (even in the book) never made much sense to me and is unconvincing.

As far as I know, this film marked Hitch's first collaboration with composer Franz Waxman, whose haunting score makes it all the more memorable. Waxman's scores are perhaps less obviously cinematic than those of the incomparable Bernard Herrmann, who would score Hitch's films from 1955 to 1966. Contrast the score for "Rebecca" to Herrmann's music for "Citizen Kane" the following year, and you'll immediately hear the difference. Waxman's is more symphonic in the central European style reflective of his own birth and upbringing. Yet it is worth recalling that scoring films was still a new art at this time, and both Waxman and Herrmann were pioneers.

Finally, one has to mention the cinematography, which is magnificent. Technically "Rebecca" might have been filmed in colour, which was newly available in 1940. ("Gone with the Wind" was filmed entirely in colour the previous year, while "The Wizzard of Oz" and "The Women" had colour scenes.) But colour would have diminished its impact. The suspense and the ominous sense of impending doom could only have been communicated through the medium of black-and-white and the deft use of light and shade which it affords.

In one respect, of course, "Rebecca" is not a typical Hitchcock film. There is no fleeing innocent trying to clear his name of a crime he did not commit. Surprisingly, there isn't even a murder, although its absence was apparently imposed by the Hayes Code and is certainly foreign to Daphne du Maurier's original novel. Some have said that there is more Selznick than Hitchcock in this film, and perhaps there's something to that. Still, if the collaborative effort between the two was not exactly amiable, it was nevertheless successful.

In short, this is the first in a string of Hitchcock masterpieces.
2001-02-20
Rebecca
Being an avid fan of Alfred Hitchcock's films, I should rank Rebecca high on my list. It was the only of Hitch's films to win an Academy Award, winning Best Picture in 1940. However, much like North by Northwest, another fan favorite, I don't care for Rebecca. Almost everything that makes a film Hitchcock-esque seems to be missing in Rebecca. The film is full of imposing camera angles and the wonderful lighting I adore in Hitchcock pictures, but his standard care with which his narrative is formed seemed completely different. Starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine, Rebecca tells the story of a recently married couple and the self-consciousness experienced by the new bride who cannot seem to escape the shadow of her new husband's deceased first wife.

'Maxim' de Winter (Laurence Olivier) a wealthy man living in a sprawling estate meets a quiet, timid young woman who he instantly falls in love with and decides to marry. The new Mrs. De Winter (Joan Fontaine) soon learns that there is a spirit hanging over her new home, that spirit belongs to the first wife of her new husband, Rebecca. Mrs. de Winter soon becomes fully aware just how much Rebecca's memory has engulfed her husband's thoughts. There are even rooms in her home that haven't been changed since Rebecca was there. Mrs. de Winter clashes with the staff in the home, as it seems everyone is longing for the first Mrs. de Winter.

Rebecca seems less like a Hitchcock film than the sole comedy he made Mr. & Mrs. Smith. The audience wasn't thrown into the suspense like in Strangers on a Train, the tone wasn't set like it was in Psycho, it was a diligent narrative that seemed more like a John Ford film than a Hitchcock picture. The cinematography was brilliant, and more than deserving of top prize that year for George Barnes. The film itself was fine, just not at all what I expected from Hitchcock's only Oscar winner.
2017-01-10
Simply the Best
I have no qualms with holding my hands up and saying that 'I am a Laurence Olivier nut'. I would quite happily shout it from the rooftops for everyone to hear. Despite my stellar age of 24 I'm proud that I own all the films of his that I can own at present and I have at least watched the ones I haven't.

Larry was the reason I chose to watch 'Rebecca' in the first place and yet once I was finished, it became apparent to me that I could have loved the film regardless of who played Max.

Never has a film captured me so intently that watching it never seizes to be a pleasure. Just hearing that first, beautiful line. The simple and yet effective way that Joan Fontaine opens what goes on to be two hours of stunning film, is nothing but superb...I could watch it all day.

For somebody who's not a huge fan of black and white films, I'd probably always recommend this as a good place to start. The storyline is one that everyone can follow and make sense of. The love story is beautiful in the way it unfolds and the characters are intriguing.

Whilst Larry does make a stunning Maxim - brash, haughty, elegant, and yet caring underneath; it's really Joan Fontaine's character of Mrs Du Winter, who is truly deserving of the praise. Utterly and truly believable as a timid, awkward and shy young woman in love, she breaks out at the end to show the strength all woman have lurking underneath, (props must be given to Mr Hitchcock for playing on Ms Fontaines insecurities through filming as well)

'Rebecca' is a film that will forever be relevant in time, and I know that I will cherish this movie for the rest of my life.
2012-10-08
special
for me - the film of Judith Anderson. her performance defines the atmosphere and the rhythm and the cold air of a remarkable adaptation. in same measure, she seems be the perfect axis for bright the performances of Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontain. because it is more than a good film or high level adaptation. it is a pure Hitchcock, impressive for each detail and nuance, fascinating for the tension and for the strange evolution of story, against the obvious remark than it is a film of his actors.because it has a not small dose of magic in each scene. because it reminds old dark fairy tales and the emotion is the same front to the brothers Grimm stories. that does it a masterpiece.
2016-06-24
The Hidden
I stick by my other Hitchcock comments, comments that have produced lots of negative responses.

Hitchcock was a terrific craftsman who after many, many tries made two really superb movies. Movies that can be life-altering and changed the face of cinema. This is not one of them.

Those two cast a light of genius on his other work that is undeserved. This film is often cited as a great example of how coherently he was able to weave all his skills. I agree, but only two are remarkable: Fontaine's performance in the first half where she shrinks in her new situation.

And the use of the house. But the story is so dull and plodding it cripples the pleasure of a craftsmanlike film.

The house is similar to many in other films. But already with this movie, Hitchcock has a camera that is curious. Hard to recognize how unusual that is today because such a stance is so common now, but the idea of having a camera come from non-human perspectives but with human behavior was unique to him.

And he uses the building well. We get a hint of this in the opening sequence. There is a collection of absolutely dreadful shots of fog, and an equally dreadful narration by Fontaine, but then we are taken through the gates up the drive. In an ordinary film of the era, the gates would open or the camera would go through the space between the two halves.

But this camera goes through a "solid" part of upper right gate. That effect was costly and we get the message early that this is about space. The pounding on the fog metaphor is blunter report of the same message.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
2005-09-02
Haunting atmospheric treasure SPOILER ALERT
It seems almost superfluous to add to the many laudatory comments this movie has received on this site, but I feel a need to lay some tribute at the altar of this wonderful piece of classic cinema.

If you haven't seen the movie, there may be a couple of SPOILERS in this review, but hopefully also some new insights in compensation.

As many have noted, the cast is uniformly excellent: the annoying social snob Edith Van Hopper(Florence Bates), Gladys Cooper's kind, sisterly Beatrice, the eerie Mrs. Danvers of Judith Anderson, Olivier's distracted yet explosive Maxim, George Sanders' snide, oily Favell and especially the oft-times underrated second (but unnamed) Mrs. DeWinter of Joan Fontaine.

Although not entirely faithful to the Daphne Du Maurier novel, the screen adaptation preserves the haunting ambiance of Du Maurier's work. Rebecca, though never seen, is clearly the central character, but we learn about her all through indirection in the dialogue of the other characters. We are allowed to create her piece by piece in our own minds, which just adds to the engrossing, I-can't-stop-watching, thrust of the movie.

The character who actually tells us the most about the real Rebecca is Mrs. Danvers. The erotic attachment of this character to Rebecca is subtle, yet unmistakable. The wonderful scene in which Judith Anderson shows Rebecca's bedroom to Joan Fontaine is breathtaking in its suggestiveness. The West Wing, 'the only room that looks down across the lawn to the sea' has become Mrs. Danvers' private temple to Rebecca. Her loving preservation of Rebecca's possessions, her sensual handling of Rebecca's underclothes, of her diaphanous negligee, of her glamorous furs and then Anderson's almost hypnotic miming of brushing Rebecca's hair as Fontaine sits at Rebecca's dressing table all make this scene an unforgettable sequence. Anderson's acting is absolutely miraculous. She achieves her character with hardly ever a change in her affect, except where a very slight contrasting up tick in energy transforms her in the West Wing scene and in the scene where she coolly suggests that Fontaine leave-by means of a precipitous drop out of the window onto the rocks. It is a performance which I doubt could ever be duplicated.

As we later learn of Rebecca's moral character, it also seems that Mrs. Danvers was as much in love with Rebecca's corruption as she was with the woman herself. 'Danny' in a way becomes the embodiment of Rebecca's cold malevolence which still lingers in the mansion.

Joan Fontaine could hardly have been better. She, of all the characters, evolves through the movie. She moves in a seamless line from the pitiful, beleaguered companion of Mrs. Van Hopper to her drowned rat arrival at Manderley to the self-assured and supportive wife Maxim wanted and needed. What I found fascinating about this transformation is the imaginative skill of the costume designer. At the beginning, Fontaine's shy little character is dressed like she made terrible selections at a Macy's basement sale. Later as she tries to fill the role of the 'great lady' she believed Rebecca to have been, her clothes always appear too big and totally out of character. Note the black evening dress with the absurdly large flowers across the front and especially the overwhelmingly outsized Garden Party gown she tries to wear to the costume ball. After she learns the truth about Rebecca from Maxim, discovering that he actually loves her as much as he hated Rebecca, Fontaine's costumes become trim, conservative and tasteful, befitting the genuine, grown-up woman she has become.

Fittingly, the final scene belongs to Anderson-the frustrated woman robbed of her goddess--who brings the movie to a thundering operatic finish.

Although Selznick and Hitchcock repeatedly clashed over this move, it remains a deathless tribute to both men. This movie never loses its fascination and bears repeated watching, each time weaving its wonderful spell anew. It is a must-see, again and again, classic.
2004-09-02
Rebecca, Larger-than-Life, Larger-than-Death...
"Last night, I dream I went to Manderley again."

This is the narration, murmured by Joan Fontaine's soft voice and inviting us for a posthumous tour over the English countryside, to the local manor that turned into a ghostly no man's house, surrounded by dark and brooding trees enveloping the place with an aura of sacred danger like some monster's claws over a precious catch. What is with that Manderley that inspired that dream anyway?

The answer is of course in the title, it's all about "Rebecca". In fact, there's not a single element that belongs to the film or to the original novel written by Daphne du Maurier and that can be defined with the economy of that name-calling. Manderley was the place Rebecca lived. Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier) is Rebecca's widow. Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson) is her former governess. And Joan Fontaine suffers from the most ungrateful status as she's not even given a first name, she's only known as the "second Mrs. De Winter" she's not even Rebecca's rival because it's a lost fight, mentioning her in the same breath than Rebecca is like pronouncing the name of God in vain.

So, the whole movie is overshadowed by Rebecca's aura, it's like the black-and-white photography, drawn through powerful contrasts, was just some decoy containing the shadowy presence of Rebecca, likely to commit an intrusion at any time, by means of a memory, an evocation, a revelation or a confession. There's a moment where Fontaine asks Maxim's best friend (Reginald Denny) about Rebecca, all he can say is that she was the most beautiful creature he ever saw. It takes some superhuman talent to convince us that Fontaine's not as beautiful as Rebecca, however she looked. As the shy, hapless and desperate-to-please Mrs. De Winters, Fontaine is vital to the credibility of the story because through her behavior, she's the plain that gives prominence to the mountain.

And 'plain' is the world, it is the mark of a very subtle talent to take distance from the usual strong-minded, glamorous and independent heroines played by the likes of Bette Davis and Katherine Hepburn and create such a fragile, delicate and mild-mannered woman, begging for friendship rather than love, in awe for her husband and in total fear from Mrs. Danvers, the ominous governess who never misses an opportunity to remind what kind of a woman Rebecca was. It's a real psychological torture-game operating on Mrs. De Winter's head and frail shoulders and she hardly finds comfort in Maxim, who seems to be constantly preoccupied and absent. Olivier seems rather uncomfortable in the role, but while the story unfolds, we slowly understand the reason of his emotional nonchalance and the no-less odd attraction to his new wife. Of course, even the answers belong to Rebecca.

Daphne du Maurier was a woman who enjoyed isolation, not just for work but also as a way to contemplate her freedom and question her identity. This distance from the world predisposed her for fascination, for the ability, as a 'first person' to be haunted by someone, and it often happened to be a woman, or her memory, sometimes even a vague idea was enough. Through her fertile imagination and ambiguous sexuality, she managed to translate this power into a splendid Gothic-tale whose risqué subjects forced Hitchcock to make a few changes. But he faithfully, albeit at times not too subtly, respected the original material and, his camera-work conveyed the ghostly presence of Rebecca. Even Danvers who seemed to have had a privileged relationship (of platonic nature in the film) seems to glide over the place, as if she was possessed by the soul of her deceased mistress.

Hitchcock was a craftsman and his camera loved the faces of Anderson and Fontaine, the cinematography also accentuates the feeling of an impending danger, and the acting was enriched by the presence of a youngish George Sanders and Leo G. Carroll who would also reveal one thing or two about good old Rebecca. It was Hitchcock's first Hollywood movie and needless to say the trial was conclusive. The film won the Oscar for Best Picture, over classics like "The Grapes of Wrath" and "The Great Dictator", without winning any of the major awards in the directing, acting and writing department, but I guess that's what can be said about "Rebecca", it is a great picture with the looks, the mystery, the acting and everything one could ask for.

I only wish it didn't overplay the melodramatic violins and a succession of twists and revelation at the end satisfy the mind, but don't fool us either as Olivier didn't play the kind of roles that deserved a happy ending by Hitch' standards. The film redeems itself with some last-minute thrills but Hitchcock would make more subtle films. Still, "Rebecca" holds up well today because there's that uniqueness in the heroine and this extraordinary presence, the fascination over the fact that the most fascinating character is actually absent. The American Film Institute recognized Mrs. Danvers as the thirty-first villain of all time, but I wonder if Rebecca on her own way was the real antagonist and would have deserved that title a little more. Indeed, we never see her, but we can feel her actions, just like the Man in "Bambi" who also nominated in the same list, an invisible but an undeniably evil presence.

Now, does Rebecca win or lose as an antagonist? Well, from the opening line, the one about that dream, one can guess that you can never totally get rid of Rebecca, and maybe for that reason, despite the film's flaws and that it's never mentioned at along with "Vertigo", "Psycho", "North by Northwest" or "Rear Window" as Hitch' best, we can never totally ignore "Rebecca".
2017-03-02
Masterclass in mystery
REBECCA, an enthralling adaptation of the Daphne Du Maurier novel, is probably the closest that Hitchcock got in his career to making a traditional 'haunted house' film. Certainly his adaptation of the classic book is laden with Gothic dread, as a newly-wed bride moves into the ancestral home of her husband and discovers that the spirit of his dead wife is very much alive and out to bring her down.

REBECCA is a highly effective non-supernatural horror/mystery flick, with expert direction (of course) and a mature approach to the storyline. It may be a little slow for modern tastes, but this gives the director the chance to let the audience experience the nuances and delightful atmosphere of the storyline.

Joan Fontaine is fantastic as the new Mrs. de Winter in one of those 'being driven out of her mind' type roles. Laurence Olivier is more than effective in his ambiguous part. The supporting parts are particularly well judged, with a well-placed cameo for Leo G. Carroll, another humorous bumbling part for Nigel Bruce, and George Sanders appearing as a delightful cad. The latter part of the film, where the mystery begins to be cleared up, is particularly well-handled, leading to a gripping climax. As for Judith Anderson as the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers...well, she'll go down in the pantheon of Hitchcock villains as one of his creepiest and most ruthless!
2015-06-15
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