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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
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
A Wonderful Film
This is one of my favorite movies of all time. Definitely my favorite classic. There are some that come close, such as Citizen Kane, Spellbound, and Psycho, but none quite compare to this amazing movie.

The first thing that you notice is the outstanding cinematography. You have to remember that this movie was made in 1940, when they didn't have the technology we have now. But that first shot of the water beating up against the rocks grabs you and for one split second you wonder if maybe this isn't part of the movie but rather something filmed just recently. But then you see the familiar face of Laurence Olivier, reminding you that this was made 60 years ago, a fact that forever amazes me. The only oscar it won besides Best Picture was well deserved.

Another thing that makes it such a wonderful film is the acting. I have debated on whether Laurence Olivier's character, the tortured Maxim de Winter, is the pitiable character or if his second wife played by Joan Fontaine is really the one to feel sorry for. Every time I watch it I see it from a different point of view. Joan Fontaine is excellent. Laurence Olivier is wonderful, but that's no surprise. The only thing that bugs me is that it seems in every movie he's in (well, at least, everything I've seen him in), he always plays the same type of character. But he's extremely good at it, so I suppose it doesn't matter.

But although Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier are wonderful, Judith Anderson steals the show! The first time I watched the movie, I was immediately grabbed by her stunning performance as the sinister Mrs. Danvers. You hardly notice the other characters when she's in the scene. She acted the part so well that it's strange to imagine that she was any different in real life.

With a wonderful storyline, and a very surprising ending, Rebecca well deserves the title as the only of Hitchcock's films to win the oscar for Best Picture. Although it may not be the most famous of all his films, it is without a doubt the greatest
2000-10-11
One of Alfred Hitchcock's Timeless Classics
One of the finest psychological thrillers of its or any other time, Rebecca is an expertly crafted Gothic tale by Alfred Hitchcock that tells the story of a woman who's constantly haunted by the presence & reputation of her husband's first wife, Rebecca, when she moves to his large country estate and finds herself constantly in clash with the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, who was extremely fond of Rebecca.

Engaging from its opening moments, the film takes the road of romance in its first act but soon turns into an extremely gripping suspense that even managed to touch the genre of horror with its carefully structured narration. Brilliantly directed by Hitchcock who maintains a remarkable control over each frame from start to finish, Rebecca is also aided by its tight screenplay, timeless cinematography, edgy editing & terrific performances from its entire cast.

The best part about this tale is the effortless manner in which it is able to immerse the viewers into its tense atmosphere of claustrophobia & isolation with all the mysteries surrounding a dead woman and benefits greatly from strong performances by Joan Fontaine, Laurence Olivier & especially Judith Anderson, who plays Mrs. Danvers with remarkable creepiness & ends up impressing the most.

On an overall scale, Rebecca is a significant example of film-noir and is one of Hitchcock's finest works behind the camera. The technical aspects are carried out amazingly well, the performances leave nothing to complain about and the creepy ambiance it is able to sustain throughout its runtime is something most thrillers don't even manage to come close to. An enduring classic that will probably never age, Rebecca comes highly recommended.
2013-10-05
Very slow to engage one's interest, until the last part
For me, this romantic drama didn't get very interesting until the last 40min. of a 2hr.,10min. film. However, I can say the same thing about "Casablanca", for example. This section begins with the startling revelation by Maxim de Winter(Laurence Olivier), that he detested, rather than cherished, his deceased wife: Rebecca. His young replacement wife('no name')(Joan Fontaine) had been in aw of Rebecca, as everyone praised her whit, energy, and skill as the mistress of an English manor. It's very odd that Maxim was so late telling his new wife that he hated his former wife, for several reasons. He said she was incapable of real love. She continued with her promiscuous lifestyle after they were married, although she managed to mostly hide this. She taunted him with details of her affairs and the suggestion that she was pregnant by another man. 'No name' was elated that Maxim, apparently in contrast to everyone else she had met at Manderley, despised his former wife, giving her an opening to outshine Rebecca, at least in Maxim's mind.(Incidentally, it's Manderley, not Mandalay, as a few reviewers wrote. Mandalay is a city in Myanmar(Burma)). Even a year after her death, there were still many physical reminders of Rebecca in the manor, often labeled with 'R'. Her room remained as it was when she died. Probably, this was more the policy of the head servant: Mrs. Danvers((Judith Anderson) than of Maxim. She had an extraordinary fondness for Rebecca, and often reminded 'no name' of her inferiority. At one point, Mrs. Danvers asks 'no name' why she doesn't leave, since Maxim doesn't love her. She opens the window, and suggests 'no name' may want to jump out. It's curious why 'no name' didn't fire her at this point?! It demonstrates how much Mrs. Danvers hated either 'no name' or Maxim or both. Also, during the burning of Manderley, Mrs. Danvers told 'no name' that she started the fire because she couldn't stand to see them as a happy couple in Manderley. Again, it's unclear whether her anger is directed at just one of them or both. Clearly, Rebecca hated Maxim, as he hated her, and tried to goad him into killing her, when she wanted to die because of her advanced uterine cancer. That way, presumably, she could ruin Maxim while accomplishing her goal of dying quickly. Did Rebecca and Mrs. Danvers have a common reason for hating Maxim? If so what was it? Could it be that they both hated men? Could they have had a lesbian relationship? The Production Code wouldn't allow clear evidence for a positive answer. Note that in burning the Manderley, Mrs. Danvers destroys all the remaining physical reminders of Rebecca, as well as herself. This was a suicidal act as well as an act against the de Winters.

I see practical problems with the whole business of Maxim staging an accidental drowning of Rebecca to cover up her dying from a fall on her head during their tussle. First, why did he go to this trouble? He could have reported the truth that her death was accidental. He didn't think anyone would believe him, but I don't see why not. Rebecca's body was said to be found inside the cabin of the scuttled boat. But this was a year after she disappeared and nearly as long since he had supposedly identified her body some distance from the Manderley. Her body should have completely decomposed by then. Small Flesh-eating animals could get through the holes opened in the boat bottom to sink it. Thus, identification would probably have to be through dental records. The question of how those boat bottom valves got open is also a sticky point. She could have opened them, but why go to the trouble of drowning herself that way. Also, a letter from her on that fateful day gave no hint that she felt suicidal. However, her recent report from her doctor of an advanced cancer gave a possible motive for suicide.

Why is Joan Fontaine's character nameless other than the 2nd Mrs. de Winter? She probably has more screen time than anyone else. I can only guess, because compared to Rebecca, she was looked upon as a nobody.

See it in B&W at YouTube.
2017-08-16
Favourite book, Favourite movie
I've read this book about 16 years ago and wasn't aware of the movie. Was yearning to watch a good thriller on the book, because it is one of the most spine chilling stories of those times. The fact that this thriller is made by Alfred Hitchcock has made all the difference. Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine are absolutely credible as Mr and Mrs De Winter, and Judith Anderson is terrifying as Mrs Danvers. If you've read the book, you know the twist at the end. But if you haven't yet, the movie is a treat for you. Every frame is delectable and worthy. The suspense unfolds gradually and at the beginning you wouldn't even guess what's in store for you. There isn't much of outdoors explored, but the indoor set is splendidly built as the castle of Manderlay.
2015-09-01
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
My favorite Hitch
SPOILERS ABOUND!!!!

`Last night I dreamt I was at Manderly again.' As with Daphne DuMaurier's novel, so begins Alfred Hitchcock's classic film adaptation, and the only one of his films to be awarded an Academy Award for Best Picture. It should also be noted that the film also won an Oscar for Best Cinematography, Black and White. Hitchcock, Fontaine, Olivier, and Anderson were also nominated in their respective categories.

Rebecca was Alfred Hitchcock's first American movie, and much has been written about the interference by David O. Selznick with its production. That is not the purpose of this review, though. Frankly, I don't know all that much about what went on behind the scenes, but I do know that the resulting film is a masterpiece.

Rebecca can be divided into three parts: Monte Carlo, Manderly, and the inquest after the discovery of Rebecca' sunken boat.

At Monte Carlo, we are introduced to Joan Fontaine's character, a complete nonentity (in fact, we never learn her real name) who is serving as a paid companion to Mrs. Van Hopper, an obnoxious, wealthy matron delightfully played by Florence Bates. While there, she meets George Fortescu Maximillian de Winter (Maxim for short,played by Laurence Olivier), fabulously wealthy and as charming as Mrs. Van Hopper is boorish. Maxim has been traveling trying to recover from his first wife Rebecca's untimely death in a drowning accident. At the end of her stay at Monte Carlo, the young woman is surprised to have Maxim ask her to marry him, although not with as much romance as she would probably have liked, and much to the consternation of her erstwhile employer Mrs. Van Hopper.

The movie then takes us to Manderly, the palatial family estate of the de Winter family. Here Fontaine's character truly finds herself out of her depth as the new mistress of Manderly. Not only has she never had to deal with such a large house and a retinue of servants, but she gets a decidedly chilly reception from Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson), and everywhere she goes and everyone with whom she speaks reminds her of the beauty and accomplishments of Rebecca. She feels overwhelmed by the specter of Maxim's first wife and of his abiding love for her. Not only that, but Fontaine's character is treated like a child, both in Monte Carlo and at Manderly, whether it is in the dismissive way of Mrs. Van Hopper, the fatherly manner of Maxim, or in the gently patronizing way of Frith, Manderly's head butler. One gets the feeling that the new Mrs. de Winter is a child lost in this great house, afraid of making any false steps.

Judith Anderson is amazing as Mrs. Danvers. Although she never raises her voice, and always speaks with seeming respect to her new mistress, Anderson nonetheless allows Mrs. Danver's malevolence to come through. She is the archetype for all the cold-hearted housekeepers who have come since, and none can match her. She never lets Mrs. de Winter forget Rebecca and how she was loved by everyone, especially Maxim. Haunted by the specter of Rebecca, the new Mrs. de Winter seems to feel like an intruder, trespassing on Rebecca's home and sleeping in her bed.

Mrs. Danvers finally reveals the depth of her hatred by suggesting a costume for Mrs. de Winter to wear at a party that was originally worn by Rebecca. After Maxim's expected negative reaction, Mrs. Danvers urges her, in arguably the most memorable scene in the movie, to commit suicide by throwing herself from the window. Mrs. de Winter is saved, though, by the wreck of a boat near Manderly and the noise of the rescue that is undertaken.

During the course of the rescue, another boat is found: the one in which Rebecca died. Having discovered Rebecca's corpse inside, it is announced that an inquest must take place to investigate her death. When his wife tries to comfort Maxim, he reveals to her the truth behind his relationship with Rebecca: that he hated her, and was trapped by her into a sham of a marriage. He also tells her of how Rebecca died; that he had killed her in a rage and sunk the boat with her body inside. After this revelation, a change comes over the new Mrs. de Winter: she grows up, and is visibly more self-assured. She and Maxim, to a certain extent, reverse roles, in that he loses hope and she must comfort him and reassure him that all will be well, when in fact all seems hopeless. She is now truly the mistress of Manderly.

During the inquest, it is discovered that Rebecca's boat was scuttled, and had not capsized as was previously thought. Circumstantial evidence begins to pile up against Maxim, until a visit to Rebecca's personal physician reveals her ultimate betrayal and clears Maxim's name.

Rebecca is, essentially, a drama of mystery and romance, and in lesser hands it could easily fall into the trap of melodrama. But Hitchcock's deft direction, the superb cinematography, and the outstanding performances by the entire cast make it one of the greatest romances ever made, and one of my favorite films.
2003-08-13
An excellent mystery movie!
Out of all of the movies of Hollywood's Golden Age, "Rebecca" is certainly one of the best. It's an excellent mystery movie! Everything about this movie shines, beginning with the story itself. I really liked the story, in which the title character is a dead woman whose "presence" still lingers in many ways. The plot takes quite an unexpected turn near the end of the movie, when a shocking revelation is made. This revelation has a significant effect on the main characters. Speaking of characters, the performances of all the actors are outstanding. I loved Joan Fontaine's performance in this movie. It is one of the greatest female performances. What I liked about her performance most is that she plays a very shy woman. That's not something you see very often in movies. Fontaine plays her character with a lot of realism. She gets married to a wealthy widower, without having any knowledge of the lifestyle that awaits her. You can't help but be moved by her character's innocence and her desire to do the "right" thing, despite her timidness. You can understand the reasons for her character's confusion in being "the second wife", and her feelings of isolation when she is inevitably compared to the late Rebecca. Another really good performance is that of Judith Anderson as the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers. I especially liked the bedroom window scene where Anderson is telling the depressed Fontaine what she ought to do with her life. I love the expression on Fontaine's face in that scene. Also, Laurence Olivier gives a great performance as the husband, who has ambivalent feelings toward Fontaine. Furthermore, the sets were amazing. As a mystery movie and as a movie in general, "Rebecca" is excellent in every way. **** out of ****.
1999-09-20
Love, Guilt and Pride hidden in a silk cloth of Suspense.. Hitchcock's classic..
This review doesn't have the story line or any spoilers. 'Rebecca' is a recommended classic for all ardent fans of Hitchcock movies. Not only the suspense gives us chills, the film has soothing love sequences between Laurence Oliver and Joan Fontaine. Joan as Mrs. de Winter steals the show with her innocent love over her husband. Judith Anderson's portrayal as Mrs. Denvers is one which should be noted. She simply stuns the audience with her dark brooding body language and the tone she speaks. The sequence involving her and Joan in the old Mrs.de Winters room speaks the work of Hitchcock. Great direction, beautiful sets of Manderley with lovely performances adds feather to the classic mystery. Overall it is a must watch where Entertainment joins hand with Classic touch ..!!
2015-10-09
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