Saturday, 18 August 2012

Rebecca (1940) Dir. Alfred Hitchcock

It was Hitchcock's birthday the other day so to honour him I watched Rebecca again with my family and we loved it just as much as ever! Hitchcock is a total genius. I believe I've posted about this before but it was a very brief post and I wanted to expand on it. Also, I'm more than a little obsessed with Laurence Olivier (I'm sure posts on this subject will ensue)... Most other 14 year old girls are crushing on Robert Pattinson and I'm sitting in the corner with my iPod watching Laurence Olivier's Hamlet.

I'm an awkward youth. I read the actual book by Daphne Du Maurier a few months ago and I loved it! The film adaptation is very different to the book in some ways but also very in keeping with the theme as well. {All GIFs in this post link back to their source if you click them}.

In case you don't know the plot, Rebecca is the story of Maxim De Winter (Laurence Olivier)- owner of the famous Cornwall estate, Manderley. He was married to the beautiful, intelligent and classy Rebecca. Everyone called their marriage a great success. They were married for a few years when Rebecca and her sailboat went down off the coast of Manderley. Supposedly trying to get over the loss of his wife - Maxim goes to Monte Carlo where he meets a young, naive pretty girl (Joan Fontaine), working as a paid companion to Edythe Van Hopper. They get to know each other and their trip ends with Maxim proposing marriage to the girl, she soon becomes "The New Mrs De Winter" (she remains nameless throughout the film, this is all we know her as.)

But when the staff and Maxim's family greet his new wife - they are less than optimistic about their chances as a couple. The houskeeper and previous personal maid to Rebecca, Mrs Danvers tortures Maxim's wife with the fact that everyone loved rebecca, she loved rebecca, all men loved rebecca, Maxim adored Rebecca... Can she stand this torture any longer? And are there secrets that haunted Maxim and Rebecca's marriage?

Alfred Hitchcock often claimed that this film wasn't his own. It belonged to Daphne Du Maurier because she had created such vivid characters and such a complex and exciting story. I disagree. I think that even if Hitchcock was doing a film adaptation of Little Bo Peep it would belong to Hitchcock and be Hitchcock's. You can't deny his hallmark in all areas of this expertly crafted film. {SPOILER ALERT} The shot at the end that shows the deranged Mrs Danvers dancing in the flames of Manderley that she has created has Hitchcock written all over it. Of course he is often the creator of his own storylines and characters - but let's not forget that he also adapted Jamaica Inn a year earlier - another Du Maurier novel. He must have liked working on her stories.

Joan Fontaine's protrayal of Mrs Dewinter is whinier and a little weaker than the girl in the novel. In the novel she seems more confused than whiny, but this may be a problem with the script and not with Joan's acting. I'm always very moved when she comes down that staircase in her special dress that she'd been working on or a long time (she'd been advised on what dress to make by Mrs Danvers who knew Rebecca had worn exactly the same dress) and he face is full of excitement and willingness to please Maxim and all the guests look as though they've seen a ghost. They all whisper "Rebecca!" She is also pretty good when she finally gets some more power in her role as the mistress of the house. The servant Frith says, "But Mrs De Winter always kept her letters stamped and adressed...", and she replies, "I am Mrs De Winter now." I think she did really well creating a role in her own way that readers had imagined in their own way for years.

Laurence Olivier is again completely and utterly brilliant - I would expect no less! He is such a romantic actor. he and Fontaine work and look very good together.

{Bit worried there Joanie?}

I've decided that having Laurence Olivier in an adaptation of any English literature makes it perfect (Wuthering Heights, Pride And Prejudice...). He makes Maxim someone you can relate to, not just a tortured man that no-one can even try and get to as I imagine he may become in some adaptations. You are constantly wanting to help him and give him support the whole way through. At emotional scenes you are inclined to yell "MAXIM!" at the TV. (Or is that just me...)

They are backed up by a perfect supporting cast. Dame Judith Anderson is wonderful in her crazed role as Mrs Danvers. It's one of the scariest performances in a Hitchcock in my opinion. SO SCARY OMG NO DON'T KEEP SHRINES TO DEAD PEOPLE IN THEIR ROOMS AND WASH THEIR UNDERWEAR AFTER THEY DIED IT'S WIERD.

Also, George Sanders (George-Sanders-Who-Worked-In-An-Advertising-Firm-With-Greer-Garson-George-Sanders?)!!! Why hasn't he got more love on the internet? He's fantastic! All in favour of starting a George Sanders fan club say "I".

Can we discuss Gladys Cooper? She was genius in Now Voyager and now my mum realised she plays Maxim's sister in this and Mrs Higgins in My Fair Lady!

My mum got quite obsessed so be bought an old copy of her biography written by her Grandson... She played the leads in Somerset Maugham plays and then managed her own theatre, AND was a WWI Pin Up Girl! Very intrigued to read that now.

This is certainly one of my favourite Hitchcocks, but then again I love then all so how can I choose (though my favourite is Notorious ;-D)



Emma said...

I love this movie, Alfred at his best. Also, i am a great fan of George Sanders and i have read alot about his movies and his sad early death. He was amazing in this one and All About Eve. I hear such interesting stories about his marriage to Zsa Zsa, she must have been a handful!!

silverscreenings said...

It's been wa-a-a-ay too long since I've seen this movie. You've inspired me to see it again soon!

Anonymous said...

Hitchcock definitely liked adapting du mauriers novels as The Birds was also a short story written by her which along with Rebecca has to be one of the most menacing Hitchcock films.

Alyssa LM said...

this is a really good adaption from the master and i also loved the book. enjoyed the info on Gladys Cooper, one of those great character actors you see popping up all the time.

rental mobil jakarta said...

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Martin Turnbull (the Garden of Allah novels) said...

I think you'd agree that Hitchcock made the movie if you saw the screen tests for the female lead in "Rebecca" - it's amazing the differences in approach with the different actresses who tried out for the role.

Kate Gorman said...

I love this film! xx

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