REBECCA: The Essentials
After the glamorous, universally-adored wife of Maxim de Winter dies at a tragically young age, her brooding husband meets a shy young woman in Monte Carlo. They have a whirlwind courtship and Maxim marries her and takes her to Manderley, his palatial estate in the English countryside. There, the second Mrs. de Winter must compete with the memory of the late Rebecca, and cope with the menacing housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers.
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Producer: David O. Selznick
Screenplay: Robert E. Sherwood, Joan Harrison
Based on the novel by Daphne Du Maurier
Cinematography: George Barnes
Editing: James E. Newcom, Hal C. Kern
Art Direction: Lyle Wheeler
Music: Franz Waxman
Cast: Laurence Olivier (Maxim de Winter), Joan Fontaine (Mrs. de Winter), George Sanders (Jack Favell), Judith Anderson (Mrs. Danvers), Nigel Bruce (Maj. Giles Lacy), C. Aubrey Smith (Col. Julyan), Reginald Denny (Frank Crawley), Gladys Cooper (Beatrice Lacy), Florence Bates (Mrs. Van Hopper), Melville Cooper (Coroner), Leo G. Carroll (Dr. Baker), Lumsden Hare (Tabbs), Alfred Hitchcock (Man Outside Phone Booth).
Why REBECCA is Essential
Rebecca was Alfred Hitchcock's first American film. After winning a following here with such British thrillers as The 39 Steps (1935) and The Lady Vanishes (1938), he established himself as a major Hollywood director with this picture.
Forced to bring Daphne Du Maurier's novel to the screen faithfully, Hitchcock for the first time in his career displayed his skill at using psychologically complex characters to generate suspense. Rebecca would pave the way for such later psychological thrillers of his as Suspicion (1941), Rope (1948), Strangers on a Train (1951), Vertigo (1958) and Psycho (1960).
Maxim de Winter's relationship with his second wife represents the first portrait of a controlling male figure in Hitchcock's films, a theme that would prove central to such later works as Vertigo and Marnie (1964).
With Hitchcock's talent for subtlety, Rebecca was years ahead of its time in suggesting the sexual misbehavior of its unseen title character. In particular, the film leaves little doubt that the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson), had a lesbian attraction to her mistress even though there was no clear indication in the script to upset the film industry's censorship board. The character has been referenced in several studies of homosexuality in Hollywood films.
The role of the second Mrs. de Winter made Joan Fontaine a star after years of thankless roles in Hollywood movies, where she had been fired by RKO just a few years earlier.
David O. Selznick reached the pinnacle of his success as an independent producer with Rebecca, his second in a row (after 1939's Gone with the Wind) to capture the Oscar® for Best Picture. It also marked the third picture in a row in which he had introduced a new star to U.S. audiences, with Joan Fontaine's success following that of Ingrid Bergman in Intermezzo: A Love Story (1939) and Vivien Leigh's in Gone with the Wind.
Rebecca was one of the first to use voice-over narration successfully, with Joan Fontaine delivering lines drawn largely from Daphne Du Maurier's novel, which had been written in the first person.
Rebecca was the first of six films to team Hitchcock with the actor he worked with more than any other, Leo G. Carroll. He would appear most notably in the Master of Suspense's Spellbound (1945) and North by Northwest (1959), and even played a character modeled on Hitchcock in The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) for director Vincente Minnelli.
by Frank Miller