Rebecca (1940)

Film review: Rebecca (1940), directed by Alfred Hitchcock

rebecca1940Joan Fontaine plays a young, unnamed companion to Mrs Van Hopper (Florence Bates). They’re in the south of France on holiday. In the same hotel, rich widow Maximilian de Winter (Laurence Olivier) is residing.

Miss X and the considerably older Maxim de Winter get talking, and to summarise: end up marrying. He takes his new wife back to Manderley, his mansion.

Mrs de Winter finds it difficult to establish herself as the lady of the house, because she wasn’t born into this level of society, and besides, everyone’s still obsessed about the former Mrs de Winter, Rebecca, who died in a boating accident. In particular, the housekeeper Mrs Danvers (Judith Anderson), really seems to go out of her way to moon over the dead woman.

When I recorded this version of Rebecca, it was just because I had never seen an adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier’s novel (which I have yet to read) and thought it best to just start somewhere. Turns out it was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and is #124 on the IMDb Top 250 list.

My main interest in Rebecca as a story is that it’s supposed to be inspired by Jane Eyre. Manderley is a big country house, France is involved, it’s about a rich man marrying a much younger orphaned woman, and … well, that’s about it. It’s not particularly Jane Eyre like at all, but that’s good. It means it can be its own story.

Even if you don’t know much about Rebecca, you’ll probably have heard about Mrs Danvers, the archetypal strict housekeeper. Not a nice lady. I didn’t know she was mental, though. I expected her to be disapproving of the new Mrs de Winter, because she liked Rebecca so much, but not that she would go all insane about it.

To be fair, Mrs de Winter should probably have anticipated there being something amiss about the masquerade costume. When the housekeeper keeps harping on about her previous mistress in dreamy tones and faraway eyes, you probably ought to suspect something’s up.

I didn’t fully understand why Mrs de Winter decided to cover up the broken statue either. She’s the new mistress of the manor, she can break whatever the hell she wants, as far as I’m concerned, and no one should have anything to say about it – least of all the staff! She may have felt like a fish out of water, but … come on.

That being said, it was very well acted, bearing in mind that 1930s/1940s overly melodramatic acting style, and I didn’t expect the story to take the turns it actually did. It’s an interesting story (at times predictable – Rebecca wasn’t a saint but actually a two-timing bitch? OMG NO WAI!), well played, with plenty of dramatic music and of course, Joan Fontaine would go on to play Jane Eyre on the silver screen just a few short years later.

3.8 out of 5 secret doctors appointments.

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