Friday, July 22, 2011

'Last Night, I Dreamt I Went to Manderley Again': Rebecca (1940)

The other day, I was thinking about how strange it would have been to be the second Mrs. de Winter. It would have been awful! No one called her by her first name. In fact, her name is not mentioned once in the entire film. Of course, her name isn't really important because the film (and the novel by Daphne Du Maurier) is supposed to be focused on the power of Rebecca.

Rebecca is about a meek woman who, while visiting Monte Carlo with her unpleasant employer, meets the man of her dreams, the handsome and wealthy Maxim de Winter. She and Max quickly fall in love and get married they go to his large country estate in Cornwall known as Manderley. Once there, the second Mrs. de Winter realizes that her husband is still seems to be tormented by the death of his first wife, Rebecca, who died in a boating accident the year before. In fact, it seems that Rebecca still has a strange hold on everyone in Manderley. No one, especially the creepy housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, seems to think that the second Mrs. de Winter can live up to the greatness of the lovely Rebecca. However, was Rebecca really that wonderful?

Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier were perfectly casted in this film; they had great chemistry together. It's surprising to me that, in real life, Laurence treated Joan horribly. Apparently, he really wanted Vivien Leigh, his future wife, to play the role of the second Mrs. de Winter. Personally, I don't think Vivien would have done well playing the second Mrs. de Winter. She definitely more like the Rebecca character. Unsurprisingly, Joan acted more timidly when she was around Laurence. Hitch noticed this and decided to make her act even more anxious and shy by informing her that it wasn't just Laurence who hated like her, everyone on set did. She believed him and as a result became extremely shy and uneasy, thus delivering the perfect performance as the second Mrs. de Winter.

The creepiest performance award goes to the woman who played Mrs. Danvers. Wow, that lady is scary! Her obsession with Rebecca is extremely intense. The scene that displays the intensity of her obsession the most is when she shows the second Mrs. de Winter Rebecca's room.

Rebecca is Hitchcock's first film in Hollywood. David O. Selznick had a lot of influence on this film. He wanted Hitch to stay true to Du Maurier's novel due to its popularity. The film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards in 1941. It won 2, one for Best Picture and the other for Best Cinematography, Black-and-White.


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