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Drama, Thriller, Mystery, Romance
IMDB rating:
Alfred Hitchcock


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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
Rebecca 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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Five star
From the very first, legendary opening lines to the very end this is one of the cornerstones of a cinema history, but where some other old movies are simply, well old, this is something gripping and involving, truly magical, Gothic and strangely faithful both to du Maurier and Hitchcock. Even if director himself was not completely happy with being under someone else control (David O. Selznick was simply not a man to ignore) it has his signature all over the screen, from complicated characters hiding secrets from each others to evil lurking in the shadows, morbid fascination with death, innocent heroine (it never occurred to me earlier that she is never called by her name) lost in the imposing majesty of Manderley to twists and turns of a fascinating story itself. And - the best of all - this is a movie with Mrs. Danvers (magnificent Judith Anderson). Now I can finally admit that I always found her the true owner of Manderley and if anybody asked me, I would drown both Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier, in my version Mrs. Danvers would live on and on forever, bringing fresh flowers in Rebecca's bedroom and occasionally even try those silk stockings and underwear made by nuns from convent. (What kind of nuns knew how to sew sexy underwear?) Hitchckock would have been amused to find that audience of the future find the villainess the most appealing character in the movie. I got a lot of fun ideas involving Mrs.Denvers and me but will keep them for myself.
Outstanding in every way
This is my all-time favorite movie and I'm 72 years old (making Rebecca three years older than I!) I won't waste space repeating all of the praise that's already been expressed by so many reviewers about the wonderful acting, directing, musical score, etc. I would like to comment, however, on the performance of one actress who never seems to get much credit. It's Florence Bates, who plays the rather short but important part of Mrs. Van Hopper at the beginning of the film. I don't think her performance as the rich, rude, self-centered American traveler abroad could possibly have been more perfect. She interrupts and rudely scolds her paid companion (Joan Fontaine), she pushes herself on Max DeWinter in efforts to scrape an acquaintance with him because of his wealth, she's totally repulsive and she speaks English in the uppity- rich Boston/Philadephia manner. She is rude and insulting at all times.

Now here are some amazing facts about Florence Bates. Born in 1888, she grew up in Texas, was from a Jewish family, and was a talented piano student but a hand injury forced her to give up piano. She was a brilliant student and earned a university mathematics degree; taught math in high school briefly, then studied law and became the first woman licensed to practice law in Texas. She was fluent in Spanish and, after radio was introduced around 1920 she had her own Spanish-language radio program in Texas with the goal of improving relations between Americans and Mexicans. She later ran her father's antique shop, and when her husband lost his fortune in the 1929 crash the couple moved to California and operated a bakery. In California she acted in a few plays and finally in 1939 she landed her very first film role--in Rebecca! She ran into Alfred Hitchcock by accident and he knew she would be perfect for the part and offered it to her--her very first film role.

Clearly a person of immense energy and multiple talents, she was 51 years old when she made this "film debut" (Rebecca was actually filmed during 1939 but not released till 1940.)

As to her acting in Rebecca, the way she uses her voice, facial expressions and general posture and demeanor to create and project the personality of this relatively minor character is, in my opinion, nothing short of genius. If you have a DVD copy of the film, have another look at her brief performance (she is only present in the first half hour of the film.) Watch especially the scene at Max DeWinter's hotel room door as he announces to her that he has become engaged to her "companion." And watch the movements of the camera as it anticipates her glance toward the companion after DeWinter's hand gesture. I agree with reviewers who suggest that Hitchcock should have won "Best Director" because just this scene alone should have won the award for him, in my opinion.

As to Hitchcock's use of the camera, I think it's wonderful the way he has the camera OFF the face of the person speaking and, instead, ON the face of the person being spoken to. Example: the early scene in which Mrs. Van Hopper announces the engagement of her daughter and her sudden decision to sail for New York. We only see the back of her head as she speaks--allowing us to focus on the full facial reaction of Joan Fontaine to this awful news.

These are just a couple of the touches of genius in acting and directing that I appreciate in this wonderful movie. Virtuoso performances by Judith Anderson and George Sanders in addition to Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier and, in fact, great work from everybody involved.
one of the greats
Rebecca is one film I could watch over and over. It is definitely one of Hitchcock's masterpieces. I recently saw the DVD version for the first time, which had the screen tests and some of Selznick's memos. My favorite was the memo that said, "Please don't say anything to Larry and Vivien" referring to the fact that Vivien Leigh wanted the Fontaine role so that she could be with Olivier. Though her second screen test was better than her first, in my mind, I've always pictured Leigh as the actual Rebecca, were she ever shown.

The casting is perfect, with Joan Fontaine as the insecure Mrs. de Winter, coldly manipulated and laughed at by Mrs. Danvers, as expertly portrayed by Judith Anderson. Jack Favell is Rebecca's sly cousin, beautifully played by George Sanders. Olivier is gorgeous as Max, mysterious and distant. He utters two of the all-time most devastating lines heard in a relationship: "Happiness is something I know very little about. If you say we're happy, let's leave it at that."

I have one quibble with "Rebecca," which is very minor. There were just a few too many shots of Rebecca's initials. But I loved seeing that R in the last shot.
Rebecca, you b****!!!
The film "Rebecca" is directed by the incomparable Alfred Hitchcock. starring Joan Fontain and Laurence Oliver. This is perhaps one of Hitchcock's if not Hitchcock's most glorious of film productions. It is loaded with all of the intriguing mysteries of life and love yet suspenseful and thrilling(no surprise coming from Hitchcock that is). There is a twist at every corner as we slowly discover who "Rebecca" truly is and the honest means of her death. watching this film is like following a deranged child through a maze. Its psychological twists are heavy but severely entertaining providing any audience with genuine shock.
One of the Great Hitchcock Classics
It is strange that after arriving in Hollywood from Britain, Alfred Hitchcock should have chosen to base his first film upon a novel by Daphne du Maurier, the same author, who had provided him with the material for the last film of his British period. "Jamaica Inn" was one of his few failures, a minor-league costume drama that is today of little interest except to Hitchcock completists. With "Rebecca", however, he achieved one of his greatest successes, even though the story is hardly typical of his work.

A number of Hitchcock's films, such as "The 39 Steps" or "North by North-West" end up with the hero and heroine falling in love, but are nevertheless essentially suspense films with an element of romance. "Rebecca", however, is essentially a romance with elements of suspense. Indeed, it starts out as a romantic comedy. A young woman (we never learn her name) staying on the French Riviera with her employer Mrs Van Hopper, meets and falls in love with Maxim de Winter, a handsome older widower. There is a brief comic sequence as the two lovers try to outwit the overbearing, bullying Mrs Van Hopper and escape back to England.

With the shift in location to England, the mood of the film becomes darker and more serious. We learn that Maxim is the wealthy owner of Manderley, a stately home near the Cornish coast, and that he was widowed about a year earlier when his first wife Rebecca drowned in a boating accident. The new Mrs de Winter finds it difficult to adapt to her new role as the mistress of such a large house, especially as she feels that everyone, including the servants and Maxim's friends, is comparing her unfavourably with the beautiful and accomplished Rebecca. Maxim reveals to her that his first marriage was an unhappy one as Rebecca was compulsively promiscuous and betrayed him with a number of lovers. This revelation does not, however, put her mind at rest, because evidence soon comes to light that suggests that Maxim may have killed Rebecca out of jealousy.

The "suspense" elements of the film only occur near the end, when Maxim has to struggle to clear himself from suspicion of murder. There are no typical Hitchcock set-pieces like the crop-duster in "North by North-West" or the shower scene in "Psycho". This is, however, one of the most atmospheric of Hitchcock's films. Although it was shot in California, the morning mists, the pine trees by the rocky coast and the Gothic mansion are all suggestive of England. (I suspect that if Hollywood were to make the film today they would try to Americanise it, but in the forties their attitude to British literature was generally more respectful).

In a way this is a ghost story, although not in the literal sense of a tale of supernatural happenings. Manderley may not be literally haunted, but it is permeated by Rebecca's spirit. The old house is solid and luxurious, but it also has an oppressive air, especially for Mrs de Winter. (Max Ophuls was to conjure up a similar atmosphere in "Caught", made a few years later). Rebecca does not actually appear in the film; she does not appear in the book either, but that is a first-person narrative told from the viewpoint of her successor. In the film, where the first-person perspective is largely abandoned, it would have been much easier to show her in flashback, but Hitchcock chose to resist this temptation. In my view he was right to do so. Rebecca is far more frightening as an unseen but malevolent and brooding presence than she would be if seen in the flesh.

Mrs de Winter is an outsider at Manderley, partly because she is from a less privileged social background than Maxim, partly because she is the only character who never knew Rebecca personally. Maxim was probably attracted to her precisely because she was so unlike Rebecca. As she is supposed to be somewhat plain and dowdy, Joan Fontaine, one of the most attractive actresses of the period, was perhaps not physically right for the role. (Joanna David, in the 1979 TV production, seemed closer to du Maurier's conception of the character). Nevertheless, Fontaine's interpretation of the role is a very good one, making her shy and bewildered but possessed of an inner strength which enables her love for Maxim to survive.

Laurence Olivier is also good as Maxim, bringing out the two sides of his character. On the one hand he is the calm, self-possessed English gentleman, on the other a man haunted by his past. The other performance which stands out is that of Judith Anderson as the sinister housekeeper Mrs Danvers. Always dressed in black, with a severe hairstyle, moving silently through the house, Mrs Danvers initially greets the new Mrs de Winter with an icy formality, but gradually becomes her chief tormentor. Although this could not be explicitly stated in the forties, there is a strong hint that Mrs Danvers is a lesbian and that she might have been in love with Rebecca. Certainly, the scene in which she stands lasciviously pawing her late employer's underwear is highly suggestive.

It certainly seemed eccentric of the Academy to give this film the "Best Picture" award while withholding "Best Director" from Hitchcock. 1940 was, however, a very strong year in the history of the cinema and, excellent film though "Rebecca" is, I am not sure that it is necessarily a greater one than John Ford's "The Grapes of Wrath", Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" or "The Philadelphia Story", all of which were nominated. I suspect that the decision to give "Best Picture" to "Rebecca" and "Best Director" to Ford may have been a deliberate attempt to spread the honours more evenly. Nevertheless, "Rebecca" remains one of the great Hitchcock classics. 8/10
Good Job Building This By Alfred Hitchcock
The secret to truly appreciating this movie is to get through the first hour or so of it. To be frank, that first hour is less than riveting. We find ourselves following the romance and the early part of the marriage of the wealthy and lonely widower Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier) to his new young bride (Joan Fontaine.) There really isn't much meat to this part of the story. It's a bit of a rich meets poor love story, as the young bride finds herself in a romance with this man who was quite above her socially, and it's even got a bit of humour to it, as we watch the young woman's employer Mrs. Van Hopper (Florence Bates) try to ingratiate herself with Maxim. It's a pleasant enough (although not exactly engrossing) love story for a while, and after their return to Maxim's Manderlay estate it still seems to be little more than the challenge of the new Mrs. de Winter (whom I don't remember being named) to overcome the reluctance of the servants - and especially Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson) - to accept her, since they appear to have been fiercely devoted to the late Mrs. de Winter (whose name was Rebecca.) Yes, Mrs. Danvers is an unusual, and therefore suspicious, character who has more than a bit of mystery about her, but still this really doesn't seem to be going anywhere very fast.

Once we're through that first hour, though, plot twists start to emerge. Maxim starts to pull away from his bride - is he also having trouble accepting her as the new Mrs. de Winter at the estate? Are the differences in the marriage just too much to overcome? Then Rebecca's body is unexpectedly found and questions begin to emerge about how she died. At this point, director Alfred Hitchcock manages to turn what had been a rather empty story into a pretty good suspense/thriller. In that last hour, Hitchcock builds the story brilliantly, so that it gets progressively more suspenseful, and by the time the shocking final scene comes along, as a viewer you're absolutely hooked.

It's hard for a movie to overcome such a long stretch at the beginning where little of great note actually happens, but "Rebecca" manages to do just that. It's also interesting as an example of a fairly early piece of work by Olivier. (7/10)
"I am Mrs. de Winter now!"
There is no way I couldn't review this. As a rule I don't have favorite films (because I can never pick) but let's be real, it's probably this one. I've seen Rebecca a good 10+ times and it never gets old.

I feel obligated to talk about the book just a little (it's amazing read it), because there is a big difference. First of all, I'm so thankful that the nameless main character in the novel remains nameless in the film. The book is slightly more twisted, as Maxim intentionally kills Rebecca in the novel, which makes for a much more complex and slightly more intense plot. This obviously could not be carried out in a 1940s film, however. Although I wish they had.

I really love the characters in this film. They make the whole story, and the idea of Rebecca is so strong it's like she's there as a fully formed character. Mrs. Danvers is the quintessential eerie housekeeper (who a lot of later figures are based off of), and her scenes with Mrs. de Winter are some of the best. It's obligatory that I mention the photography at this point, because it's really VERY nice. Especially the scene where Mrs. Danvers is trying to convince her to jump out the window.

But I have to say, the thing that draws me to this film the most possibly is how much I relate to the main character. She reminds me so much of myself. Plus, people are always telling me that I look like Joan Fontaine, creepy.

So, arguably the best Hitchcock film ever made—this movie is gold. Don't let me near the negative reviews, I might have a conniption.
If you want to be totally enthralled for two hours just watch 'Rebecca'!
Hitchcock felt 'Rebecca', his first Hollywood film, was a compromise, but as a viewer I just can't fault it. It's a masterpiece in my opinion, full of suspense, mystery and brooding atmosphere. It's also one of the most romantic movies I've ever seen. I've watched it several times over the years, and even now that I know all the plot twists and turns (quite shocking on your first viewing), it never fails to hook me in. One of the reasons it really works is the flawless casting. I'm not much of an Olivier fan but he's superb as de Winter, with just the right mixture of charm and coldness. And Joan Fontaine is just perfect as de Winter's new bride. I can't spot an unconvincing moment in her performance and can't imagine any other actress in the role. Hitchcock subsequently used her in 'Suspicion' with Cary Grant. She was also excellent in that but 'Rebecca' is a much stronger movie. The supporting cast also includes some brilliant performances, especially Judith Anderson ('Laura') as the extremely creepy Mrs. Danvers, George Sanders who plays Rebecca's slimy cousin, and Nigel Bruce in a typical role as de Winter's bumbling brother-in-law Major Lacy. Sanders subsequently worked again with Hitchcock in 'Foreign Correspondent', and Bruce played Cary Grant's lovable pal "Beaky" in 'Suspicion'. I sometimes think that Hitchcock's 1940s movies are overlooked by many because they are regarded as being too "old fashioned", but for me movies like 'Suspicion', 'Saboteur', 'Lifeboat' and 'Spellbound' are some of the most entertaining movies Hitchcock ever made, and 'Rebecca' is the best of the lot. If you want to be totally enthralled for two hours just watch 'Rebecca'!
Great hitchcock film
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. Hitchcock is known for twists and turns that the story and its characters take. There is always at least one big secret hidden away in the story. Secrets that us as viewers seemingly believe our characters have no way out of, but somehow someway the story comes back around and changes our minds. Hitchcock, like several other great directors is always good at creating memorable characters, and this one has plenty. Particularly the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers. She holds the craziest grudge over Rebecca as she enters her newly married life into the mansion. Although I personally found Rebecca's character to be of weak nature, it somehow brings out the cruelty in Mrs. Danvers, giving her an even larger ability to hate the girl. Overall this is an impressive and engaging film that tells a good story with a great approach, producing a dark and interesting film that is driven by an unseen character whether the tone is melodrama, romance or mystery story.
Chick Flick "Vertigo"
Nearly 20 years before "Vertigo", Alfred Hitchcock made another film featuring romantic atmosphere, social misfits, a possible ghost, and male-female frustration. Except in "Rebecca's" case, it was from the woman's point of view.

"Rebecca" features identity confusion as well, in this case pitting a woman without a face against another without a name. Joan Fontaine is the nameless one here, paid to keep a miserable battleaxe company until she is whisked away in Monte Carlo by rich, debonair Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier). It's a perfect fantasy except that the place he lives, Manderley, is a perfect nightmare.

"We're happy, aren't we?" the bride asks at one point. "Terribly happy!" The problem's the dead former Mrs. de Winter whose first name is the movie's title. Based on a best-selling novel by Daphne Du Maurier, Rebecca's malign spell is captured in the ornate but shadowy set decoration, a creepy Franz Waxman score, and the raven-like Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson), a maid who pops out of corners of the frame offering unwanted advice on how "the late Mrs. de Winter" would have wanted things.

Beaky, unblinking Mrs. Danvers is one reason guys might find this film frustrating. If she's so nasty, just send her packing, right? But Mrs. D works for me because of the heroine's trembly manner. Fontaine wears her character's insecurity very well. She wants to be on Mrs. Danvers' good side, which only mines "Danny's" contempt. Still devoted to Rebecca, a spellbinding force for whom "love was a game", Mrs. Danvers's perverse loyalty prompts a jealous cruelty. In "The Shining", we learn that people leave traces of themselves in strange buildings after they're gone, like "if someone burns toast". In "Rebecca", Mrs. Danvers IS the burned toast.

Olivier is a bit of a stiff here, though it suits the part. It's a woman's-eye story all the way, with a real tough-love male to draw out his lover's unquenchable spirit. He wins her over to him with such lines as "I should have asked you to have had lunch with me even if you hadn't upset the vase so clumsily" and "I'm asking you to marry me, you little fool". He probably sent her out for Chinese food on their honeymoon, too.

The movie moves very slowly, stringing out every hurt emotion. Because Rebecca was lost at sea, Fontaine has to blurt out at one point irrespective of nothing: "I never have any fear of drowning, have you?" cuing a musical sting. Around Maxim, there are lots of stings. "I'm boorish through living alone", he says, but of course that only makes the heroine's devotion more grand. Like Mrs. Danvers, she loves fully, but not at all well.

Still, "Rebecca" is a solid romantic film with recognizable bits of Hitchcockian suspense worked in the corners. It's his first and most successful collaboration with David O. Selznick (a nudge who this one time was right to nudge), his first American film, and his only Oscar winner.

I can think of several other Hitchcock films deserving of Oscar over "Rebecca". But it's better than no Oscars for Hollywood's greatest director. Looking past that, "Rebecca" is a solid, character-driven story worth watching and appreciating for its own substantial merits.
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