movie film review | chris tookey


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  Rebecca   Review
Tookey's Rating
10 /10
Average Rating
9.65 /10
Laurence Olivier , Joan Fontaine , George Sanders
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Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
Written by: Robert E. Sherwood , Joan Harrison from Daphne du Maurier's novel

Released: 1940
Origin: US
Length: 130


A young bride (Joan Fontaine) becomes convinced that her husband (Laurence Olivier) is harbouring some dreadful secret about his dead ex-wife.

Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Daphne De Maurier's romantic melodrama is given the Hollywood treatment with all the trimmings, by one of the great American producers of romance (David O. Selznick, who was also responsible for Gone With The Wind) and Britain's master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, who clearly revels here in having a big, Hollywood budget for the first time. The result is a fascinating, atmospheric classic, with three memorable performances: by Joan Fontaine as the nameless heroine, Laurence Olivier as her coolly enigmatic husband, and - best of all - Judith Anderson as the housekeeper Mrs Danvers.
Hitchcock added to the latter's mystique by never showing her walking and rarely showing her in motion. Even today, the scene where Fontaine is investigating Rebecca's room and suddenly finds Mrs Danvers beside her can make the most hardened horror fan jump. Recent critics have stressed the psycho-sexual overtones of the piece (especially interesting in view of Du Maurier's own lesbian tendencies): were Rebecca and Mrs Danvers lovers? There are no answers in Hitchcock's film, but he gives a few broad hints in that direction; and if you look closely at the "happy" ending, you may notice that there is no promise of happiness for the central couple. She still doesn't even have a name, or an identity of her own, and her tone of voice is not exactly celebrational!
Rebecca may not be Hitchcock's most personal work, but it is still a fascinating piece, with a mood of Gothic unease that has rarely been surpassed - the film noticeably goes downhill once the central mystery has been solved, but that's really the fault of the original storyline.
(Hitchcock did, incidentally, soften the ending of the original novel, by making Rebecca's death an accident, rather than murder)
George Barnes's cinematography won an Academy Award, but Hitchcock lost the directing Oscar to John Ford, for The Grapes of Wrath and, in fact, never did win one. Also nominated were Franz Waxman for his haunting score, Lyle Wheeling for his production design (including the creation of Manderley, the exterior of which was merely a model), editor Hal C. Kern, and Jack Cosgrove and Arthur Johns for their visual effects.

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