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Flickbuddies: Rebecca (1940)

Steve here:

Rebecca (1940)

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. So begins Alfred Hitchcock’s film and Daphne du Maurier’s novel, Rebecca. This gothic tale tells the story of the whirlwind romance of a young woman (never named) with the handsome aristocratic widower, Maxim de Winter, and his young second wife’s struggles to compete with the memory of the first Mrs. de Winter (the eponymous Rebecca).

I have never read the original novel and hadn’t seen this adaptation before, and I thought it was superb. The dialog was snappy and smart, and the new bride’s anxiety at falling short in comparison to the dazzling late Rebecca was palpable. I thought the young and beautiful Joan Fontaine reminded me a lot of Kate Winslet.

Of all the films this month, I thought this was the most “unhitchcockian” maybe because I think he played it mostly straight up. Extra props for getting in topics (cousin incest, barely veiled lesbian obsession) that I would have thought would be pretty scandalous in 1940. Then again, maybe that’s why the novel was so popular.

Also, it’s funny in this social media obsessed  and over-sharing world that there was a time when people could have secrets. At some level you just want to shake de Winter and have him just be honest with his new bride for like five minutes instead of being all dark, distant and sulky.

What’s your name again, honey?

Things I liked most: The creepy Mrs. Danvers’ obsession with Rebecca. Fontaine’s performance that took her character from a wide-eyed girl to tough competitor fighting for her husband. “That’s not the Northern Lights. That’s Manderley!”

Things I didn’t like: de Winter is supposed to be around 40 and Fontaine’s character is in her early 20s. Isn’t that kind of creepy? Maxim could have solved a lot of problems by having a simple conversation with his new bride. Maxim not quite clueing in that a whole houseful of “R”-emblazoned things might make his new girl feel a little awkward.

Things that are still with me: The way the whole movie shifts when de Winter admits his true feelings about Rebecca.

Grade: A-


About stevebetz

If you have the martini, you can't have the scotch.

11 responses to “Flickbuddies: Rebecca (1940)

  1. marymtf

    Steve for the story to work the second Mrs de Winter had to be an innocent twentish year old. (innocent in 1940’s terms, I’m guessing that today du Maurier would have handled it differently). She was impressed with the wealthy, sophisitcated Maxim, overwhelmed by her surroundings and intimidated by the housekeeper. It took her and us a while to catch on. You need to read the original novel. Sometimes it’s better after rather than before you see a movie. ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again’ is du Maurier’s line.
    You also need to read du Maurier’s ‘The scapegoat.’ Whatever you do don’t see the movie.
    PS. I can’t believe you’ve only just discovered Hitchcok. But I do envy you.

    • stevebetz

      Marymtf — a few people have suggested that I read the original novel, and now I’m really curious to so that I can compare/contrast to the film.

      I’ve seen several Hitchcock’s — Psycho, The Birds, Rear Window, Vertigo, the 39 Steps — but I’m glad this month’s choices included several that I haven’t seen.

  2. Andrew Stoba ⋅

    I envy you seeing Rebecca for the first time. I return to it regularly and it still startles me. Fontaine is wonderful. Read the book and discover what Maxim’s real secret is!

    • stevebetz

      Andrew — I’ve been told by a few sources that I should go back to the original book. I think I’ll have to! I look forward to re-watching the movie, too.

      • Andrew Stoba ⋅

        If you visit Cornwall you will get a chance to see “Manderley” through the trees, and the boathouse down by the sea. Unforgettable! Read and watch My Cousin Rachel too! You are in for a treat …

  3. Wait! What? I clicked on the read more link and not comment and ended up here. You have another blog!

    Well. I didn’t know. I’m all in a dither. And kinda jealous ’cause this is a rockin’ good idea. 🙂

    • stevebetz

      Sneaky, aren’t I? All the posts aren’t mine though — this is a collaborative effort. We’ve started this movie club and you can see others’ posts on this months movies too.

      I was never sure whether to post here and reblog on Stevil or vice versa. I chose the first one — at least WP makes it easy.

      Grab some popcorn and get the remote. August is “adaptation” month!

  4. stevebetz

    Andrew — wow, I wasn’t sure that it was real/still existed. I know The Beloved would LOVE that! I might never get her away!

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