Rebecca (1940)

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A psychological drama, a thriller. Rebecca was Alfred Hitchcock’s first American project, produced by David O. Selznick, based on the 1938 novel titled Rebecca written by Daphne du Maurier.  Starring Sir Lawrence Olivier as the gloomy upper-class widower Maxim de Winder, Joan Fontaine as the naive young women who ends up becoming his second wife, and Judith Anderson as the severe housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers.

It is a no colour film; but you don’t need colours when you have a gothic fiction to put in the picture. The audience never meets Rebecca, Maxim’s first wife. She is kept a complete mystery up until the second half of the story.  Joan’s character is nameless; she is referred to as Dear, Darling, Mrs. De Winter and Madame. By not mentioning Joan’s character’s name, Alfred tried to sub-consciously build Rebecca’s unrevealed story over the second Mrs. De Winter in audience’s head.

You will find yourself in the protagonist’s shoes as she goes along trying to make out how to be an aristocrat’s wife in the beautiful mansion that is Manderley; what it was that actually happened to Rebecca; why Maxim gets agitated every time something or someone reminds him of his first wife and also why Mrs. Danvers has hostility towards her.

Piece by piece the jigsaw comes into focus as the truth about Rebecca is revealed. Only to everyone’s surprise, the puzzle still has lost pieces and they must figure out what these are to get the whole picture.

This movie had everything, drama, thrill, romance and suspense right up to the very end. You never know what’s going to happen next. For a movie that old, I was not expecting much but I was delighted to see the brilliance that is Alfred Hitchcock.

My favourite characters in the movie were Mrs. Danvers the antagonistic housekeeper played by Judith Anderson and Mr. Jack Favell, Rebecca’s “Favourite cousin” played by George Sanders. Mrs. Danvers brought the horror in the story for me and Mr. Favell brought the spark that I thought the movie lacked initially.

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If I go into the details of elucidating their characters, I might as well write up the whole movie here. But, I won’t do that. If for not anything else, watch this movie just for these two performers. You won’t be sorry, I solemnly swear.

The movie won the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Cinematography (black and white). Sir Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine and Judith Anderson were all nominated for their roles along with Alfred Hitchcock for Best Director.

Rebecca was adapted as a radio play on many occasions. It has been remade by Bollywood twice. The first remake was Kohra (1964), starring Waheeda Rehman and Biswajit Chatterjee; the second was Anamika (2008), starring Dino Morea, Manisha Lamba and Koena Mitra, but to no real success.

There is also a BBC adaptation, first screened in 1979 and shown on PBS in the US, starring Jeremy Brett as Maxim, Joanna David as the second Mrs. de Winter, and Brett’s former wife Anna Massey as Mrs. Danvers.

This movie was the first of my Alfred Hitchcock’s must watch list and it helped me in my perspective of him as a director. I was excited to step into the shadow years and now that I have, I have no regrets.

Source: IMDB and Wiki

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