Play It Again – Rebecca

Play It Again – Rebecca. By Jess Lomas.

Play It Again is a weekly feature in which classic-film connoisseur Jess Lomas revisits a revered motion picture from the annals of movie history, to see if it holds up… or if it has aged terribly. And yes, it takes its name from a famously misquoted Casablanca line (hey, whatever; it fits!).

“What was the secret of Manderley?” teases one poster for Alfred Hitchcock’s first Hollywood film, 1940’s Rebecca. Starring Laurence Olivier as Maxim de Winter, an aristocratic widower, and Joan Fontaine as Mrs. de Winter, Maxim’s second wife, Rebecca is an adaptation of the Daphne Du Maurier novel of the same name.

A gothic thriller with a ghost story and a tortured romance thrown in for good measure, Rebecca went on to win Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Black and White Cinematography. The film also earned nine other nominations including Best Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress, Director, Screenplay and Original Score. When it comes to Hollywood classics, this film has it all.

Rebecca opens with one of cinema’s most famous lines: “Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” Though she later becomes the second Mrs de Winter, Fontaine’s character is first known as the unnamed narrator, who meets and falls in love with Maxim in Monte Carlo before retreating to his country estate, Manderley, in Cornwall

All is not well at the estate, as the servants – in particular Judith Anderson as the vaporous housekeeper Mrs Danvers – refer to Rebecca as the “real Mrs de Winter”, giving Maxim’s second wife the cold shoulder and keeping Rebecca’s old room as a shrine to her memory. As the ghost of Rebecca haunts our unnamed narrator, she begins to uncover the truth about Rebecca’s character and the circumstances surrounding her mysterious death.

Though many turn to Hitchcock’s Psycho or North By Northwest when citing his best work, one can’t help but be amazed by Rebecca, a film which still contains some of Hitchcock’s British sensibilities but also marks the introduction of his work into the larger American consciousness. The film also marked his first Oscar nomination, which would be followed over the years by another four Best Director nominations (and no wins).

Produced by David O. Selznick, the film’s release was delayed in order for it to be eligible for the 1940 Academy Awards, what with Selznick’s other project, a small film called Gone With the Wind, a sure win at the 1939 awards.

Discuss: Rebecca!

One Response to “Play It Again – Rebecca”

  1. A great film with some excellent acting runs rings around todays fare

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: