REBECCA. 1940. DIRECTED BY ALFRED HITCHCOCK. STARRING JOAN FONTAINE, LAURENCE OLIVIER, GEORGE SANDERS AND JUDITH ANDERSON. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
I recently had one of the nicest Saturday afternoons of my life, watching back-to-back old movies and episodes of TALKING PICTURES on BBC2 television. I saw the gorgeous and infinitely classy Joan Fontaine in conversation- separately- with Derek Hart, Barry Norman and Valerie Singleton, recounting classic showbiz tales such as the one about Alfred Hitchcock clouting her across the face to make her cry because she asked him to help her sniffle during a particular scene. Pure Hitch, hahaha…!
The 1941 thriller, SUSPICION, for which Ms. Fontaine won a most deserved Oscar, was followed by a second TALKING PICTURES, this time featuring Laurence Olivier, or Larry as he’s known to his chums. I never knew him, sadly, so I suppose I don’t have the right to call him Larry. Oh well. Never mind. After this, they showed REBECCA, probably one of the greatest films of all time, and certainly one of Hitchcock’s finest achievements.
It’s the story of an unnamed young woman who’s all alone in the world except for Edythe Van Hopper, the perfectly frightful old bag who employs her to be a paid companion. Better to be entirely alone, if you ask me! While holidaying in the South Of France, the young woman- beautifully played by Joan Fontaine- meets Maxim De Winter, a rich, handsome older man with a troubled past which he’s trying desperately hard to forget.
The holiday ends with Maxim asking Joan- we’ve no other name for her- to marry him and come home to England with him to live at Manderley, his magnificent ancestral home. Joan agrees in a shot, having fallen head over heels in love with him, and the couple duly travel back to Manderley. Much to the disgust of the dying-of-jealousy Mrs. Van Hopper, I might add…!
While at Manderley, Joan has to cope with many difficult challenges. The sinister Mrs. Danvers, for one, the housekeeper who was utterly devoted to Maxim’s deceased first wife, Rebecca. She resents what she sees as Joan’s intrusion and her attempts to take Rebecca’s place and would not be at all unhappy to see Joan ousted and sent packing back to where she came from. Joan is a shy little mouse who is terrified of Mrs. Danvers, who resembles nothing so much as a black crow of doom and gloom who spreads the opposite of good cheer wherever she walks. How’s that for a metaphor for you…?
The hardest challenge for Joan is that Rebecca is such a tough act to follow. She was beautiful, talented, accomplished, socially capable- unlike poor Joan!- and was adored by everyone who knew her. Especially by Maxim, if the poisonous Mrs. Danvers is to be believed.
Then one dark, misty night, the little boat which is known to have been Rebecca’s is discovered sunken off the nearby coast. There’s a body lying on the cabin floor. But it can’t be Rebecca’s body, can it, because that was washed-up on shore months ago and buried in the family vaults…? Wasn’t it…?
The film features superb performances from George Sanders as the roguish cad Jack Favell, and of course from Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers, an unforgettable role for her. Highlights include the first sighting of Manderley in the rain, the most disastrous costume ball ever given (probably!) and the one occasion on which sweet little Joan manages to grow a pair- to use the parlance of the day!- and stand up to that evil old bitch Mrs. Danvers. ‘I am Mrs. De Winter now…’
The film is seventy-five years old this year. It was made a whole lifetime ago and pretty much everyone who worked on it would have passed away by now. That thought is both sad and awe-inspiring. REBECCA, based on the book by Daphne Du Maurier, is one of those films that have stood the test of time and will continue to do so. If you haven’t already seen it, do so. It’s compulsive viewing and well worth your time.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
1) ‘… BY A WOMAN WALKING HER DOG…’
2) A WRITER’S JOURNEY
3) ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA
4) ANOTHER FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
5) CANCER BALLS
6) CATCH OF THE DAY
7) FIFTY FILTHY-DIRTY SEX-POEMS YOU MUST READ BEFORE I DIE.
8) FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
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