The Secret of Manderley

Rebecca is shockingly the only film from acclaimed director Alfred Hitchcock that won Best Picture. In spite of his reputation, Hitchcock never won a competitive Oscar in his storied career. The Oscar instead went to famed producer David O. Selznick. After viewing every popular movie from Hitchcock, the only way to go was backwards. Rebecca was also the first Hollywood movie from the filmmaker. Launching his 4 decade career in America. Rebecca is from a gothic novel that Selznick required to be as faithful as possible. That didn’t stop part of it from becoming quite risque for a 1940 film.

Rebecca is sort of split in three distinct parts. The first act is a romance between the wealthy Maxim de Winter and the unnamed companion for hire that would become his wife. This was surprisingly the first movie I’ve seen with screen legends Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine. Their relationship has a few warning signs, but she agrees to the marriage anyway. The second act is the new Mrs. de Winter adjusting to her confusing new life at Manderley manor.

What’s clever about her not having a name is that Maxim’s deceased first wife Rebecca is truly the main character. Her lingering presence can be felt in almost every scene. Mrs. Danvers is a creepy housekeeper who really gives Maxim’s bride a hard time. It turns out she was obsessed with Rebecca in a way that’s clearly hinting at a lesbian infatuation. Judith Anderson deserved her Oscar nod. Just like the movie deserved its second Oscar for Cinematography. The dark atmosphere laid the groundwork for Hitchcock’s later work. The third act is more of a murder mystery/courtroom drama with many twists and a fiery conclusion. Rebecca is worth obsessing over.

Rebecca

Mrs. Danvers (right) torments Mrs. de Winter (left)

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