Joan Fontaine stars as a miserably shy and awkward lady's companion who meets the worldly and recently widowed Maxim de Winter in Monte Carlo. They seem an odd couple, but after a few short weeks, they marry and come home to his elegant country estate, Manderley. There, the new Mrs. de Winter is overwhelmed with her new, grand lifestyle, and is especially frightened by the forbidding housekeeper, who keeps her first mistress' memory and influence alive. Maxim reveals a terrible secret which forever alters the couple's life, and affects the very existence of Manderley.
This wonderfully atmospheric tale, complete with swirling fog and spooky organ music, will take you away to the glamourous, yet lonely world of Manderley. Joan Fontaine gives a breathtaking performance, convincing us she really is crippled with feelings of inadequacy, despite being a flawless beauty. Judith Anderson is unforgettable as the sneering housekeeper. Laurence Olivier makes a properly snobbish and brooding Maxim, and manages to be the hero despite a very fatal flaw. The title character, Rebecca (the first Mrs. de Winter), is never seen, but makes her intimidating presence known. If you like gothic romances filled with 1940's elegance and lots of creepy atmosphere, you'll enjoy Rebecca.
on 5 June 2003
Rebecca is by far one of Alfred Hitchcock's most entertaining and often overlooked masterpieces. In this film his US directorial debut we see at work the first signs of his genius as the master of film suspense coming to life. Laurence Olivier is great as the tortured Maxim haunted by the memory of his beautiful and mysterious first wife and Joan Fontaine puts in a good performance as the shy dowdy second wife of Maxim who slowly unravels dark hidden secrets behind Rebecca's tragic death. They don't make classic thrillers any more like Rebecca and I like it because the film is still good entertainment after so many years. Dame Judith Anderson is probably one of the best female villains of all time in her portrayal of the sinister housekeeper Mrs Danvers.
One of the great thrillers of all time and a film that must be added to any Hitchcock fan's movie collection.
on 1 January 2006
This 1940 film was a star at the Oscars, winning two and gaining a raft of nominations in almost every class. Hitchcocks first Hollywood studio-bound feature, it oozes deft cinematography, eerie scenes, brilliant studio sets and acting. Of course it has that slick direction from Hitch that we've come to expect from later films. It's exciting, romantic, gothic, it even has a lesbian sub-plot, and shows a young dashing Olivier (before his over-acting days came..) and the ever-gorgeous Joan Fontaine. Each scene is exquisitely lit, the dialogue is succinct, incidental music is passionate and the book-based story intelligent. No matter that it's 1940 black and white, I'm 30 and found the film 'spine-tinglingly' enchanting.
on 3 September 2005
This film is so great it is sublime. Both Fontaine and Olivier give the performances of a lifetime in this dark, exquisitely filmed and haunting masterpiece. The mise en scene is so perfectly co-ordinated that one is taken through the film in an almost dream-like state. This film really does have something for everyone- romance, mystery, suspense and even the odd quip from dapper Olivier, who surprisingly gives a rather understated performance. My only criticism is that this is the type of film that you just wish would never end.
on 15 June 2006
I'm 19 years old, when I first saw this movie I think I was like, 17. The very first time I saw it I fell in love with it. I'd read the novel beforehand and this is one of the few movie adaptations of a novel I've seen that actually does it incredible justice. The whole mood, the acting, the anxious subservience of Mrs. De Winter and the straight-laced broodishness of Maxim are just acted out perfectly! Joan Fontaine looks stunning, and Manderly looks almost exactly similar to how I pictured it.
They stayed incredibly close to the novel, in fact they didn't really change anything, they simply just had to leave things out (which actually slowed down the plot so it's a plus for the movie).
I remember being so shocked by the end, it's got a good twist (better than some movies these days). I didn't care that it was black and white and that feminism wasn't around so much at that stage, Joan Fontaine just makes you believe her need to please and to fit in, especially in the awesome shadow of the former wife Rebecca, and her housekeeper Ms. Danvers, who the new Mrs. De Winter feels she must impress. You can literally feel Mrs. De Winter's suffocating need to please. Feeling empathy toward her is easy during this movie.
Watch it, watch it again, and keep watching it! You won't be disappointed, even after several views!
on 12 February 2001
This is a truly magnificent film. All the more engrossing for it being Hitchcocks first foray into Hollywood. Although the film is largely a studio production, it is great to see some real trademarks (who said there was no such thing as an auteur?) including the amazing shadow of Mrs Danvers which towers over Mrs De Winter II. I loved the book, in particular, that gripping entrance, to which this film is so true (if perhaps not quite to true to the ending, but hell, this is Hollywood!)
The one that got the Best Picture Oscar...even if it was David O Selznick who picked it up as producer. It remains one of his most popular features, especially with women by all accounts, although Germaine Greer isn't a fan.
This was Hitch's first Hollywood film and is a brooding atmospheric film that takes a great novel (which was normally something Hitchcock would avoid like the plague, arguing that if a novel was too good, how could he possibly improve on it) and makes it into a film that is just as good, if not better.
Joan Fontaine makes a compelling "Second Mrs De.Winter" and whilst Laurence Oliver can't quite drop his "luvvy" acting style to make the role as Maxim De Winter equally as compelling, it's fair to say that he does make a good stab at the role. Judith Anderson makes a great Mrs Danvers, effortlessly adding the neccessary creepiness and spite to the chararacter, whilst George Sanders role as Jack Favell may not take up too much screen time, but is very memorable.
Sticking mainly to the plot of the novel, the changes Hitchock made to the book's plot aren't neccesarilly for the best. The film laws of the time meant that murder had to have consequences, so as a result, Rebecca's death is treated as an accident in the film. Secondly, Hitchcock takes away the ambiguity of the book's ending with his own fiery resolution.
I tend to think that the film takes a little too much time meandering whilst you wait for the "important" bits to come along, but by any stretch of the imagination, it's still a very fine piece of cinema. And it's hard to think of any other version of this classic story has ever come close to matching it.
This is one of Hitchcock's best films, his first for Hollywood. While it has his traditional themes of the murder mystery, there is an additional level of psychological realism that is missing in most of his later films, all in a splendidly atmospheric gothic romance, complete with a dark and ruined aristocratic mansion and the stuffy cruelty of the British upper classes and their servants. I will describe the setup of the plot, but not reveal any spoilers.
Fontaine is a young lady down on her luck, working as a companion - a kind of servant and sycophant - for an aging matron on vacation in the Riviera. The old lady is oppressive in her demands and expectation that Fontaine will submit to her whims without question, a cipher to intimidate and humiliate. But Fontaine's youthful radiant beauty gains the attention of a mysterious widower, Maxim, played by Olivier (he too is young, but always looks old). They begin a furtive romance, but there is something extremely dark and almost dead about him, a pull from another life or presence.
Once married - and warned with the cruelest condescension by her former employer that she will never be able to handle her new responsibilities - they move into a massive mansion in England. The servants, in particular the head woman, declare a kind of war on the young lady, who accepts her role yet is intimidated by their apparent sophistication and expectations.
The terrible presence in the house is the departed Rebecca, whom everyone seems to idolize and love. Fontaine must fight this, feeling her husband compares her unfavorably. With all these pressures, she becomes depressed and ever more fearful, lost amidst characters whose motivations are impossible to understand. What happened to her? Is there any chance she can find peace, if not happiness, with Maxim? These questions plague the girl as she explores the forbidden wing of the mansion.
Her life seems to be going nowhere, as stagnant as her marriage begins to feel. Then suddenly, an incident opens Maxim to her, and he confides in her finally. Things are not what they seemed and a difficult imbroglio follows that involves violence and accusations, climaxing in destruction. While romantic, the buildup is both frightening and depressing, an odd combination but completely believable.
Though it now appears as a kind of relic, this is a great viewing experience for film buffs and Hitchcock fans, but it should be entertaining for casual viewers as well. Warmly recommended. It is a masterpiece and the acting is first rate.
on 7 June 2005
Rebecca is dead but she hasn't gone away. This film is all about the effect she still has on the people whose lives she touched while she was alive. Her influence remains strong even a year after her mysterious death - so strong that her widower, Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier) almost loses his balance every time something happens to remind him of her. And there are plenty of things that keep jumping up to remind him of her. His great ancestral pile, 'Manderley', is so filled with the echo of Rebecca's presence that his shy new wife is hardly able to compete. Mrs Danvers, the housekeeper, who seems to have loved Rebecca more than anybody, plays a game of psychological warfare with the second Mrs de Winter (whose first name we never learn) and at first succeeds in terrifying the young woman. The house is one of the characters in the film - a presence - as is the sea. Both are moody and restless. The curtains billow, the shadow of Mrs Danvers stalks the rooms and corridors and Rebecca's aura unsettles Maxim and his wife. The sea crashes against the rocks and shore below the house. Mists roll in and darkness seems to close around.
The story, the acting, the cinematography (using the technology of 65 years ago!) and even the music all get top marks from me. Wonderful. Highly recommended.
on 8 August 2009
As nobody has yet actually reviewed the dvd shown in the graphics I will.The movie is ,of course ,a classic and I really dont need to go into it ,as it has been well reviewed many times,I will tell you about the extras.First up there is a commentary from film critic Richard Schickel,a making of (28mins),"gothic world of Daphne Du Maurier"featurette(19mins),screen tests(9mins),audio hitchcock interviews with peter bogdanovich and francois truffaut(14mins),3 radio plays(180mins),trailer,galleries and an isolated music track..Certainly a comprehensive looking set for a classic movie and beats the uk releases hands down.