Hitchcock’s first American feature – and his only film to win the best film Oscar.
Monte Carlo out of season and Maxim de Winter (a dashing Laurence Olivier – Hamlet, The Boys From Brazil) is in mourning for the death of his wife, Rebecca. He takes solace in the charming company of the unnamed Joan Fontaine (Suspicion, The Constant Nymph), companion to wealthy American socialite, Mrs Van Hopper (Florence Bates – A Letter to Three Wives, On the Town). On returning to Manderley, the English family home, de Winter takes with him his new wife and the secrets of his earlier marriage – and with them comes the sinister housekeeper, Mrs Danvers (Judith Anderson – Laura, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof).
Daphne du Maurier’s novel is a splendid Gothic melodrama and perfect material for Hitchcock’s macabre psychological game playing. Rebecca is a well crafted gem with excellent performances and snappy dialogue. But, overlong, it is a victim of its time (made in 1940). The narrative is somewhat undermined by the overly timid Joan Fontaine character. A commentary on class differences it may be but, watching the film in 2021, it can be hard to stomach.
(The Hitchcock version is streets ahead of the 2020 version – Rebecca).
Nominated for 11 Oscars in 1941 including best director, actor, actress, supporting actress, screenplay – won 2 for best film and black & white cinematography.