CastJoan Fontaine, Laurence Olivier, Judith Anderson, George Sanders, Reginald Denny, Gladys Cooper, C. Aubrey Smith, Nigel Bruce, Florence Bates, Edward Fielding, Melville Cooper, Leo G. Carroll, Leonard Carey, Lumsden Hare, Forrester Harvey, Philip Winter
StorylineMaxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier), still troubled by the death of his first wife Rebecca, falls in love with a shy ladies' companion (Joan Fontaine). They get married, but the second Mrs. de Winter discovers that Rebecca still has a strong hold on everyone in the house, particularly on Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson), the housekeeper, who begins driving the young wife to madness.
OpinionI have heard anything but great things about this film. To my surprise, I have found it just average. It is not bad, but it is neither a masterpiece.
Hitchcock’s only feature to ever win an Academy Award, Rebecca not only is the less Hitchcock of Hitchcock’s films, but it’s probably his most over appreciated film.
The film is based on Daphne du Maurier novel of the same name, and since producer David O. Selznick insisted the film to be as faithful as possible to the source material, I get that Hitchcock wasn’t able to turn the whole thing into his kind of film.
But the problem is another one. Born as a melodrama, grown as a thriller, and died as a judiciary drama, the story isn’t very thrilling, mostly due the fact that I didn’t know if I was supposed to be scary, or what I was supposed to feel about the events that took place.
Newbie - at the time - Hitchcock has that extraordinary ability to build an atmosphere that defines and characterize the psychology of the characters, hovering between guilt, obsession with personality cult and devotion. The lack of any real thrills and ambiguity are a real shame.
Luckily there is the acting to lift up the film a little. Joan Fontaine is perfect as de Winter’s new bride, a role that evolves from a frightened, weak girl to a strong, mature woman. Laurence Olivier is flawless in the role of Mr. de Winter, a broken man who still lives haunted by the past. Judith Anderson gives a wonderful performance as one of the most cold and sadistic figures in cinema history, Mrs. Danvers. The rest of the cast also pull off good performances.