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Saturday Night Cinema: Rebecca

8

Tonight’s Saturday Night Cinema selection is Rebecca, Hitchock’s brilliant film, “haunting, suspenseful, handsome and handsomely played.”

When a naive young woman marries a rich widower and settles in his gigantic mansion, she finds the memory of the first wife maintaining a grip on her husband and the servants.

“Alfred Hitchcock’s first Hollywood film is a sumptuous and suspenseful adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s romantic novel.”

Rebecca won two Academy Awards, Outstanding Production and Cinematography, out of a total 11 nominations. Olivier, Fontaine and Anderson were all Oscar nominated for their respective roles.

Rebecca closes out our Oscar month salute to Hollywood when it was golden and great. Today’s Hollywood is the moral inversion (if that) of an original American art-form. Debased, anti-real, irrational and awful — it reflects the destructive nature of leftism.

Splendid Film of du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’ Is Shown at the Music Hall–‘Broadway Melody’ at Capitol
By FRANK S. NUGENT
Published: March 29, 1940

Before getting into a review of “Rebecca,” we must say a word about the old empire spirit. Hitch has it—Alfred Hitchcock that is, the English master of movie melodramas, rounder than John Bull, twice as fond of beef, just now (with “Rebecca”) accounting for his first six months on movie-colonial work in Hollywood. The question being batted around by the cineastes (hybrid for cinema-esthetes) was whether his peculiarly British, yet peculiarly personal, style could survive Hollywood, the David O. Selznick of “Gone with the Wind,” the tropio palms, the minimum requirements of the Screen Writers Guild and the fact that a good steak is hard to come by in Hollywood.

Originally published by the Daily News on March 29, 1940. This story was written by Kate Cameron.)
The film drama made from Daphne du Maurier’s best-selling novel, “Rebecca,” which was introduced at the Music Hall yesterday morning, is a “best movie” on a number of counts.

First, it is the finest job of direction accomplished by a master director and may justly be called Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece. Second, it is the most interesting of the du Maurier stories to reach the screen. Third, Laurence Olivier gives the greatest performance of his career, as the doubtful hero of the story and the loveliest star born this year is Joan Fontaine who plays the pathetic heroine, the second Mrs. de Winter. And, most important of all, it is the best all around production of reach the screen since the dawn of the new year.

David O. Selznick has given this well-read story the high production values that he showered on his famous production “Gone With The Wind.” Nothing, apparently, was left undone to enhance the entertainment qualities of the melodrama. Something of the wild romantic quality of “Wuthering Heights” and the mystery of “Jane Eyre” pervade “Rebecca.”

Set featured image

The personality of the first wife, for whom the story is named, dominates the drama, although she is dead when the picture opens and never appears in person on the screen. Her spirit, however, remains the great obstacle to the happiness of Max de Winter and his second young wife, whom he meets while she is a paid companion to a wealthy warchiidow on the Riviera, and brings to Manderley as its chatelaine. There, young Mrs. de Winter gradually pieces together the tragedy of her husband’s first marriage.

The suspense of the story is magnificently sustained throughout the film, which didn’t surprise us, as maintaining suspense in a story has always been Director Hitchcock’s forte. Remember his “The 39 Steps,” “The Girl Was Young,” “The Man who Knew Too Much” and “The Lady Vanishes?” – all marvelous examples of sustained suspense in films.

Story Changed for Better.

The story is changed in only two important particulars and both these changes are improvements on the original. The first is the meeting between Max and the young, unsophisticated girl who was soon to become the second Mrs. de Winter. The second occurs in the confession scene, where Max tells his wife the story of Rebecca’s death, when he makes it clear to her that the first Mrs. de Winter died accidentally. This, by the way, is one of the most dramatic scenes in the film and is beautifully acted by both principals.

Robert E. Sherwood and Joan Harrison, collaborators on the screen play, did a remarkably fine job. The supporting cast, too, deserves a full measure of praise. Judith Anderson gives a fine characterization of the dour housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, in her screen debut. George Sanders, Nigel Bruce, Reginald Denny, Melville Cooper, Leo G. Carroll, C. Aubrey Smith, Gladys Cooper and Edward Fielding are excellent in their various roles.

As may be gathered from the above, “Rebecca” is recommended to one an all as tops on screen entertainment.

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