User Reviews (298)

  • nycritic5 March 2005
    10/10
    What Atmospheric Gothic-horror Should Be.
    Warning: Spoilers
    Alfred Hitchcock was and is still the undisputed Master of Suspense, and there is a lot of that here in his foray into Gothic horror, as the mystery surrounding the unseen yet omnipresent Rebecca will engage the viewer from its dreamy start to its bleak conclusion. This is exactly what atmospheric is supposed to be about, and in black and white, it shines. This is also what Gothic horror is in essence, and many have imitated yet come up short, most notably M. Night Shyamalan who, in trying to go for a shock twist and purported "atmosphere" only creates a bad aftertaste and a hangover the size of Mount Everest. This is, essentially, Hitchcock's first true masterpiece.

    Not one performance rings false, not to the novel or to their respective interpretations. Lawrence Olivier, quite possibly one of the greatest actors that ever lived, portrays a broken man who still lives haunted by the past as he himself were still living in that unending hell. Judith Anderson embodies one of the most coldly sadistic figures in cinema history, her smooth and elegant truculence only exceeded by Anthony Hopkins' rendition of Dr. Hannibal Lecter. One can't seem to understand the way she wallows in her dead mistresses' clearly perverse nature, but that exactly she does, right down to her own end. George Sanders does what he does best: sneer, smirk, and spit line after line of practiced venom, and would be honored 10 years later in ALL ABOUT EVE. Gladys Cooper, still striking in her 50s, plays into her casual cattiness which means no harm, although her rendition of Beatrice Lacy is a little subdued from the novel's version.

    And then there is Joan Fontaine. Not one of the best actresses on film, yet here, playing a role that evolves beautifully from a frightened, weak girl who is put into a situation she does not understand and who turns right at the point of losing it into a much more mature, strong woman capable of holding her own, she carries the weight of the entire drama and comes forth with flying colors. While I would have preferred Anne Baxter who would have been the exact right age for this role, Fontaine exudes so much restraint and nervousness about her character (partially to blame Olivier's treatment of her and Hitchcock's telling her the entire cast hated her), it's almost a relief when she finally decides to confront Olivier about what it the secret of Manderley. Not many roles require such a change and not many actresses would sink her teeth into a part that requires being put-upon until she can't stand no more, and this is one beautiful performance.

    A movie that should have won more Oscars that year, REBECCA has since grown in stature and proved that a film need not trophies to be Timeless and Great.
  • Infofreak8 July 2004
    If you want to be totally enthralled for two hours just watch 'Rebecca'!
    Hitchcock felt 'Rebecca', his first Hollywood film, was a compromise, but as a viewer I just can't fault it. It's a masterpiece in my opinion, full of suspense, mystery and brooding atmosphere. It's also one of the most romantic movies I've ever seen. I've watched it several times over the years, and even now that I know all the plot twists and turns (quite shocking on your first viewing), it never fails to hook me in. One of the reasons it really works is the flawless casting. I'm not much of an Olivier fan but he's superb as de Winter, with just the right mixture of charm and coldness. And Joan Fontaine is just perfect as de Winter's new bride. I can't spot an unconvincing moment in her performance and can't imagine any other actress in the role. Hitchcock subsequently used her in 'Suspicion' with Cary Grant. She was also excellent in that but 'Rebecca' is a much stronger movie. The supporting cast also includes some brilliant performances, especially Judith Anderson ('Laura') as the extremely creepy Mrs. Danvers, George Sanders who plays Rebecca's slimy cousin, and Nigel Bruce in a typical role as de Winter's bumbling brother-in-law Major Lacy. Sanders subsequently worked again with Hitchcock in 'Foreign Correspondent', and Bruce played Cary Grant's lovable pal "Beaky" in 'Suspicion'. I sometimes think that Hitchcock's 1940s movies are overlooked by many because they are regarded as being too "old fashioned", but for me movies like 'Suspicion', 'Saboteur', 'Lifeboat' and 'Spellbound' are some of the most entertaining movies Hitchcock ever made, and 'Rebecca' is the best of the lot. If you want to be totally enthralled for two hours just watch 'Rebecca'!
  • sundae11 October 2000
    A Wonderful Film
    This is one of my favorite movies of all time. Definitely my favorite classic. There are some that come close, such as Citizen Kane, Spellbound, and Psycho, but none quite compare to this amazing movie.

    The first thing that you notice is the outstanding cinematography. You have to remember that this movie was made in 1940, when they didn't have the technology we have now. But that first shot of the water beating up against the rocks grabs you and for one split second you wonder if maybe this isn't part of the movie but rather something filmed just recently. But then you see the familiar face of Laurence Olivier, reminding you that this was made 60 years ago, a fact that forever amazes me. The only oscar it won besides Best Picture was well deserved.

    Another thing that makes it such a wonderful film is the acting. I have debated on whether Laurence Olivier's character, the tortured Maxim de Winter, is the pitiable character or if his second wife played by Joan Fontaine is really the one to feel sorry for. Every time I watch it I see it from a different point of view. Joan Fontaine is excellent. Laurence Olivier is wonderful, but that's no surprise. The only thing that bugs me is that it seems in every movie he's in (well, at least, everything I've seen him in), he always plays the same type of character. But he's extremely good at it, so I suppose it doesn't matter.

    But although Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier are wonderful, Judith Anderson steals the show! The first time I watched the movie, I was immediately grabbed by her stunning performance as the sinister Mrs. Danvers. You hardly notice the other characters when she's in the scene. She acted the part so well that it's strange to imagine that she was any different in real life.

    With a wonderful storyline, and a very surprising ending, Rebecca well deserves the title as the only of Hitchcock's films to win the oscar for Best Picture. Although it may not be the most famous of all his films, it is without a doubt the greatest
  • Jason Forestein27 October 2004
    Joan Fontaine is so beautiful
    I spent the majority of this film thinking about how lucky M. Olivier really was. To be able to wrap his arms around Joan Fontaine and kiss her. Oh my. She's one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen (almost, but not quite as beautiful as Veronica Lake). She's also absolutely perfect in the role of the second Mrs. DeWinter, taking a character that could have become a cloying bore in less capable hands and transforming her into a sympathetic and interesting figure.

    The movie, on the whole, is similarly amazing, capturing the spirit and the tone of those great Gothic romances. Watching Rebecca, I was reminded (pleasantly) of Wuthering Heights; I do not mean to suggest that in some way this film re-tells the tale of Cathy and Heathcliff, but rather that Rebecca has the feel of Bronte's novel (I am most certainly not talking about the William Wyler adaptation a few years before the release of Rebecca. That's a terrible film that somehow manages to mis-interpret the novel).

    I must assume that the guiding hand of Hitchcock played no small role in recreating the feel of a Gothic romance. There are very few that would be able to take a love story, infuse it with such gloom, with such a sense of foreboding, and still manage to create something that ends happily without it feeling like a cop-out. I'd also like to draw everyone's attention to the incredibly moving section of the film that occurs between the arrival of the second Mrs. DeWinter at Mandalay and the masqued ball. The emotional strain on the Joan Fontaine character is so palpable, so absolutely taxing, that it actually pains me to watch. I hurt along with her. Few other movies affect me so emotionally - one of them is Vertigo.

    All in all, this is a fantastic piece of film-making from Hollywood's golden age. Laurence Olivier is in top-form, as he plays the quiet, sad Maxim and George Sanders is positively hateful.

    10/10 - a visceral masterpiece
  • Dtkoyzis20 February 2001
    the first Hitchcock masterpiece
    "Rebecca" was the first Hitchcock film I ever saw, and I was mesmerized by it from the start, convinced that I had to see more of the director's work. It richly deserved the Oscar it received, but it's a real puzzle that the Academy saw fit to withhold a best director award for Hitch. Would one possibly give an award to a work by Picasso and not to Picasso himself?

    "Rebecca" was the first of the director's American-made films, and it shows. It's quite different from his earlier British-made films, such as "Young and Innocent" and even "The Lady Vanishes," which somehow seem more amateurish by comparison. (I know little of the British cinema of that era, but it's difficult not to conclude that Hollywood was better at producing more sophisticated efforts.) I would even judge "Rebecca" the best of his films of the early 1940s, with the possible exception of "Shadow of a Doubt." It is true, of course, that much of this film has become cliché (remember the spoofs on the old "Carol Burnette Show"!), but it still weathers the decades very well. The acting is uniformly excellent. Olivier is the hardened Maxim de Winter, untitled lord of Manderly, trying to forget the past and given to unexpected bouts of anger and coldheartedness. Fontaine is perfect as the unnamed mousy heroine, innocent yet deeply in love, still carrying with her the aura of an awkward schoolgirl. Even character actor Nigel Bruce, best known for his role in the Sherlock Holmes films, makes an appearance and plays, in effect, Nigel Bruce!

    But it is Judith Anderson's role as Mrs. Danvers that viewers are likely to remember best. Her presence is as dark and foreboding as that of the deceased Rebecca herself, and Fontaine is evidently cowed by her icy stare and unnervingly formal manner. The dynamics between the two actresses are wonderful. Who could fail to empathize with Fontaine's unenviable position as, in effect, the new employer of such an intimidating personage? On the other hand, Olivier seems quite unfearful of Anderson, despite her representing so much of the past he is trying to block out. This part of the plot (even in the book) never made much sense to me and is unconvincing.

    As far as I know, this film marked Hitch's first collaboration with composer Franz Waxman, whose haunting score makes it all the more memorable. Waxman's scores are perhaps less obviously cinematic than those of the incomparable Bernard Herrmann, who would score Hitch's films from 1955 to 1966. Contrast the score for "Rebecca" to Herrmann's music for "Citizen Kane" the following year, and you'll immediately hear the difference. Waxman's is more symphonic in the central European style reflective of his own birth and upbringing. Yet it is worth recalling that scoring films was still a new art at this time, and both Waxman and Herrmann were pioneers.

    Finally, one has to mention the cinematography, which is magnificent. Technically "Rebecca" might have been filmed in colour, which was newly available in 1940. ("Gone with the Wind" was filmed entirely in colour the previous year, while "The Wizzard of Oz" and "The Women" had colour scenes.) But colour would have diminished its impact. The suspense and the ominous sense of impending doom could only have been communicated through the medium of black-and-white and the deft use of light and shade which it affords.

    In one respect, of course, "Rebecca" is not a typical Hitchcock film. There is no fleeing innocent trying to clear his name of a crime he did not commit. Surprisingly, there isn't even a murder, although its absence was apparently imposed by the Hayes Code and is certainly foreign to Daphne du Maurier's original novel. Some have said that there is more Selznick than Hitchcock in this film, and perhaps there's something to that. Still, if the collaborative effort between the two was not exactly amiable, it was nevertheless successful.

    In short, this is the first in a string of Hitchcock masterpieces.
  • Elswet3 December 2003
    10/10
    All around, an excellent production.
    his movie is a 10 from the very beginning. The casting is brilliant, the story is hauntingly beautiful, the performances are the best of what Hollywood once was, and the sets are of quality design and architecture. The direction is awesome, but it's Hitchcock, and I expect nothing less from his productions.

    Rebecca is a glamorous, beautiful socialite who has won the hearts of all who knew her. Well, almost all. But a year after her untimely death, her grieving husband near his wit's end, has grown seemingly suicidal and aloof.

    He engages his grief while on a trip to Monte Carlo, and meets the beautiful personal secretary and maid of a long-time friend, Mrs. Edythe Van Hopper. She is young, naive, and completely unprepared for the life which is awaiting her; all qualities which George Fortescu Maximillian 'Maxim' de Winter finds endearing.

    I won't detail the events in this movie, as the story itself is quite haunting, with surprises around every turn.

    This is a definite "must have" in any suspense / horror / Hitchcock / classics movie collection, and a mandatory must see for all fans of all movies.

    It rates a 10/10 for its absolute perfection, from...

    the Fiend :.
  • skoorbl2 September 2004
    Haunting atmospheric treasure SPOILER ALERT
    Warning: Spoilers
    It seems almost superfluous to add to the many laudatory comments this movie has received on this site, but I feel a need to lay some tribute at the altar of this wonderful piece of classic cinema.

    If you haven't seen the movie, there may be a couple of SPOILERS in this review, but hopefully also some new insights in compensation.

    As many have noted, the cast is uniformly excellent: the annoying social snob Edith Van Hopper(Florence Bates), Gladys Cooper's kind, sisterly Beatrice, the eerie Mrs. Danvers of Judith Anderson, Olivier's distracted yet explosive Maxim, George Sanders' snide, oily Favell and especially the oft-times underrated second (but unnamed) Mrs. DeWinter of Joan Fontaine.

    Although not entirely faithful to the Daphne Du Maurier novel, the screen adaptation preserves the haunting ambiance of Du Maurier's work. Rebecca, though never seen, is clearly the central character, but we learn about her all through indirection in the dialogue of the other characters. We are allowed to create her piece by piece in our own minds, which just adds to the engrossing, I-can't-stop-watching, thrust of the movie.

    The character who actually tells us the most about the real Rebecca is Mrs. Danvers. The erotic attachment of this character to Rebecca is subtle, yet unmistakable. The wonderful scene in which Judith Anderson shows Rebecca's bedroom to Joan Fontaine is breathtaking in its suggestiveness. The West Wing, 'the only room that looks down across the lawn to the sea' has become Mrs. Danvers' private temple to Rebecca. Her loving preservation of Rebecca's possessions, her sensual handling of Rebecca's underclothes, of her diaphanous negligee, of her glamorous furs and then Anderson's almost hypnotic miming of brushing Rebecca's hair as Fontaine sits at Rebecca's dressing table all make this scene an unforgettable sequence. Anderson's acting is absolutely miraculous. She achieves her character with hardly ever a change in her affect, except where a very slight contrasting up tick in energy transforms her in the West Wing scene and in the scene where she coolly suggests that Fontaine leave-by means of a precipitous drop out of the window onto the rocks. It is a performance which I doubt could ever be duplicated.

    As we later learn of Rebecca's moral character, it also seems that Mrs. Danvers was as much in love with Rebecca's corruption as she was with the woman herself. 'Danny' in a way becomes the embodiment of Rebecca's cold malevolence which still lingers in the mansion.

    Joan Fontaine could hardly have been better. She, of all the characters, evolves through the movie. She moves in a seamless line from the pitiful, beleaguered companion of Mrs. Van Hopper to her drowned rat arrival at Manderley to the self-assured and supportive wife Maxim wanted and needed. What I found fascinating about this transformation is the imaginative skill of the costume designer. At the beginning, Fontaine's shy little character is dressed like she made terrible selections at a Macy's basement sale. Later as she tries to fill the role of the 'great lady' she believed Rebecca to have been, her clothes always appear too big and totally out of character. Note the black evening dress with the absurdly large flowers across the front and especially the overwhelmingly outsized Garden Party gown she tries to wear to the costume ball. After she learns the truth about Rebecca from Maxim, discovering that he actually loves her as much as he hated Rebecca, Fontaine's costumes become trim, conservative and tasteful, befitting the genuine, grown-up woman she has become.

    Fittingly, the final scene belongs to Anderson-the frustrated woman robbed of her goddess--who brings the movie to a thundering operatic finish.

    Although Selznick and Hitchcock repeatedly clashed over this move, it remains a deathless tribute to both men. This movie never loses its fascination and bears repeated watching, each time weaving its wonderful spell anew. It is a must-see, again and again, classic.
  • tfrizzell10 July 2002
    Haunting Hitchcock.
    The only Alfred Hitchcock (Oscar-nominated for directing) film to win the Best Picture Oscar, "Rebecca" is one of those typical films from the amazing director that chills, entertains and puts you on the edge of your seat each time you watch it. Joan Fontaine (Oscar-nominated) has just married the very wealthy Laurence Olivier (also Oscar-nominated), but she is haunted by his mysterious housekeeper (a show-stopping Oscar-nominated performance by Judith Anderson) and the memory of the film's titled character (Olivier's late wife). Hitchcock, noted for his subtle sexual under-tones in films spares none of that here as Anderson's character and the late titled character's relationship seemed to go much further than employee-employer. Anderson slowly tries to drive Fontaine to insanity and the end she may accomplish her devious goal. Hitchcock's first real major U.S. debut stunned the Academy and audiences alike and would lead to the coveted Best Picture Oscar. It is not the best film the legendary director ever worked on, but it is still an amazingly good production that works on many cinematic levels. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
  • Bruce11 June 1999
    10/10
    A Classic on par with "Citizen Kane"
    In a line-up of great motion pictures, "Rebecca" stands as one of the giants. It is arguably Hitchcock's greatest film effort, replete with jolting, slap-in-the-face plot twists and gothic sets. Dark and moody, the film boasts Sir Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine in slam-dunk, dead on performances, George Sanders as the deliciously despicable Jack Favell, and Judith Anderson nearly stealing the show as the eerie, obsessed housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers. A perfect "10".
  • dave fitz1 May 2000
    10/10
    One of Hitchcock's best films
    In his long career, Alfred Hitchcock directed many great films. Rebecca ranks as one of the greatest. It was the only Hitchcock movie to win a Best Picture Oscar and it was his first Hollywood film after leaving England. This was also the first film in which he adapted someone else's work, the famous novel by de Maurier.

    This film features all the twists and strange characters you would expect from Hitchcock along with the trademark unexpected ending. Sir Laurence Olivier is great, as usual, as Maximillian de Winter. The stunning Joan Fontaine is wonderful as "the Second Mrs. de Winter". Rebecca is an entertaining thriller by one of the masters of film.
  • riverspipe2 April 2005
    5/10
    Proof people praise what is expected to be praised
    There are two moments of cinematic greatness in this film. 1)The home movie scene, and 2)the scene involving Danvers manipulating Joan Fontaine after the costume ball. But though these memorable instances attempt to cajole us into admiration during the viewing, the overall product beckons us to reexamine our initial wooing. There are a few other moments of atmospheric success, and Fontaine's initial arrival and exploration of Manderlay and its characters is interesting, but otherwise, the film is often mediocre, and sometimes even poor. Laurence Olivier is very stale and does not exude much of a presence, nor a riveting sense of charm. Fontaine is better, but her character is completely over-the-top. She seems well adjusted and interesting at first, then does nothing but shake and stand with lost eyes for the rest of the film. I know the situation is supposed to bring about such behavior, but it is just too much. The chemistry between the two characters is horrible. Perhaps that is supposed to demonstrate the awkwardness in their relationship. But, then we find de Winter really does love her, and he hates his dead wife. So while his madness translates well, his supposed love for her never does. Not even at the end. And hers for him feels impossible to get our heads around, since he never does anything but be rich and handsome to impress her. I know, I know, those are the dynamics of the relationship, and some of them are more subtle (e.g. de Winter probably goes for her because she seems sexually tame and timidly obsequious), but it still does not feel right in the end. The characters' actions are too shortsighted for the overall plot.

    The film often has no momentum, and drags on forever. The entire opening courtship can be eliminated since it is not efficacious in convincing us of much romance anyway. Then there is the second part, where Fontaine slowly learns the secrets of Manderlay, and though this probably is the best part of the film, it still never feels like it is building to a climax, even though every scene attempts to convey a bit of foreboding intrigue. Instead, it becomes monotonous; precisely because every scene is exactly the same. The end feels like it should approach soon after Danvers diabolical rant. Then there is Olivier's admission, and it feels like it should come again. But again it doesn't, and when the ending finally does come, it is of such an enormous magnitude that it feels too brief.

    Then there is the story, which I believe has a couple of plot holes, and realistic dilemmas, though I cannot say with absolute certainty. The film has a chance, but not without a reassessment of the script. Another chance at astonishing greatness blown.
  • sol-3 January 2005
    My brief review of the film
    A stylishly directed and photographed film that examines a number of themes, such a deception, death and depression, and explores well the emotions of its characters. It is rare to find a film like this, as it tackles various genres, ranging from being a romance to a mystery to a drama to even a comedy at times, and all without seeming pretentious. The cast is truly magnificent. Judith Anderson is a stunner is a quiet but sinister role, and George Sanders is even more impressive in lively but also sinister performance. Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine are perfect for their roles too. The film won Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Cinematography quite deservingly – this is one of the best films Hollywood has ever produced.
  • calvinnme15 January 2017
    9/10
    A film with a nameless protagonist and an invisible namesake
    This was Alfred Hitchcock's first American-made film. Quite frankly, I'm amazed at how well Hitchcock "got" what American audiences wanted in their suspense films, hitting them out of the park from the moment he began working in the US.

    Apart from being a tad bit long, this is a well made film. I love the inside of Mandalay and Sir Laurence Olivier played a wonderful mysterious and sullen Maximillian De Winter opposite his new wife, a beautiful and naive young Joan Fontaine who is never even given a name here, probably deliberately and in keeping with how mousy and "second hand" she feels about herself in relation to the first and late Mrs. De Winter, who is actually Rebecca from the title.

    Of course there is also George Sanders, playing the type of character he is best known for--sarcastic, snobby, self-assured, pompous, witty and verbose. He hits the nail on the head as Rebecca's "cousin" - so he calls himself. Of course the most eerie and unsettling character was Mrs. Danvers, Rebecca's housekeeper or "maid in waiting." Danvers takes great pains in sabotaging the second Mrs. De Winter's marital relationship with Max de Winter,--even going as far as calmly urging her to to plunge to her death into the water from Rebecca's bedroom window at Mandalay. There are a couple of twists in this movie, but I won't give them away. It's best if you watch them unfold yourself in true Hitchcockian style.

    I will say that Rebecca, the first wife of Max de Winter, is NEVER seen, but we learn about her by what is said about her by the various characters, even going as far as seeing the untouched shrine of a bedroom maintained by Mrs. Danvers. But soon you learn that Rebecca was never the perfect wife Danvers and others make her out to be. The ending is a surprise in more way than one, and yet Mrs. Danvers gets the last word in her own way. A great movie by Alfred Hitchcock and David O. Selznick.
  • Snow Leopard26 July 2001
    A Fine Classic
    This fine classic combines a great director, a great story, and a great cast. Any one of those would have made for a good movie, but all three make it an excellent one. Hitchcock's style and eye for detail combine very well with a story (from a novel that is extremely good in its own right) filled with psychological fear and settings that are interesting and suggestive.

    Most of the time the story itself moves fairly slowly, allowing the focus to be on the characters, but there are also a couple of very good plot twists, which can be very surprising if you've not seen the movie or read the novel. So if you happen not to know the story, it's a good idea to see the film before reading a lot of comments about it. Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, Judith Anderson, and George Sanders are all perfectly cast and do a wonderful job bringing their characters to life, and making you feel a part of the story.

    "Rebecca" should be satisfying not only to any Hitchcock fan, but to anyone who likes classic movies. Whether you like romance, suspense, or drama, they're all here, and put together by a director and cast that are masters of their art.
  • ma-cortes5 October 2006
    8/10
    Hitchcock's first great American success in a classic story with a love story and suspense
    This is a Daphne Du Maurier's story (from a best-seller novel) concerning a prominent widower (Laurence Olivier) called Maxim De Winter who finds a gorgeous and timid young girl (Joan Fontaine) who is serving to an old Mistress (Florence Bates) . They are married and head to Manderley , the familiar mansion (in the exterior actually is a scale model). But Maxim is haunted by the ghost first wife , an enigmatic Rebecca , who died in mysterious circumstances . There works as a servant the creepy and obsessive housekeeper , Mrs Danvers (Judith Anderson,a famous stage actress in her most important role) and sh meets a cynic gentleman (George Sanders).

    This film has suspense , romance , unlimited tension , full of lingering images and with the typical touches Hitchcock . Besides , a literately and thoughtful dialog signed by Joan Harrison (Hitchcock's usual screenwriter) though lacking humor . After ¨39 steps¨and ¨Jamaica Inn¨ , Hitch was encouraged to go to America and promptly shot his first work in Hollywood hired by the great producer David O'Selznick . Fine performance by Laurence Olivier , he married Vivien Leigh and he wished to her as protagonist but Hitch hired Joan Fontaine who took seven rehearsal sessions until the engaging . Joan Fontaine as a shy bride young is superb and enjoyable . Judith Anderson as a spooky and cold house keeper is top-notch, her role as obsessed person by the glamorous Rebecca is unforgotten and immortal . Atmospheric and perceptible music by Franz Waxman and sensational visual style by the cameraman George Barnes . The picture won Academy Awards for Best film and cinematography . The movie was brilliantly directed by the Master of Suspense . It's remade in inferior versions for Television, the 1980 adaptation with Jeremy Brett as Maxim and 1996 rendition with Charles Dance and Emilie Fox . The motion picture is indispensable watching for Hithcock lovers achieving the maximum impact on his audience.
  • fletch58 September 2000
    6/10
    Overappreciated
    "Rebecca" is often mentioned as one of Hitchcock's finest works. In my opinion, it's his most overappreciated film. I just don't understand what's so good about this overdramatic, fairly unhitchcockian yarn. It goes on and on and on revealing "the secrets of Manderley", and then ends quickly, almost furtively. Maybe the maestro himself didn't like the film neither, because his cameo is a really hard one to catch! Still, "Rebecca" is worth seeing at least for Judith Anderson's amazing performance as the evil Mrs. Danvers.

    If you're a Hitchcock fan, take notice that Leo G. Carroll (Dr. Murchison in "Spellbound", senator Morton in "Strangers on a Train", the professor in "North by Northwest") makes his first appearance in a Hitchcock movie as Rebecca's doctor (near the end of the film).
  • seymourblack-121 March 2014
    9/10
    Romance, Fear & Dark Secrets
    Warning: Spoilers
    In "Rebecca" a young woman's experiences of romance, fear and dark secrets correspond with her transition from innocence to maturity and prompt her saddened husband to reflect that "it's gone forever, that funny, young, lost look I loved won't ever come back. I killed that when I told you about Rebecca. It's gone. In a few hours, you've grown so much older". The despondency, regret and sense of loss that are embodied in these words are incredibly profound and typify the general atmosphere of gloom and melancholy that's such a strong and important feature of this extraordinary film.

    During a short stay in Monte Carlo, a naïve young lady who works as a paid companion for a rich overbearing society woman meets and falls in love with an older aristocratic Englishman called Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier). Their relationship develops rapidly and soon the young lady becomes "the second Mrs de Winter" (Joan Fontaine) and returns with her new husband to his enormous estate in Cornwall and his huge mansion called "Manderley".

    Maxim is a moody widower whose first wife, Rebecca, died in a boating accident. He's often brusque with his wife and she assumes that his sudden outbursts of anger are linked to his inability to come to terms with the loss of Rebecca. When she becomes the new mistress of Manderley, the second Mrs de Winter is soon overwhelmed by her new role and starts to feel rather isolated because of the aloofness of her staff and her husband's rather distant manner. She's also surprised and intimidated by the degree to which the spectre of Rebecca seems to be ever-present as everyone in the mansion (including Maxim) seems obsessed with Rebecca.

    Mrs Danvers (Judith Anderson) is the cold, severe looking housekeeper who "adored" Rebecca and now keeps her room exactly as it was when her previous mistress was alive. Her hostility to the second Mrs de Winter is obvious from their first meeting and she does everything within her power to undermine her new mistress including trying to get her to commit suicide. The feelings of fear, inadequacy and powerlessness that the second Mrs de Winter experiences at this point are intense but soon everything changes when a sunken boat is discovered nearby with a body inside it. A whole series of revelations then follow and make it clear that so many things at Manderley were not as they had originally appeared to be.

    Laurence Olivier's performance as a tormented man who's haunted by his past is very good but definitely outshone by Joan Fontaine and Judith Anderson. Fontaine's expressions and body language convey her character's timidity, uncertainty and sincerity with enormous power and Judith Anderson is convincingly evil as one of movie history's most memorable villains.

    An interesting feature of "Rebecca" is the techniques that are used to make the second Mrs de Winter appear insignificant and inferior. Not only does she get cruelly dominated by her employer in Monte Carlo and consistently patronised by Maxim but she's also denied even the basic dignity of having a name. When she's first introduced to the staff at Manderley, she's made to feel uncomfortable and embarrassed because she's rain-soaked and dishevelled and visually, the distorted dimensions of the interiors of Manderley make her look physically smaller, lost and out of her depth in her impressive new surroundings.

    Although Alfred Hitchcock famously dismissed "Rebecca" as not being a "Hitchcock film", it's an exceptionally good film that's very well directed with numerous touches that are characteristic of the great director's work.
  • andyman61813 August 2003
    10/10
    My favorite Hitch
    Warning: Spoilers
    SPOILERS ABOUND!!!!

    `Last night I dreamt I was at Manderly again.' As with Daphne DuMaurier's novel, so begins Alfred Hitchcock's classic film adaptation, and the only one of his films to be awarded an Academy Award for Best Picture. It should also be noted that the film also won an Oscar for Best Cinematography, Black and White. Hitchcock, Fontaine, Olivier, and Anderson were also nominated in their respective categories.

    Rebecca was Alfred Hitchcock's first American movie, and much has been written about the interference by David O. Selznick with its production. That is not the purpose of this review, though. Frankly, I don't know all that much about what went on behind the scenes, but I do know that the resulting film is a masterpiece.

    Rebecca can be divided into three parts: Monte Carlo, Manderly, and the inquest after the discovery of Rebecca' sunken boat.

    At Monte Carlo, we are introduced to Joan Fontaine's character, a complete nonentity (in fact, we never learn her real name) who is serving as a paid companion to Mrs. Van Hopper, an obnoxious, wealthy matron delightfully played by Florence Bates. While there, she meets George Fortescu Maximillian de Winter (Maxim for short,played by Laurence Olivier), fabulously wealthy and as charming as Mrs. Van Hopper is boorish. Maxim has been traveling trying to recover from his first wife Rebecca's untimely death in a drowning accident. At the end of her stay at Monte Carlo, the young woman is surprised to have Maxim ask her to marry him, although not with as much romance as she would probably have liked, and much to the consternation of her erstwhile employer Mrs. Van Hopper.

    The movie then takes us to Manderly, the palatial family estate of the de Winter family. Here Fontaine's character truly finds herself out of her depth as the new mistress of Manderly. Not only has she never had to deal with such a large house and a retinue of servants, but she gets a decidedly chilly reception from Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson), and everywhere she goes and everyone with whom she speaks reminds her of the beauty and accomplishments of Rebecca. She feels overwhelmed by the specter of Maxim's first wife and of his abiding love for her. Not only that, but Fontaine's character is treated like a child, both in Monte Carlo and at Manderly, whether it is in the dismissive way of Mrs. Van Hopper, the fatherly manner of Maxim, or in the gently patronizing way of Frith, Manderly's head butler. One gets the feeling that the new Mrs. de Winter is a child lost in this great house, afraid of making any false steps.

    Judith Anderson is amazing as Mrs. Danvers. Although she never raises her voice, and always speaks with seeming respect to her new mistress, Anderson nonetheless allows Mrs. Danver's malevolence to come through. She is the archetype for all the cold-hearted housekeepers who have come since, and none can match her. She never lets Mrs. de Winter forget Rebecca and how she was loved by everyone, especially Maxim. Haunted by the specter of Rebecca, the new Mrs. de Winter seems to feel like an intruder, trespassing on Rebecca's home and sleeping in her bed.

    Mrs. Danvers finally reveals the depth of her hatred by suggesting a costume for Mrs. de Winter to wear at a party that was originally worn by Rebecca. After Maxim's expected negative reaction, Mrs. Danvers urges her, in arguably the most memorable scene in the movie, to commit suicide by throwing herself from the window. Mrs. de Winter is saved, though, by the wreck of a boat near Manderly and the noise of the rescue that is undertaken.

    During the course of the rescue, another boat is found: the one in which Rebecca died. Having discovered Rebecca's corpse inside, it is announced that an inquest must take place to investigate her death. When his wife tries to comfort Maxim, he reveals to her the truth behind his relationship with Rebecca: that he hated her, and was trapped by her into a sham of a marriage. He also tells her of how Rebecca died; that he had killed her in a rage and sunk the boat with her body inside. After this revelation, a change comes over the new Mrs. de Winter: she grows up, and is visibly more self-assured. She and Maxim, to a certain extent, reverse roles, in that he loses hope and she must comfort him and reassure him that all will be well, when in fact all seems hopeless. She is now truly the mistress of Manderly.

    During the inquest, it is discovered that Rebecca's boat was scuttled, and had not capsized as was previously thought. Circumstantial evidence begins to pile up against Maxim, until a visit to Rebecca's personal physician reveals her ultimate betrayal and clears Maxim's name.

    Rebecca is, essentially, a drama of mystery and romance, and in lesser hands it could easily fall into the trap of melodrama. But Hitchcock's deft direction, the superb cinematography, and the outstanding performances by the entire cast make it one of the greatest romances ever made, and one of my favorite films.
  • Spikeopath4 March 2008
    10/10
    Do you think the dead come back and watch the living?
    Rebecca is directed by Alfred Hitchcock and adapted to screen play from the Daphne du Maurier novel of the same name. It stars Laurence Olvier, Joan Fontaine and Judith Anderson. Cinematography is by George Barnes and music scored by Franz Waxman.

    After meeting and marrying 'Maxim' de Winter (Olivier), the Second Mrs. de Winter (Fontaine), finds life at his English estate, Manderley, far from comfortable because the servants and the house serve to remind her of the first Mrs. de Winter, whose death remains a source of mystery. What did happen to the first lady of the house? Can this newly married couple survive the oppressive cloud that looms large over the mansion?

    A Gothic emotional near masterpiece, Alfred Hitchcock's first American film may seem a bit too serviceable at times, something he was also aware of himself, but the production values are high and the story is played out supremely well. Within the story we can find Hitchcock's now famous trait of mistrusting Women, but in the main it stays the tragic tale of one young woman living in the ominous shadow of the previous Mrs. De Winter. Mood is often set as foreboding, with the director understanding the psychological pangs of the source material once the action switches to the de Winter home of Manderley. It arguably is a touch too long, and the restraint of Hitchcock, down to producer David O. Selznick overseeing things, stops it being a bit more unnerving than it should be.

    For Manderley the mansion here is one of the finest put on the screen, this is because Hitchcock and brilliant cinematographer George Barnes manage to make it bold & beautiful one minute, and then the next scene it comes off as a monolithic nightmare. It's wonderful case of the surroundings playing the extra character for maximum effect. Laurence Olivier is impressive, even if we would learn later on that this is the sort of performance he could do in his sleep. The supporting cast do great work as well, especially as regards the cold and terrifying turn from Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers. However, to me this will always be Joan Fontaine's show, she nails it perfectly, the new Mrs. De Winter wants to do right but can't seem to so for doing wrong, she infuriates at times, yet the next minute you just want to hold her, for she's so vulnerable, but beautifully so, it's a brilliant performance in a brilliant film.

    The ending is a switheroo from the novel, and it almost derails the success the film has achieved up to that point. And looking at it now it's hard not to curse the Production Code for enforcing a big change to what was revealed in du Maurier's wonderful novel. But the film has survived the "appeasing" ending to stand the test of time for all the ages. It won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and Barnes also won for Best Black & White Cinematography, it was nominated for a further nine awards, including Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. No nomination for Waxman, sadly, but his score is worthy of a mention for the evocative strains that sit nicely with the tone of the story. Rebecca, a hauntingly beautiful picture that's acted and produced with consummate skill. 9.5/10
  • johnnymonsarrat26 March 2010
    3/10
    He's mean. She's brittle. This is a love story?
    I'm forced to say I just didn't "get" or enjoy Rebecca at all. I'm sorry.

    Our male hero alternates between making his love interest cry and heckling her for trying to please him. He proposes by mentioning it in a flippant and sort of insulting manner from the next room. Our female hero tries so hard to please everyone that she's constantly excusing herself and breaking down.

    Sure, people like this exist in the real world. But this is not a Leaving Las Vegas story of crippled people... it's portrayed as a true love story. I find it sickening. These days, we look up to strong women, and we certainly don't want people (of any gender) constantly saying thing that are mean.

    To add on top of this, I didn't feel any chemistry between the characters... declaring their love felt quite sudden, I didn't feel any real chemistry about the hero's angst about his dead wife... the whole film just seemed contrived. The scenes where the heroine isn't quite ready for rich living become repetitive, like beating a dead horse. It would feel preachy if only there were some message to preach. Finally, I'm sorry to say it, but cinematography and things like color have been in films for a long time now.

    This film left me even more confused than Chasing Amy and I couldn't get all the way through it. I can see from other people's reviews that a murder mystery eventually surfaces. But hey, I did get an hour into the film without a hint of tension so I guess that all happens later. I'm forced to give it a 3 out of 10.
  • Craig Burkhart6 December 2000
    3/10
    My least favorite Hitchcock movie
    I still have no idea why people like this movie so much. The acting is poor, particularly that of Olivier. He comes across as overacting terribly. Miss Fontaine fares better. She, at least, gives us a decent performance. Anderson is completely not to be believed. The music is so overdone it makes you wonder what they were thinking by putting it in there so much. This movie is just waiting to be parodied (as it has been). And then there's the ending when this turns into a movie in search of an editor. Every time you think it might be over it goes on for ten more minutes. Then, is it over? No, it just rambles on and on until you want to strangle whoever is playing that awful music. It should be noted that this movie has more of Selznick in it than Hitchcock. After making this film Hitch began to try and get every other studio in Hollywood to hire him out so he wouldn't have to work with Selznick again. He even makes fun of Selznick with smug jokes in later movies. I can see why. If somebody took my movie and put in that music and let it ramble on forever I'd be mad at them, too. There is a good idea for a film in here somewhere, but this isn't it. I hope all the people who voted this the best picture of 1940 were given a nice padded cell. I was planning to write more, but just thinking about this movie is making me cringe, so I'll just stop. If you like good movies, see many other Hitchcock classics, but leave this one on the shelf.
  • T Y6 March 2008
    4/10
    Yep, that's a melodrama
    Warning: Spoilers
    In kissing off her nasty, disapproving guardian (Mrs. von Hoffstetter) and improbably marrying wealthy Maxim de Winter, nameless, socially-retarded servant Joan Fontaine leaps from the frying pan into the fire. Van Hoffstetter is instantly replaced by the awful, iron-willed, disdaining housekeeper at her new estate, Mrs. Danvers; some sort of nightmare embodiment of all that's wrong and masochistic about British servitude. Not able to get over her own mousiness, Fontaine develops a fear of Danvers, and a bizarre inverted power-dynamic develops. The plot (eventually) thickens...

    The big revelations are hopelessly convoluted and plot-negating. Here's the final hour's worth of conflicts which all reverse themselves into pointlessness. --- Maxim can't bear to be reminded of Rebecca apparently because she was such a paragon of womanhood. Oh, but wait, he actually hated her; what a stroke of luck for our heroine! --- Someone else is buried in Rebecca's grave, meaning (gasp!), Rebecca's still alive? Nope, she's dead anyway. --- Rebecca was a conniving bitch and was provoking Maxim to kill her? Oh, but luckily, she accidentally fell and died anyway. --- Rebecca was probably pregnant making it look like Maxim killed her? Oh, but no, luckily she was full of cancer and would have died that month anyway. OH come on already! Such poor writing. One of these limp developments would have been too much. Generally, we don't go to a movie to watch dumb luck neutralize a catalog of threats in someone's life.

    Rebecca is unusually slow and uneventful. I've rented this three times previously, out of a sense of obligation, and fallen asleep each time, after no more than 45 minutes; and never finished it. The idle rich are shown having lots of time to be idle and fret about obscure things; pretty dull, unless you're into time-jumping, class-fantasy. I watched it recalling that the British pretty much consider their upper-class to be lunatics. I fell asleep again this time, but trudged on just to be through with it, once and for all. At the first twist, the damned thing should have ended, but there's still about an hour of reversals left! It's decidedly un-Hitchcockian except for Hitch's odd use of miniatures and rear-screen, which is becoming distracting here. A puppet of Mrs. Danvers closing a tiny window is unconvincing even at the scale of TV. This is a dull, clumsy, overlong melodrama with tedious, long-delayed segments devoted to exposition. There's also a costume ball; a bankrupt cliché if there ever was one. Rebecca is a bad movie.
  • tedg2 September 2005
    The Hidden
    I stick by my other Hitchcock comments, comments that have produced lots of negative responses.

    Hitchcock was a terrific craftsman who after many, many tries made two really superb movies. Movies that can be life-altering and changed the face of cinema. This is not one of them.

    Those two cast a light of genius on his other work that is undeserved. This film is often cited as a great example of how coherently he was able to weave all his skills. I agree, but only two are remarkable: Fontaine's performance in the first half where she shrinks in her new situation.

    And the use of the house. But the story is so dull and plodding it cripples the pleasure of a craftsmanlike film.

    The house is similar to many in other films. But already with this movie, Hitchcock has a camera that is curious. Hard to recognize how unusual that is today because such a stance is so common now, but the idea of having a camera come from non-human perspectives but with human behavior was unique to him.

    And he uses the building well. We get a hint of this in the opening sequence. There is a collection of absolutely dreadful shots of fog, and an equally dreadful narration by Fontaine, but then we are taken through the gates up the drive. In an ordinary film of the era, the gates would open or the camera would go through the space between the two halves.

    But this camera goes through a "solid" part of upper right gate. That effect was costly and we get the message early that this is about space. The pounding on the fog metaphor is blunter report of the same message.

    Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
  • bdcharger6918 February 2011
    10/10
    Best movie ever!!!!
    This movie is very close to the actual book, written by Daphne du Maurier. I read the book after I first saw the movie. The similarities are amazing. When I first saw this movie I fell in love with it. I never really liked black and white movies but this one caught my attention right off the bat. The love story is amazing. Alfred Hitchcock is an amazing man. I don't want to spoil the movie. It is a must see!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine and Judith Anderson are well paired. The ending of the movie is definitely a surprise! It was a pleasure to visually experience the early way movies where put together and the difference between the 1930 to the present.
  • Enchorde20 November 2005
    5/10
    Long, slow, good acting but far too little "Hitchcock",
    Warning: Spoilers
    Recap: Maxim de Winter remarries with "Second Mrs de Winter" after a short a quick romance at the hotel. Maxim is a very rich man from the top of society while Second Mrs de Winter is totally new to riches and her newfound status. Maxim takes his new wife to his mansion, the huge Manderlay, and they are booth greeted by the staff. But this is not the first time Maxim is married. His former wife, Rebecca, drowned a year ago and her memory lies heavy over the mansion. Mrs de Winter feels totally out of place, like an intruder, and it does not help that Mrs Danvers, the head of the staff, was very fond of the first Mrs de Winter and is acting very cold towards the new wife. And Maxim, when not leaving his new wife alone, acts very strange when anyone speaks of Rebecca. His new wife feels that she has to compete with an idol and does everything she can to please her husband, but as she misinterprets a lot of signs, she fails. And one fateful night, things are discovered that puts the death of Rebecca in question. Accident? Suicide? Murder?

    Comments: A good acted but unfortunately too long drama/mystery. Hitchcock emphasizes the love triangle between Maxim and his present and former wife very much, and after a while it almost seems repetitive. The movie takes small and very slow steps and very little new is introduced. Until we nears the end, when Maxim's story about the death of his first wife is put in question. Then we get to see the mystery and some of the suspense I think of when hearing the name Hitchcock. But its too late, by then I was already bored and had some of my attention elsewhere.

    Otherwise, a good production, very good acting from Joan Fontaine, and from Laurence Olivier with the distant character of Maxim. Unfortunately there are some mistakes done. Manderlay is obviously a miniature, and some of the background, mostly ocean, doesn't really connect with the actors. Supposed to be a classic, but I was a little disappointed.

    5/10
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