Saturday, July 25, 2009

Rebeca (1940)

Actors: Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders, Judith Anderson

The first film of Alfred Hitchcock the American. Yes, this was the great man’s first American project. And the first film under David O Selznick.

The movie was an adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s novel of the same name (1938).

The first of the many Hitchcock’s in America, those were the days when the master of suspense was trying hard to prove his mettle in the new land whre he was trying to settle down. The place where he was putting all his Trans-European experience into practice, to become the most wanted director of motion pictures.

The story line:

A wealthy widower who, purportedly under depression of having lost his wife meets an young charming woman. They marry and go back to the man’s land, and then begins the fun.

Mrs Danvers, the house keeper who has been very close to Rebecca, the dead wife of the man tries to chase the charming young woman (who is never named in the film) out of Manderley. Does she manage to ??

What happens in Manderley after the new woman comes in, that is the movie.

I see a similarity between this movie and Strangers on a train (1951). In both the movies the protagonists are rich or famous and are distanced from their unfaithful wives (Miriam / Rebecca), at the end of the day they are accused of having murdered the wife. In both the cases the wives cheat their husbands.

The disgusted husband wants to do something, but can’t because of his social standing.

At the breaking point the man wants to kill his wife but doesn’t because he is in love with a senators daughter (Strangers on a train) and he doesn’t want to create controversy.

That said, many critics say this movie is similar to Easy Virtue. I would beg to differ. It definitely is not.

It is said that Sir Hitchcock wasn’t faithful in his adaptation of the novel. But Selznick, the producer wanted the movie to be a copy of the novel, so what did Sir Alfred to ?

He shot what he thought was his story, his movie and just that. He ensured that nobody could edit and reach their means. This is what we call these days the “edited in camera” technique.

Trivia: Sir Alfred is seen outside the telephone booth when Jack is making a call to Mrs Danvers to tell her about the result of the inquest.

Rebecca was the best picture (1940 Academy awards), George Barnes also won the best cinematography for a black & white movie. Apart from these two wins there were nine other nominations including one for Sir Alfred for the best director.

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