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September 7, 2010

Rebecca (1940)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Actors: Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, Judith Anderson

Rebecca (1940) | BFI

Synopsis: A young woman (Joan Fontaine) marries Maxim De Winter (Laurence Olivier) after a whistlestop romance. The problems begin when she returns to his mansion, only to discover the legacy of his pre-deceased wife is still strong.

ReviewRebecca is a handsome, well-made romantic thriller that deserves its esteemed reputation in its own right, as well as being historically significant for marking Alfred Hitchcock’s first Hollywood movie. The film’s main strength is its beautifully realised air of mystery surrounding the De Winters’ ancestral home Manderlay, and its late mistress (the eponymous Rebecca) and the intimidating housekeeper, Mrs Danvers. When the film is in Manderlay mode – not just in the middle section but also in the wonderful opening scene – the air of sinister intrigue is palpable both in the new Mrs De Winter’s growing unease and in the overall gothic effect the location emits. The movie lags in its first act – a rather laboured, if necessary, stretch covering Max de Winters’ whirlwind courtship of his new wife – but more importantly in the final half-hour where the mystery dissipates from its slowly built-up ‘nightmare’ aesthetic to a regulation courtroom climax where Max has to defend himself against accusations of murdering Rebecca. (October 2005)

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