Thursday, 5 November 2009

(500) Films of Empire - Day 49

318 - Rebecca - 3 stars
The first of several Hitchcock films on the list, one I've never seen before and the only one to win Best Picture.
It was the first film that Hitchcock made in Hollywood and it is apparent that he wasn't fully allowed to be the Master of Suspense that we all came to know and love.  There was not much of his trademark style in the first half of the film but once the revelation of the fate of the first Mrs De Winter is explained then Hitch comes into his own.
It reminded me of The Woman In Black, a novel and excellent stage play, where the title character is largely absent from the screen yet has an amazing presence and hold over the characters.
The main performances are very good, with Mrs Danvers particularly sinister.
As I noted earlier, the only Hitchcock film to win Best Picturre at the Oscars but I feel that it is not as good as his later work, especially during the late 50's, early 60's.


  1. But Rebecca has that wonderful quote from the second Mrs deWinter "I wish I were a woman of 36, dressed in black satin with a string of pearls". It sums up her feelings of immaturity and worries about not being able to measure up to the myth of Rebecca. This is the point of the film for me. The suspense and gothic horror elements are meaningful only in how they affect Fontaine's character.

    It's a shame that you choose to denigrate Hitchcock's most female friendly film as being not up to his usual quality or style. He actually maintained a lot of control over the film and its editting and we can be sure that what we see is his vision. You may have enjoyed it more if you'd accepted that Hitchcock has a very long and varied career and didn't just make wrong man pictures.

  2. I never said that this was bad film, just not what I had expected having grown up watching Rear Window, Psycho, Vertigo, etc.
    To have shot the film 'in camera' therefore requiring very little editing in post production shows the mark of a true genius.
    Hitch, despite the stories of what went on behind the camera, has a history of directing strong female performances like Janet Leigh, Grace Kelly, Mrs Bates... and Joan Fontaine is no exception. She is terrific as the naive young girl that slowly accepts her position before exerting control over Maxim at the end of the film.

  3. I am looking forward to seeing this one as part of my Oscar Boot camp project. I recently did a book discussion at work (I am a librarian) and a lot of people said they really liked the movie. (Just wish more of them had actually read the book).

    Interesting point though. I didn't think the book got interesting until page 270: the very moment you pinpointed: when we discover the fate of the first Mrs. DeWinter. Maybe it was Hitchcock being true to the tale?

  4. Sorry about my last comment. I didn't see how snippish it was at the time.

    Anna - Don't you feel that the film is a true adaptation of the book in feeling and tone EXCEPT in regard to the fate of Rebecca? The change is understandable in terms of what cinema cannot show compared with books (although that may be up for discussion), but it lessens the impact and importance of Maxim's confession a little.