(This article is from guest contributor The Lady Eve and first appeared at http://classic-film-tv.blogspot.com/. The rating in the title is my own.)
By the late 1930's, Hitchcock's reputation was riding high based on several suspense films he'd made in Britain. He came to Hollywood under contract to producer David O. Selznick. Selznick intended Rebecca to rival his previous film, the award-laden Gone With the Wind (1939). The two men had a contentious collaboration on Rebecca but ultimately produced a critical and commercial success that was nominated for 11 Academy Awards. It won two: Best Picture and Best B&W Cinematography.
Rebecca is a favorite of mine, and here are a few reasons why...
A strong sense of atmosphere that underscores the story's gothic quality and mood of vague but insistent foreboding. Manderley, where much of the action occurs, conveys a cavernous and chilly ambiance of inhospitable elegance.
Multi-layered characters, evocative performances. Joan Fontaine is palpably anxious and apprehensive as the second Mrs. de Winter. She doesn't miss a beat and, late in the film, smoothly portrays the young woman's transition as she gains poise and confidence. Laurence Olivier's Maxim de Winter is guilt-riddled, highly strung and volatile...with aristocratic charm. Judith Anderson creates one of Hitchcock's and the screen's great villains as the unbalanced and eventually dangerous Mrs. Danvers. George Sanders as Jack Favell and Florence Bates as Mrs. Van Hopper both play unsavory types, but with comic overtones. Favell is an oily bounder, but a witty one. Van Hopper is insufferably demanding and grandiose - and more than slightly ridiculous.
A final note...Hitchcock reportedly edited "in camera" to prevent Selznick from re-editing his work. Rebecca strikes me as classic Hitchcock with the Selznick treatment: top-notch cast, the finest writers and technicians - and a big budget that shows.
Those are some of my thoughts...but what do you think? What are your opinions, observations and comments...and, if you've read Daphne du Maurier's novel, how would you compare the film to the book?