Now I can’t call myself a big Laurence Olivier fan. I’ve only seen two of his films and one I love and the other I loathe. But the one I love is so absolutely wonderful that I just had to write about it for the Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier Blogathon hosted by Wolffian Classics Movies Digest – Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca.
Rebecca, released in 1940, was Hitchcock’s first Hollywood film and it was the first film of his I’d ever seen. In high school I decided I needed to finally see a movie by the famed director I’d heard so much about and thought it sounded interesting. I popped it in and was instantly smitten. It began a lifelong passion for Hitchcock’s films and I developed a total crush on the dashing Maxim de Winter.
The film opens in Monte Carlo where a shy young lady’s companion, played by Joan Fontaine, meets the brooding Mr. de Winter, played by Olivier. They have a whirlwind romance, marry and he takes her back to his estate – Manderley. His young bride is completely overwhelmed by her new surroundings and meets her match in the creepy housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, played by Judith Anderson.
The former Mrs. de Winter, Rebecca, had passed away under tragic circumstances and Mrs. Danvers was never able to get over it. Soon the new bride finds her life continuously haunted by the “ghost” of Rebecca.
Rebecca is a hauntingly beautiful film. It’s filled with suspense and romance and showcases outstanding performances by Fontaine, Anderson and Olivier. Fontaine, already an established actress, proved her skill with the role of the young Mrs. de Winter. She’s utterly convincing as a women driven to the brink of despair by the memory of a woman she feels she could never live up to. Anderson is the perfect villain deliberately making the young woman miserable simply because she took the place of her beloved mistress. And Oliver shines as the brooding Mr. de Winter. He’s utterly convincing as the bereft husband trying to move on with a new bride. In fact, he’s so good in the role that when we hear his confession of his true feelings it’s an authentic shock. The first time I saw the film I was blown away by the revelation and it still thrills me every time I watch it.
Rebecca is a true masterpiece that thrills viewers to this day. It’s one of my favorite films and and a true tour de force for all involved.