Rebecca (1940)

rebecca poster 1940 movie alfred hitchcock
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Nice solid Hitchcock film, Creepy Mrs. Danvers

Some backgrounds don't match, obvious models

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Rebecca

Studio:  Selznick International Pictures

Genre(s):  Mystery/Suspense/Drama/Romance

Release Date(s):  April 12, 1940

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated


Ok…so this hasn’t been the best homecoming ever

The rich socialite Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier) has found a new bride.  The new Mrs. de Winter (Joan Fontaine) finds herself competing with his first wife Rebecca de Winter who died a tragic death in a boating accident.  As the new Mrs. de Winter tries to adjust to her new life, she finds opposition from Rebecca’s former maid Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson) and her cousin Jack Favell (George Sanders).  When evidence arises that Rebecca’s death might not have been an accident, the truth about Rebecca could be worse than being compared to her.

Rebecca was Alfred Hitchcock’s first American pictures and his only film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture.  Philip MacDonald and Michael Hogan adapted the popular 1938 novel of the same title by Daphne du Maurier.  Hitchcock’s follow-up to Jamaica Inn in 1939 not only was nominated for Best Picture, it won for Best Cinematography (Black & White) and was nominated for Best Actor (Laurence Olivier), Best Actress (Joan Fontaine), Best Supporting Actress (Judith Anderson), Best Director, Best Art Direction, Best Special Effects, Best Film Editing, Best Music, and Best Writing.  The story has since been used in different remakes and teleplays.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #135).


Hi Mrs. de Winter…I’m here to serve you with a smile

Rebecca is pretty typical Hitchcock.  It takes place in a dark and mysterious home and there is a bit of a mystery involving Rebecca and her death.  Joan plays the Hitchcock girl in this one (Olivier pushed for Vera Miles since he was seeing her at the time) and finds herself in both a mystery and a fish-out-of-water story.  Her character doesn’t even really have a name which was in line with the novel that never revealed it.  The viewer can easily identify with her and the scariness of being caught in a whirlwind marriage that takes her from serving someone to being served and the confusion that brings.

The mystery of Rebecca also has some interesting undertones that have gained a lot of attention since its release.  Olivier reveals he “found the truth out about Rebecca” on their honeymoon and that he can’t even repeat it.  He talks about her friends coming to Manderley and the wild parties she through in London and at the beach.  It is revealed that she had an ongoing affair with the man claiming to be her cousin (played by a greasy George Sanders) but there are also some implications of a lesbian relationship with Mrs. Danvers.  This relationship might have been one way on the part of Mrs. Danvers, but the movie dances around it quite amusingly by today’s standards since it couldn’t be talked about then (and Mrs. Danvers is very creepy).


Hitch’s Rebecca cameo

Rebecca looks nice in an old movie sense.  There is some parts where the background images are so poorly matched to the foreground that it is laughable, but it is acceptable for such an old movie and shows some of Hitchcock’s style.  The sets for Rebecca are quite impressive and the Manderley set does feel big and overpowering (though the model used for the outside is also obvious).

Rebecca isn’t my favorite Hitchcock picture but it is quite good.  He was obviously a fan of Daphne du Maurier since he adapted Jamaican Inn and The Birds from her stories, so he handles Rebecca with care.  The movie isn’t the flashiest or most revolutionary of his films, but it does still have that sense of style you’d come to expect from the Master of Suspense.  Hitchcock followed Rebecca with Foreign Correspondent (also in 1940 also nominated for Best Picture).

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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