“Last night I dreamed I went to Manderly again.”
It’s Hitchcock Time!
As I mentioned in a previous post, I am (was) on a mission to watch everything Senor Hitchcock has ever made. When I first set out on my mission, I had not heard of Rebecca. I knew about the greats: Psycho, Dial M for Murder, North by Northwest, Rear Window, Vertigo e.tc. I randomly came across Rebecca on youtube and I thought what the hell, I’ll just give it a go.
I did not even realise how much I liked it until later on.
Rebecca (1940) is about a man Mr de Winters (Laurence Olivier) who lives in a mansion called Manderly. Mr de Winters is a widower, having lost his beloved wife Rebecca in a sailing accident. He meets a girl (Joan Fontaine) who is a paid companion to a social climber named Edith von Hopper (Florence Bates). Within a short time she and Mr. de Winters fall in love and get married and she becomes known as the second Mrs. de Winters.
In Manderly she receives a frosty welcome from the housekeeper Mrs Danvers (Judith Anderson) who is still devoted to Rebecca- the late Mrs. de Winters. Mrs Danvers is completely loyal to Rebecca and she regards the second Mrs. de Winters as an imposter intruding on the precious memory of her beloved mistress.
The second Mrs. de Winters has a difficult time adjusting to life at Manderly. There are constant reminders of Rebecca everywhere and she finds it impossible to live up to the late Mrs. De Winters. To make matters worse, her husband has a short temper with her and seems to still be utterly besotted with his late wife. The second Mrs. de Winters is miserable.
Hoping to please her husband, she plans a party. Mrs. Danvers persuades her to wear a particular dress, saying it would please Mr. de Winters. She does and her husband ends up being very upset because Rebecca had worn the same dress to a party just a year before. Mrs. de Winters is devastated and Mrs. Danvers seizes this opportunity to try to get her to commit suicide.
SPOILER ALERT: (yes I realise the film came out 75 years ago making a spoiler alert seem unnecessary, but if you do want to see the film don’t read this section yet.)
A ship hits the docks and in a rescue attempt, the body of Rebecca is found in it. This raises quite a few eyebrows as Mr. de Winters had already identified a body as that of Rebecca’s. He becomes nervous and he worries that a closer examination would prove that Rebecca was murdered. Mr. de Winters then reveals that his picture perfect marriage was in fact a sham. He had hated Rebecca for being wild and promiscuous but had agreed to stay with her on the condition that she pretend to be the perfect wife and hostess. The night Rebecca died, she had told her husband she was pregnant with another man’s child and during the ensuing argument, she had hit her head and died. Mr. de Winters had then planted her body in the boat. As expected, authorities ascertain that the boat was purposely sabotaged and Mr. de Winters becomes a suspect.
Long story short, it turns out that Rebecca was not pregnant, rather she had been in the late stages of cancer. She was suicidal and had decided to kill two birds with one stone by telling her husband she was pregnant so as to provoke him into killing her, an act that would ruin his life.
I enjoyed watching Rebecca. Joan Fontaine’s character was so feeble, frightened and fearful, the kind of person to say sorry twenty times for no reason at all. She was a sharp contrast to the previous mistress of the house who by all accounts was more sophisticated and confident.
This film would not be complete without Mrs. Danvers. She provided the creep factor to this movie and I loved it. She terrified me a little. Her love for Rebecca seemed a little too intense at times, almost an obsession.
Interesting facts and quotes
1) The name of the second Mrs. de Winters is never given. She was unnamed until she got married.
2) Rebecca’s presence is heavily felt everywhere but she is never shown.
3) Mr. de Winters’ proposal was the stuff of dreams. It went thus:
“Would you like to come home to Manderly with me?”
“Do you need a secretary?”
“I’m asking you to marry me you little fool.”
*Swoons*. It’s even more romantic than Mr. Bennet’s “..of inferior birth” quip.
4) Mr de Winters goes on to celebrate his engagement with this heartwarming quote:
“…and I shall be making violent love to you behind a palm tree.”
Uh-oh Mr. de Winters. Who knew S and M was in back then?
5) Someone calls the house asking for Mrs. de Winters. Without thinking, the second Mrs. de Winters immediately assumes the caller is referring to Rebecca and says:
“Oh I’m sorry. Mrs. de Winters has been dead for over a year.”
6) “I am Mrs. de Winters now.”
The new bride finally grew some (temporary) balls and ordered Mrs Danvers to get rid of all of Rebecca’s things.
7) “Did you ever see anything so delicate? Look, you can see my hand through it.”
Mrs. Danvers admiring the late Rebecca’s negligee. I told you she was creepy.
Here are some pictures from the film.
The beautiful Joan Fontaine
Mr. and Mrs. de Winters meeting for the first tim.
The obligatory Hitchcock driving scene.
Letter from Edith Van Hopper to Mr. de Winters
Edith’s face when she realised her beloved Mr. de Winters was engaged to her paid companion.
Manderly. Horrible picture.
The staff of Manderly.
A dog guarding Rebecca’s now vacant room.
More memories of Rebecca.
How wealthy couples eat.
This is Mrs. Danvers trying to persuade Mrs. de Winter to commit suicide.
“Look, you can see my hand through this.”
Mrs. Danvers being creepy.
You should see it when you get the chance. Good film.