“Rebecca” is Without a Hitch

24 04 2008

Rebecca poster

“Rebecca” 1940

Starring: Lawrence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders, Judith Anderson

People always talk about “Citizen Kane” as coining the “twist” or “surprise” ending that is now present in just about every second film made. “Citizen Kane” was released in 1941, a year after Alfred Hitchcock’s Oscar-winning masterpiece about the people caught in the wake of the title character’s death. And while I’ve come to appreciate the former film for all of its historic relevance and cinematic innovation, I don’t think that the final discovery of Rosebud’s identity was half as intriguing as Rebecca de Winter’s complex and destructive legacy.

The film begins in Monte Carlo, where a lovely and naive young personal assistant has come to accompany her charge. She eventually meets by chance a wealthy and handsome aristocrat whose persistent preoccupation can presumably be attributed to the recent death of his beautiful and legendary wife Rebecca. Yet to her surprise and delight, Mr. de Winter chooses to make her his second bride.

I am hesitant to accuse this film of having a flaw, especially because I think that it is not so much of a flaw as an acknowledged falsehood, and it ultimately works in the film’s favor. “Rebecca” tries to convince us that Joan Fontaine’s character is plain, even unattractive, when in fact her charisma and beauty are obvious from the first scene. A key element to the overall effect of this story lies in the contrast between the second Mrs. de Winter and the first. Because we only hear of Rebecca’s exquisite poise and beauty and are never allowed to observe it, Hitchcock assumes it is possible for us to believe Fontaine’s character to be plain in comparison.

“Rebecca” does not take its time in beginning to build suspense. The moment Maxim’s whirlwind courtship of the new Mrs. de Winter is complete, they return to England where the inexperienced bride is expected to be mistress of the spectacular Manderlay estate while wrestling with the phantom of the woman who preceded her. The romantic chemistry between the de Winters is extraordinary, and their love story blossoms amid the gradual development of the mystery, despite the constant underlying feeling of dread. The acting is phenomenal-Joan Fontaine’s character transforms over the course of the film, but there is an identifiable moment when the shift takes place. Watch closely and you can see it on her face and hear it in her voice.

♦♦♦♦♦ (This is my favorite movie of all time. I’m giving it five diamonds on a scale of four. So sue me. I’m the boss).

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3 responses

4 05 2008
joan fontaine | Wonderful Article

[…] dogs, …The Latest From VanityFair.com – http://www.vanityfair.com/rss/feeds/everything.xml|||“Rebecca” Review“Rebecca” tries to convince us that Joan Fontaine’s character is plain, even unattractive, […]

4 05 2008
joan fontaine » Care news

[…] dogs, …The Latest From VanityFair.com – http://www.vanityfair.com/rss/feeds/everything.xml|||“Rebecca” Review“Rebecca” tries to convince us that Joan Fontaine’s character is plain, even unattractive, […]

4 05 2008
joan fontaine | Lasts information

[…] “Rebecca” Review“Rebecca” tries to convince us that Joan Fontaine’s character is plain, even unattractive, when in fact her charisma and beauty are obvious from the first scene. A key element to the overall effect of this story lies in the contrast …The Paper Bag Princess – https://meganhorsington.wordpress.com […]

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