February 27, 2012

Movie Monday: Rebecca (and giveaway winner!)

It’s come to my attention that some muckety-mucks in Hollywood (that’s my “nice” term) are planning on remaking one of the greatest films in American cinema.

It’s also come to my attention that most of you still haven’t seen it.

Both are bad. Very bad.

I’ll just start off by saying, Netflix has this to rent on DVD. Not on streaming, sadly. We’ll have to take that up with the studios.

(Side note: You do know that it’s the copyright owners who decide what is allowed to stream, not Netflix, right? They have separate contracts for DVD content and streaming content. So if something you want to watch isn’t available on streaming, pressuring Netflix is good, pressuring the studio who owns the content is better. Moving on….)

So, in order to encourage you to rent the movie or keep an eye out for it on TCM (I’ll try and be better about letting y’all know when a goodie is coming on via facebook or twitter), here’s my breakdown of one of the greatest movies Hollywood ever churned out.

I’ll do my darndest to avoid spoilers, but no promises.

Source: impawards.com via Jaci on Pinterest

When Rebecca starts, we meet Joan Fontaine, who plays a shy young lady making a living by being a “paid companion” to a cantankerous wealthy woman. The term, of course, doesn’t imply what it would today. Back then, it wasn’t unusual for young ladies who had no family or education to support them take jobs as companions to rich women. It was considered unseemly for a woman of any age or station to travel and appear in public alone, so they hired “companions” to take around the world, to the theater, to fancy parties – and to run their errands, pay their bills, and generally schlep for them on command. It’s not very glamorous work once you scratched the surface, and while not unrespectable, it’s not something one would brag about in their memoirs.

Source: shakefire.com via Jaci on Pinterest

The young lady is shy, sheltered, has an incredibly low self-esteem thanks to the constant cutting remarks of her employer, and is cute, but hasn’t really tried to explore her natural beauty. Which only makes it all the more unbelievable to her when the dashing aristocrat, Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier) – 40 to her 20 - asks her to marry him only days after meeting. Swept off her feet, they elope and go to his family estate to live, Manderley.

The new Mrs. De Winter has no idea how to run a household, let alone a mansion and vast estate. On top of that, Maxim (I just love that name!) is a widower, and the mark of the deceased Mrs. de Winter, Rebecca, hangs over the place like a shadow. Rebecca was beautiful, sophisticated, talented, intelligent, vivacious, popular – the exact opposite of the new Mrs. de Winter. Everywhere Mrs. de Winter turns, everything she does, someone is there to remind her that Rebecca did it differently, Rebecca did it better.

That “someone” is Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson), the official “housekeeper” of Manderley. Housekeepers back then weren’t maids – they had actual maids for that kind of work. Housekeepers were the people who paid the bills, managed the social calendars, directed the maids and cooks and butlers, basically made it so that the actual family didn’t really have to do anything but enjoy their wealth and leisurely lifestyle.

Mrs. Danvers is appalled at Maxim’s new bride. She worshipped Rebecca and feels that no other woman has the right to her place in the estate or in Maxim’s life. It’s obvious from the beginning, she is the new Mrs. de Winter’s enemy. And she employs every bit of psychological warfare against her.

Source: snarkerati.com via Jaci on Pinterest

The new Mrs. de Winter, already overwhelmed by the enormity of being a very young, poor, sheltered girl now the mistress of one of the most famous estates in the English countryside, is easy prey for Mrs. Danvers. It doesn’t help that whenever someone mentions Rebecca – and it happens in almost every conversation – she watches Maxim’s face fill with pain.

Maxim enjoys his new wife, is obviously fond of her and loves to show her off. But she can tell there’s something holding him back. He adores her, sometimes pets her a little (being half his age), but he can’t tell her he loves her. Every time they start to really connect, he pulls away. One day he tells her he’ll never be happy again, even married to her. Mrs. de Winter becomes convinced that she was the “rebound” girl, and that her husband is still in love with his dead wife.


A shocking revelation shows us a new side to the story, the private side, one that no one, not even Mrs. Danvers, knew about. Then Maxim is being tried on suspicion of murder, and Mrs. de Winter watches helplessly as her new life and love is being pulled away from her. Only a miracle can save them, and she’s lost all hope in miracles. Will they ever learn the real truth about Rebecca?

Rebecca is the only Alfred Hitchcock film to win Best Picture. Let that sink in for a minute. Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense and drama, who also made Psycho, Suspicion, Notorious, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Rear Window, The 39 Steps, and multiple other masterpieces…this is the one that got the gold statue.

And it certainly deserves it. Joan Fontaine, Laurence Olivier, and Judith Anderson are mesmerizing. Olivier is his typical gorgeous, brooding self. Fontaine is one of those actresses who can pull off innocent and naïve charmingly. And Anderson is downright creepy. Even though Rebecca was made in the era of beautiful technicolor (after The Wizard of Oz, for example) it really is best suited for the shadows and highlights of black and white photography/videography/whatever the term is, an artform in itself.

Rebecca is perfectly-paced, as well. Never slowing down, we watch the gradual downward spiral of Mrs. de Winter’s romance with hills and valleys and feel for her every step of the way. And then the third act of the movie arrives, filled with twists and surprises. And plenty of a delightful George Sanders, who plays Rebecca’s “favorite cousin.” *coughcough* From every angle, Rebecca is a winner.

Be sure and add this one to your list.

And, now, for the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the announcement of the grand prize winner from last week’s giveaway:

Jordan S.

Yay Jordan! And thanks to everyone who entered! If you haven’t yet, be sure and check out 144:Wrath on Amazon (click the link).


  1. Your movie posts always make me want to rush right out and see the films! Can't wait for our movie day/night to experience this one! :)

  2. "You do know that it’s the copyright owners who decide what is allowed to stream, not Netflix, right? They have separate contracts for DVD content and streaming content. So if something you want to watch isn’t available on streaming, pressuring Netflix is good, pressuring the studio who owns the content is better"
    Educational. I now know who to harass.

    Also, while unpacking my box of books I inherited from my grandmother, this book was found amongst them. Coincidence?

  3. On a semi-related movie note, thought of you last night while watching the Oscars. Wondered if you saw the Artist and how you thought it held up to its genre after all this time.

    Ft. B misses you guys. When SoldierMan heads back here for his Captains Career Course stop in the library and say hi if I'm still marooned here.

  4. I really wish Hollywood would leave some of these classics alone!


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