Sunday, May 18, 2014

Rebecca - the 1940 film (spoilers!)

**NOTE: as I mention frequently on this blog, I usually do all I can to avoid any kind of spoilers on my blog. However, in order to review the movie in some kind of meaningful way, I would like to make comparisons to the book, which will involve giving away key plot points and etc. If you are planning to read the book or see the film and wish to avoid spoilers, please avoid this post.**

Oh, and my review of the book in the previous post to this one is spoiler-free. 

And now on to the review!

This review of a film is a departure for my blog, and also a first. I probably won't be branching out into film reviews generally, but this is a fun opportunity that is part of the Back to the Classics Challenge. I hadn't previously seen this film nor had I read the book, so it was a great opportunity to compare a film adaptation of a classic novel to the novel.

Overall I enjoyed the film, and I thought Alfred Hitchcock and the screenwriters did a nice job of capturing the tone of the book while moving the story along. An example of this is moving the shipwreck to directly after the new Mrs. de Winter's unwittingly disastrous appearance in Mrs. Danvers' costume suggestion. In the book this span of time occupies a lot more time and it makes sense in the limits of movie length to move these events closer together.

One thing that stuck out to me was the appearance of both Mrs. Danvers and of Favell. While reading the book, I pictured Mrs. Danvers as being old, with gray hair and a very gaunt face. In the movie, she seems much younger, and dare I say, rather attractive. In the book Favell is described in a way that makes him seem seedy and unattractive, while in the film he seems almost dashing and not so loutish/tacky as I pictured him in the book.

I also wondered about the ending - while in the book Maxim actually kills Rebecca, in the movie it's an accident. A quick jaunt over to Wikipedia tells me this was because of the Hollywood Production Code, so it makes sense, even if it's an annoying departure - I preferred the more "morally ambiguous" events in the book. Still and all, it was a pleasure to see two great actors, Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine, work together - and wow do they look good together. Recommended.


  1. I've seen this movie but it's been years. There have been several productions also shown on PBS. I saw an excellent one back in the late 1970s. Anna Massey was Mrs. Danvers and she was just wonderfully evil. She also narrated an audiobook version which is just great -- I think I need to listen to it again!

  2. Hi Karen! That PBS version sounds great, I will have to keep an eye open for it - I'd love to see a more sinister Mrs. Danvers. This was a really fun option in the challenge.