Known for directing numerous psychological thriller movies Alfred Hitchcock is the master of suspense. Basing his movie Rebecca (1940) on the novel by Daphne du Maurier it more or less follows the original story.
Feeling that you’re not good enough or intimidated by people (or certain people) is something most people have experienced from time to time. Whether it was growing up and finding your place in the world or as an adult due to a life change.
The second Mrs de Winter (Joan Fontaine) feels exactly like that. She tells the story of her how she met and married George Fortescue Maximilian de Winter (Laurence Olivier). But more importantly, what happens when she goes to live with him in his austere mansion Manderley.
Dreaming Of Manderley
The book and the movie start the same with the second Mrs du Winter talking about her dream of Manderley. Winding along the long road leading up to Manderley the camera moves through the eerie fog until it opens up to the forbidding mansion.
She tells us they can never go back to Manderley but in her dreams she does go back. She goes back to those strange days that started in the South of France.
Was He Going To Jump?
Hovering with his feet on the edge of the cliff top Mr de Winter stares down at the breaking waves far below. A young woman carrying a sketch book ambles round the corner, sees him and yells, “No! Stop!” He turns on her angrily and asks why she is shouting and staring at him. Immediately she apologises and begins to say that she thought he was going to jump. Cutting her off mid sentence he retorts nastily, “Oh you did, did you?” “Well, what are you doing here?”
Explaining that she was just out walking he responds more softly but tells her to continue with her walking and to stop hanging around screaming. He looks pensively down at the waves and then at her walking off.
Artificial Monte Carlo
Lounging with her employer Mrs Edythe Van Hopper (Florence Bates) in the lobby of a luxurious Monte Carlo hotel Fontaine’s character is patiently listening to her complaints. Mrs Van Hopper moans about the lack of well-known personalities and the cold coffee.
Passing by and noticing the young woman from earlier Mr de Winter stops to have coffee with them both. Over the moon about this Mrs Van Hopper gushes with enthusiasm at seeing him after such a long time.
He tries to include the young woman in the conversation by asking her what she thinks of Monte Carlo. “I think it’s rather artificial,” she states. Van Hopper chastises her and says that most people would give their eyes for the chance to see Monte Carlo. “Wouldn’t that rather defeat the purpose?” he jokes. But the old lady just rambles on.
He gets bored by Van Hopper’s conversation and flounces off. Wondering why he abruptly leaves them she comments that he’s not over his wife’s death. “They say he simply adored her.”
Breakfast With Mr De Winter
Arriving for breakfast alone the next day the young woman sits down nervously and spills a vase of flowers over. Seeing this Mr de Winter jumps up and invites her to have breakfast with him. Timid but authentic she opens up to him. Her mother died years ago and her father died last summer which is why she took the job as Van Hopper’s companion.
Speaking kindly of her father she tells De Winter that he was a painter and he liked to paint the same tree. And he had a theory that if you found a perfect thing, place or person that you should stick to it. She asks him if he thinks that is silly. He replies, “Not at all. I’m a firm believer in that myself.”
The Ruse Of Tennis
While Van Hopper is stuck in bed with a cold her companion starts to meet with Mr de Winter. She uses the ruse of taking tennis lessons but in fact enjoys walks and days out in his car.
New York Or Manderley?
On reading a letter from her daughter who has decided to get married Mrs Van Hopper flies out of bed and frantically tells her companion to start packing for New York.
Obviously horrified that they will leave before she can say goodbye to her new friend she tries to call Mr de Winter but to no avail.
Standing outside the hotel ready to leave Fontaine’s character makes an excuse to go back into the hotel. Trying one more time she goes to his room to say goodbye and tells him that she doesn’t want to go. Dressing quickly he asks her where does she want to go, New York or Manderley. She thinks he wants a secretary or something but he says, “I’m asking you to marry me, you little fool.”
Of course, she loves him and says yes but what about Mrs Van Hopper?
Visibly shocked about their engagement Mrs Van Hopper smiles and congratulates them. Left alone together while Mr de Winter goes out Mrs Van Hopper tells her what she really thinks. Explaining that it will be too difficult for her to replace the beautiful Rebecca de Winter and live at Manderley. Telling her that above all, she is not a great lady and doesn’t have the experience of one. Adding that she doesn’t come from his world and that she really can ‘t see her doing it. Finishing off her vitriolic conversation she tells her that he does not love her. It is company he craves as he can’t stand rattling around in his mansion alone anymore.
Rebecca And Manderley
Living at Manderley the second Mrs de Winter is reminded constantly of the first, Rebecca. Resenting Mrs de Winter the insane Mrs Danvers (Judith Anderson) who adored her former mistress makes life unbearable.
There is a deep, dark underlining story at Manderley that erupts into a tragic and disturbing ending and explains why they can never return there.
Nominated for 9 Academy Awards and winning 2 for best picture and cinematography, this movie never tires as one of the best psychological thriller movies of all time.
Do you think you’ll watch the movie now? If so, why?
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