I love the Academy Awards and last year I realized how few of the “Best Picture” winners I’d actually seen. So I made it a goal to see all 83 winners and blog my thoughts about them along the way.

Why did it win? Should another movie have won instead? Has it become a beloved classic or do many of you not even recognize the title? I invite you, my friends and guests, to comment along with me. Do you agree/disagree? I should be fair and place a SPOLIER ALERT on this blog since I’ll be writing about various parts of the movie. So read at your own risk…

I have often told people that I have movie amnesia… I can see a movie and forget all about it years later. So for that reason, I am re-watching the 27 I’ve seen before. That said, if no one visits or reads my blog and I basically perform the online equivalent of talking to a brick wall, that’s fine; if for nothing else, it’ll be my own reminder. Enjoy!

And the Oscar goes to…

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Rebecca, 1940

Not Rated

Oscar’s first mystery/thriller is brought to us by none other than the master of suspense himself: Alfred Hitchcock. This was his directorial debut and first of five career-long unsuccessful nominations. (He finally received an Honorary Award in 1967.) This, not too surprisingly, was also my first Hitchcock film. The film is produced by the same producer (Selznic) who brought us the incredible epic “Gone with the Wind” just the year before.

“Rebecca”, based on a gothic novel, stars Laurence Olivier as the standoffish Max de Winter who is a widower brooding and sulking over the recent passing of his beautiful wife Rebecca. (From this we learn that the title character never actually appears in the film yet it still revolves around her. Although she’s invisible, she is such a part of the film that we seem to know her.)  Mr. de Winter is a wealthy owner of an expansive estate called Manderley. On a vacation to Monte Carlo, he meets, bypasses courtship, and marries a young woman who has a crush on him. She is interestingly unnamed in the film until she becomes and is referred to only as Mrs. de Winter.

Although Max’s occasional language with his new wife caught me a little off guard (e.g. “Don’t be such a little idiot, darling”), I could tell he really does love her. We’re informed immediately of how different she is from the deceased Mrs. de Winter: for one, she’s more of a “plain Jane”; she is of no social standing and doesn’t know how to throw parties; she doesn’t care about expensive and elaborate clothing/items. Even though it’s obvious he adores her so, I started to wonder, well why did he marry someone totally different then??

At her new home in Manderley, Mrs. de Winter does not meet the approval of the head housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers. Just as I was beginning to wonder why Hitchcock is known for suspense, about 40 minutes into the film, things get a little creepy… somethin’s not right with Mrs. Danvers. She psychologically tortures the new young wife. The poor thing can’t get away from haunting reminders of her husband’s previous and “better” wife. Rebecca is such a presence in her new life/home, there’s no way around it, and it’s easy to see why the new Mrs. de Winter is intimidated. Now that I think about it, I’m sure it wasn’t an accident that the new Mrs. de Winter doesn’t have a first name… When we meet her in the beginning, she is being pushed around by her employer (to whom she’s a personal assistant). She then marries into a household and becomes completely overshadowed by a ghost. It’s as if she was meant to have no identity at all.

Near the end, through a well-performed monologue by Olivier, we learn about Rebecca’s life and what happened in her death. And while what we learned in his speech didn’t surprise me that much, it is what followed that had me watching and listening intently. Hopefully I’ve intrigued you enough to rent the film and watch Hitchcock’s ending for yourself. Although my detective self “called” a couple things, I couldn’t have predicted the end if I tried- there are a few different twists.

One little thing that bothered me: their use of green screens. It is so obvious that a screen was used behind the de Winters while driving a convertible (that’s pretty typical in older films). But there was a scene where they were just walking on some of the estate’s property where it was obvious there was a screen behind them. (The shot was zoomed in from their wastes up and the timing didn’t match up to their walking.) Could they not find a park-like area to film a brief walk??

I haven’t seen any of the other films it was up against: “All This, and Heaven Too”, “The Philadelphia Story”, “Foreign Correspondent” (also Hitchcock’s), “The Grapes of Wrath”, “The Great Dictator”, “Kitty Foyle”, “The Letter”, “The Long Voyage Home”, and “Our Town”. Interestingly, “Rebecca” was up for an impressive eleven nominations but only walked away with the top honor which is very unusual.


I thought Olivier’s performance was pretty on the mark during his “confession” in the boathouse. For the most part, I wasn’t too connected to him as a character… I like him much better in “Hamlet”. But I liked the manner in which this scene was filmed and I liked how the story unfolded after that. I couldn’t find a photo of this scene in particular, so I posted one that comes later- the one where I went “Wooooooah”. J


Try to get on the housekeeper’s good side (unless she’s crazy).

I should see more Hitchcock films.

Have self-confidence and assertiveness. Had the new Mrs. de Winter been sure in herself that her new husband loved her as she was, she wouldn’t have been so easily intimidated by Mrs. Danvers and could’ve stood up for herself.

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