Alfred Hitchcock is famous for movies that have a darker tone. His more famous works include "Rope", "Rear Window", "North by Northwest", "Vertigo", "The Birds" and "Psycho". He is credited with being the master of the thriller and mystery movie. He certainly paved the way for today's directors like M. Night Shyamalan and even Christopher Nolan. But the legendary director never won a single Oscar, in fact, only one of his movies has the honor of being included in the Best Picture list— "Rebecca".
It says a lot about a movie when an idea is more prevalent than some of the characters. Particularly when this idea is a person that never appears on screen. The title character of "Rebecca" never makes an appearance, yet nearly every scene is filled with her and her alone.
Joan Fontaine plays the leading lady, a woman filled with nervousness and anxiety. She's a down to earth kind of person, relying on her roots to propel her along life's path. She's a little bit of a dreamer but she's too sensible to chase her dreams down. She meets a certain Maxim de Winter when she is vacationing in Monte Carlo. She's a paid travel companion for Mrs. Van Hopper, who is a boorish nag of a woman. Soon after Mrs. Van Hopper becomes ill, our lady falls into a whirlwind romance with Maxim. He is a different sort of person, he has a temper but he's also very British so when he gets mad it seems like all his anger is driven into the ground, making him stand in one spot. The couple themselves are very bizarre, they don't exactly mesh or fit the way that one would think that they should, but they do love each other.
Maxim is very rich and after he has married the girl he takes the new Mrs. de Winter to his mansion, named Manderley. The mansion is manned by an even more evil version of the cast of "Downton Abbey". The most notable of all the staff is a Mrs. Danvers, the head maid. The woman is control, she is always poker-faced and she rarely talks to the new Mrs. de Winter.
You see, Maxim was married once before, to a lady named Rebecca. This Rebecca was glamorous and beautiful and died in a tragic drowning accident. No one speaks of her anymore.
Mrs. Danvers is obsessed with the late Mrs. de Winter and takes you into her mad world as she explores the memories of the past. The new Mrs. de Winter is left trying to collect all the pieces of a shattered story in order to simply be able to keep her head above water at Manderley.
Everything she does seems to set off Maxim's temper because she reminds him of Rebecca. It's been a year since Rebecca's passing and the new Mrs. de Winter can't help but try to find out what happened to Rebecca and why no ones talks of her.
Laurence Olivier plays Maxim and reminded me of a young Omar Sharif. The one problem I have with him in this movie is his garbled diction. He slurs out every word like he's gargling mouthwash and talking at the same time—I exaggerate, of course, but it was still somewhat unexpected from the famous actor. He's a stone-faced man in "Rebecca" giving his co-star Joan Fontaine more light as the new Mrs. de Winter.
The most notable acting jobs in this movie are from Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers and George Sanders as Rebecca's cousin, Jack Favell. Sanders would later win an Oscar for "All About Eve" and it's the same type of character he plays here. He's slick, cool, and never flustered.
Mrs. Danvers is one of the best villains yet. She's so controlled yet over-the-top, like a mellow version of Jack Torrance from "The Shining".
"Rebecca" has a killer ending. Hitchcock became famous for his endings and this is no exception.
It's a shame that the great director didn't win an Oscar but I think that's what adds to the man's mystique and attraction.
"Rebecca" is a great film, a sharp thriller that will keep you guessing.
Score: 4 out of 4 stars