Noir-vember Day 26: Rebecca (1940) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Noir-vember Day 26: Rebecca (1940)

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I am putting in a spoiler alert for this movie right here because to be able to review it and talk about it as a great noir movie I have to spoil the great story and directing to explain my position. So if you would like to watch this amazing movie and then come back and read the review this is your chance to stop reading and go get this film immediately.

All right by now I can assume that you have either just finished the movie, had seen it in the past or like being spoiled. Rebecca was released in 1940 and based on the Daphne Du Maurier novel of the same title. In the film Joan Fontaine plays a small town girl who has been hired by an older woman as a traveling companion. While visiting Monte Carlo she meets Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier) and the two quickly fall for each other. After weeks of sneaking off together they are faced with the decision to either get married or be separated for good. Even though she has been told over and over about de Winter’s first wife who has only been dead a year, she goes ahead with the marriage. Through the first half of the movie you are led to believe that this is a story about a woman trying desperately to fit into the vacancy of a much loved deceased wife. Alfred Hitchcock as director beautifully leads you into a false sense of understanding of this movie. Only near the end does he pull the carpet out from under you and you realize that the wife was not only hated by her husband but her death was not an accident. You are left rethinking every small interaction and clue.  While Hitchcock gave you all the clues you need, he did it is such a way that you didn’t even know that you are looking to solve a murder.

There is not one part of this movie that doesn’t click into place be it the directing, writing or acting. In fact many of the role such as Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson) the housekeeper, who had been the first Mrs. De Winter’s maid as well, became roles that many tried to copy. Later in Young Frankenstein the character of Frau Blucher (Cloris Leachman) is a clear homage to the Mrs. Danvers role. Also rounding out the main cast is George Sanders, who plays Jack Favell the first Mrs. De Winter’s cousin and lover.

By the end you see the obsession that Rebecca De Winter caused even in death. The second Mrs. De Winter is obsessed with living up to what she sees as the perfect wife and woman and just wants her husband to love her as much as she thinks he loved his first wife. Mr. De Winter is obsessed with getting everything that reminds him of his first wife out of his sight and to make sure his new wife is as far away from the character and personality of his first. Mrs. Danvers is obsessed with the second wife becoming a clone of the beloved Rebecca and making sure the house does not change and forget Rebecca. And Mr. Favell is well just obsessed with the family and does his best to make sure no one forgets about him or Rebecca and how close they once were.

When the true killer is finally revealed you are so engrossed in the movie that you have forgotten all the light and airy social commentary that made up the first half of the movie. This is also by far one of my favorite roles of George Sanders from a long list of amazing performances. In all I think this is one of the most overlooked noirs because most people never even know that it is one and not a romance.

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Posted by Ryan

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