Instant Classic

Paramount Theatre's Summer 2000 Series

REBECCA (1940)

D: Alfred Hitchcock; with Joan Fontaine, Laurence Olivier, Judith Anderson, George Sanders. (NR, 130 min.)

When Joan Fontaine failed to win an Oscar for her lead role in Hitchcock's Rebecca, the biggest sigh of relief came from her sister, actress Olivia de Havilland. The elder de Havilland was still smarting from her Gone With the Wind loss and bitterly resented her sister's critical success in this adaptation of Daphne duMaurier's suspense novel. No wonder -- Hitchcock was at his most masterful behind the lens for this story of a young girl lost in the shadows of an adored dead wife. He was not as enamored of Fontaine as he was of later leading ladies, but the camera lingers on her youthful beauty nonetheless. Neither was Olivier taken with his acting partner; he wanted his wife Vivien Leigh to play the part and was whispering obscenities into Fontaine's ear during romantic close-ups. It's not hard to imagine Leigh playing the never-seen Rebecca, but the Oscar should have gone to Dame Judith Anderson for her portrayal of the flinty Miss Danvers, whose loyalty to Rebecca is never in question. Better still is the script, a taut screenplay that keeps the momentum without ever sacrificing style. A memorable opening line ("Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again ... ") and a magnificent ending scene make Rebecca a classic. (5/30-6/1)

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