Thrash Lab

Rebecca (1940): Classic Movies Re-View

We all know Alfred Hitchcock as the “master of suspense,” but it took him working with David O. Selznick to create the startling Gothic vision of Rebecca. The film hearkens back to a seemingly more intelligent era of Hollywood, with a well-written script based on Daphne du Maurier’s novel, eerie black, and white cinematography and outstanding performances from Laurence Olivier (as Maxim de Winter), Joan Fontaine (the second Mrs. de Winter), and Judith Anderson (Mrs. Danvers). If you consider yourself a “reader” of films and have the patience for a longer (130 minutes) film, Rebecca was made for you. And in order to watch this amazing movie online you can head to 123movies.

First, the script recalls the literary style reminiscent of many adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels. Dialogue moves the narrative, especially with the acclaimed acting of Olivier. While this may make the film seem overly serious, Hitchcock keeps your attention by using the Gothic theme of dark characters with hidden secrets. After a whirlwind romance with austere English gentleman Maxim de Winter in Monte Carlo, the young, pretty, naive (and unnamed) second Mrs. de Winter finds herself in the shadowy, cavernous Manderly country estate. Suddenly the lady of the estate, she becomes intimidated by the memory — and ghost — of the first Mrs. de Winter, who died in a mysterious boating accident only a year before her marriage to Maxim de Winter.

Although the film’s first half may move somewhat slowly, like any good book, close attention will pay off. After the engrossing suspense of the second half, the meaning of the earlier scenes will become more complex, and Rebecca will be a film whose Gothic vision will make you think long after viewing the film. Olivier’s Maxim seems rather unlikeable through much of the film, but this makes the ending all the more satisfying. And the same goes for Mrs. Danvers, a housekeeper obsessed with the memory of Rebecca. The relationship between Danvers and the deceased Rebecca will haunt you, and surely challenged the Hays Code for its time, as Danvers primps the underwear of the deceased woman.

Is “Rebecca” scary like a horror movie? No; the suspense comes from Hitchcock’s ingenious unfolding of new information. Who is a villain? What lurks in the hearts of men and women? You have to watch closely to find out. The film is more of a psychological thriller because the characters are not caricatures; like in a well-crafted novel, both protagonists and antagonists develop by reacting to events. Producer David O. Selznick was well-known for his faithful adaptations of literary works (especially 1939’s Gone with the Wind), and Rebecca is suspenseful because you really do not know what is going to happen next.

The overall production value of the film is impressive. The musical score haunts, as do the expansive sets of the threatening manse Manderly. Instead of using kitschy special effects to literally show the ghost of Rebecca, shadows establish the disturbing effect she has on all those who knew her. The acting powerfully intrigued me about Olivier, Fontaine, and Anderson’s characters. Like any great film, it combines an intellectual and emotional effect for a cathartic experience. One must simply have the patience to appreciate a film with a depth of meaning. The best testament to Rebecca’s force is that the film will stay with you in the same way that Rebecca stayed with the film’s characters: perhaps even after death.

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