At the Movies

Yes it’s back!! At the Movies took a little break over the last few months but is back today with one of my all time favorite classics. I thought about featuring a Thanksgiving related film but decided to wait til next week when we’re all just recovering from our tryptophan induced lethargy. If you’re in the mood, please do visit two of my favorites of the season here.

I can’t recall the segue in my mind that led me to my movie choice today – no doubt some obscure circuitous route – but was quite surprised to realize I had never featured Alfred Hitchock’s Rebecca. Based on the marvelous gothic novel by Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca is a movie to savor. I can still remember reading Rebecca for the first time years ago, entranced by not only the plot but the house – yes, there’s a house. Even then, I appreciated that the magnificent country estate in Cornwall played such an important role in the story.

It wasn’t just a house, but the ancestral home of the dashing George Fortescue Maximilian de Winter (Maxim) played to perfection by the handsome Laurence Olivier. We meet Maxim in Monte Carlo, where a chance encounter leads him to the painfully shy Joan Fontaine, a paid companion to a socially ambitious matron. The recently widowed Maxim becomes enchanted by her unsophisticated ways, marries her and brings her back to Manderley, his estate by the sea.

But once there, our nameless heroine, only referred to as Mrs. de Winter, is overcome by both her duties as mistress of the grand home and the ghostly presence of Rebecca, Maxim’s dead wife, whose memory lingers everywhere. Joan Fontaine plays the new Mrs. de Winter with impressive insecurity. Compared to the overwhelming aura of the beautiful, socially adept, popular Rebecca, Maxim’s wife pales against even the architecture.

Like the lifestyle in our beloved Downton Abbey, daily decisions were required from the mistress of the mansion, constant reminders to poor Mrs. de Winter of her lack of social bearing.

Even in the lovely morning room, evidence of Rebecca remained.

Meet Mrs. Danvers, Rebecca’s devoted servant, brilliantly portrayed by Judith Anderson. One of the eeriest characters ever, Mrs. Danvers’ bizarre dedication to her former employer is part of the subtle psycho-sexual drama of the movie. She is constantly undermining Maxim’s new wife in an effort to enshrine the memory of Rebecca. Walking her through Rebecca’s perfectly preserved room, she creepily caresses Rebecca’s lingerie as she extolls the beauty and virtues of the “real Mrs. de Winter.”

George Sanders plays the untrustworthy Jack Favell, a distant cousin of Rebecca’s with an unsavory familiar relationship.

all photos via Hooked on Houses

Even as Joan Fontaine’s character slips deeper into subservience, she realizes that Rebecca’s spell must be broken and the mystery of her death uncovered. Enhanced with beautiful cinematography by Oscar-winner George Barnes and spectacular art direction by Lyle Wheeler, this film is a visual treat. The Oscar winner in 1940 for best picture, Rebecca has it all in my book – great style, plot, performances and direction. A must see for those who love a suspenseful thriller, 1940’s glamour and a great love story. “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again….”

19 thoughts on “At the Movies

  1. I am not even going to watch the clip. I am just going to go find the dvd to watch again tonight.

    I missed this series and am glad it is back. You have such impeccable taste, Stacey.

    Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

  2. I am so glad at the movies is back because I get reminded of movies like this that I forgot about but once totally enjoyed. I’m off to order it and can’t wait to watch it again. Have a wonderful weekend Stacey!

  3. Love this move and love the stills you chose. Fabulous house and accoutrements. Isn’t it wonderful that we can now watch a movie and pause it to study the room (or outfit?). Now if I could only zoom in on my t.v. screen…. GREAT suggestion. Wishing you a nice weekend!

  4. OK, this is a great reminder of a terrific movie to watch if not just to oogle at the magnificent estate:) I watched it once many many years ago with my parents, time to get it again, being older and way more house savvy, thanks for the reminder! Have a great Friday.

  5. How nice to see Friday Films rolling again — and such a great pick! Hitchcock is always the perfect blend of style and thrills. I haven’t watched this one in years, but I am definitely in the mood for a night in… Pass the popcorn!

    Have a fantastic weekend!

  6. I plan on shutting down shop, closing down the ole’ comp and snuggling up with some movies….I think this one might have to be added to the queue! I do hope you’ll have more suggestions next week…. xxKelly

  7. Oh my…I DO remember reading this book in school and loving the story. I didn’t know there was a movie. I am definitely putting it in my Netflix queue. I am “Downtown Abbey” addicted now but I’ve watch all of the series that is available on Netflix. Have you seen any of the new season? How can I get more?? I’m working my way through “Little Dorrit” while waiting for the new season to begin airing in the U.S.

  8. Stacey, what a treat to see all these great images from the film. It’s a great book and I must rent the movie now and watch it again. Thanks for the reminder!
    xx Sunday

  9. These old movies are great! I thought you might like to know that your blog was down today and it said something like Sorry, No server found..never seen anything like that before~are you having problems?

    • Hi Amy – yes, site was down briefly – had become too large for back up to stay on Go Daddy so I had to add a separate service. Thank you so much for telling me.

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