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Columbia Daily Spectator (29/Apr/1940) - Hitchcock's "Rebecca" Is a Grippingly Powerful Movie




Hitchcock's "Rebecca" Is a Grippingly Powerful Movie

REBECCA Produced by David O. Selznick, and released through United Artists. Screenplay by Robert E. Sherwood and Joan Harrison, from the novel by Daphne Du Maurier. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

The Hitchcock touch and the Du Maurier touch, which attempted unsuccessfully to cope with the deliberate Mr. Laughton in "Jamaica Inn", have finally succeeded in establishing contact. The result is that "Rebecca" is one of the most grippingly powerful screen entertainments we have ever seen.

In Mrs. Du Maurier's brooding novel of a household obsessed by the memory of its dead mistress, Hitchcock has finally found a subject worthy of his art. With terse directorial strokes and deft handling of his camera, Hitch has succeeded in building up a mood which can only be compared to that of "Wuthering Heights". Add to the latter picture the almost unbearable suspense which has characterized Hitchcock's penny-dreadfuls, and you begin to get an idea of "Rebecca."

The comparison with "Wuthering Heights" goes further than that. Once again we have Laurence Olivier playing the part of a borderline neurotic, and if his former portrayal left the women in the audience emotionally exhausted, this one will completely demoralize them.

For our money, however, the best performance in the picture, as well as one of the best of the year, was turned in by Joan Fontaine. We are tempted to add "of all people". In this bit of casting Mr. Selznick has surpassed even his now classical choice of Vivien Leigh for the role of S. O'H. As in all such cases, we can only bow our head in silent appreciation of an outstanding job of acting, and wonder how the hell talent can go so long undiscovered.

In the role of the sinister housekeeper, stage-actress Judith Anderson has contributed a tight-lipped character portrayal which lends itself admirably to the creation of that tension of atmosphere which Hitchcock dotes on. George Sanders, Nigel Bruce, Reginald Denny, Gladys Cooper and C. Aubrey Smith handle the subsidiary roles flawlessly.