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The Times (27/Jun/1940) - Gaumont Cinema: Rebecca

(c) The Times (27/Jun/1940)



Time, as we are told at the beginning of this film, cannot mar the exquisite symmetry of Manderley, but as a matter of fact this remarkable structure seems to be one of the most strikingly asymmetrical buildings which the Elizabethan age, or even the cinema industry, has ever produced. Yet, after all, such trifling incongruities would not have troubled the spacious minds of Ouida or Mrs. Henry Wood, and perhaps it is the chief merit of this film, adapted from a novel by Miss Daphne du Maurier, that it is conceived in a spirit of large and loose melodrama which seems to belong to happier and less anxious days than those of the present century. The blighted widower in the feudal mansion, through which, and with what sinister emphasis, the housekeeper stalks in injured majesty — the idiot sailor who may, or may not, have witnessed a murder — the innocent young girl left bewildered in this atmosphere of oppressive mystery — the opulent background which admits us at once to the highest possible circles — all this belongs to a comfortable and extensive, even though remarkably silly, world.

Nevertheless it is an odd task for Mr. Alfred Hitchcock, whose mastery of suspense usually depends on his delicate manipulation, of commonplace detail. He has certainly done his best with Miss du Maurier's lavish fantasy, and the whole film moves with a creditable gusto and speed. And in this he is greatly assisted by the cast. Mr. Laurence Olivier manages the sardonic hero as if to the manner born, and this familiar being has seldom been more attractively described. And the equally familiar heroine, shy, good, and married above her station, is at any rate never mawkish in the hands of Miss Joan Fontaine, while at moments she even succeeds in coming, however artificially, alive.