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Hollywood Magazine (1940) - Rebecca





United Artists

Outstanding picture of the month is this story of a young bride who was haunted by the mystery and by the memory of her husband's first wife, Rebecca. The novel which was such a sensational best seller several years ago has been lifted straight from its pages, placed on the screen without loss of its gripping tension, its strained mood, its telling power, but the central figure emerges as much more interesting character in the playing of Joan Fontaine than she did as the "I" of the novel.

More than one person became frankly weary of the young bride's self-consciousness over her red hands and her childish nails in the novel. If they bothered her so much, why didn't she pop up to London for a manicure, demanded the slightly exasperated reader who already was tired out because he couldn't put the book down until he had found out what happened to Rebecca. The film has just as much suspense, but the irritation with the central character's gaucheries, her frightened ineffectualities, her inability to ask one or two sensible questions is all submerged in the sensitiveness of Miss Fontaine's interpretation of the part.

Laurence Olivier is the exactly right choice for the brooding, haunted Max de Winter, topping even his own performance of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights in strain and suppression. Judith Anderson's smooth voice and fluid body give the part of Danny the quality of living danger and waiting disaster so essential if the story is to be believed at all.

George Sanders, Nigel Bruce, Gladys Cooper, Reginald Denny, C. Aubrey Smith, Melville Cooper and Lumsden Hare bring to smaller parts the vivid overtones of the book. The sets of Manderley are magnificent and Alfred Hitchcock's direction makes the film, which runs two and a quarter hours, seem no longer than the average feature.