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Motion Picture (1941) - Between Ourselves (June)






They Didn't Forget Rebecca

Hollywood's vote for Rebecca as the best picture of 1940, lines up with what this writer recommended when he saw it three times. Usually when a surpassingly good film is shown so far forward in the year, most of us forget its superlative qualities in the flood of other worthy features that follow. A producer who thinks he has something extraordinary—something that merits an Oscar can't be blamed for holding back and releasing his pride and joy when the voters' memories are fresh. Thus practically assuring bimself of an Oscarian triumph. Yet Dave Selznick released Rebecca back in March, 1940, and through all the succeeding months there wasn't a single release that belonged on the same screen with the DuMaurier-Hitchcock-Fontaine-Olivier opus. In fact it was a toss-up between Rebecca and The Grapes of Wrath—which was released even earlier in the year. So through month after month and week after week, these two pictures stayed fresh in the mind.

It just goes to show that the memory doesn't do a fade-out when something is good enough to be remembered. You don't remember pictures very long. After ten days, or thereabouts, even most of the better ones are difficult to recall. And Nature is very kind, indeed when she enables you to forget the "turkeys" the minute you leave the theater. Otherwise you might become balmy or even dangerous. If you're an inveterate movie-goer who goes to the movies two or three times a week, just imagine the tremendous footage that passes before your eyes.

You and I and Hollywood must have sat through countless hours of good and mediocre films since we saw Rebecca. Yet we all remember it vividly. And ditto The Grapes of Wrath. We remembered them through the Summer vacation pastimes, the Fall activities, the Christmas and Holiday season, the magazines and books and papers we've read—even through the torrid Election campaign. Which is the biggest compliment of all—for the mind is always on the qui vive. And countless ideas and impressions are entering it every living minute.

So with all these intervening months of mental "give and take"—a picture like Rebecca remains just as vivid as when we saw it for the first time over a year ago. Any producer who holds up his masterpiece till the end of the year hoping it'll be remembered more quickly by the Oscar crowd, should remind himself that a rival may have another Rebecca that went out in the previous Spring. Of the three most-remembered pictures of 1940, I'd name Rebecca, The Grapes of Wrath and The Philadelphia Story.

1941 has checked off four months. Meanwhile keep your eyes on Meet John Doe. It almost marks a milestone in the sweep of its bold, daring, revolutionary theme and characterization. What follows it throughout the year will have to be mighty, mighty good to prevent it from copping the Oscar.