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New York Times (19/Mar/1939) - Hitchcock considers 'Rebecca'




Hitchcock considers 'Rebecca'

The balance of trade between England and America should be definitely in our favor this year. For, only the other day, there was deposited on these shores one of the largest consignments of foreign exchange ever received in a similar transaction. The name of it was Alfred Hitchcock, master of melodrama and specialist in the shriek, who arrived on his leisurely way to Hollywood, where he will make pictures for David O. Selznick.

Mr. Hitchcock, as has been widely indicated, bulks large in every respect — but most particularly in his genius for the manufacture of cinematic chills. No man on either side of the Atlantic (in the motion-picture business, that is) has done one-half that he has toward giving the public the creeps. All the refinements in violence have been beautifully displayed by him, accomplished with the care and affection of an artist. His was "The 39 Steps," "The Man Who Knew Too Much" and "The Lady Vanishes." And now he is going to Hollywood to make the film version of Daphne du Maurier's haunting novel, "Rebecca" — not she of Sunnybrook Farm, oh, no, but she of Manderley, the great English country house out there on the Cornish coast.

However, if you had seen Mr. Hitchcock the other afternoon in the suite of his hotel you would never have believed your eyes. Some one has ungenerously compared him to a captive balloon going up, which is a slightly exaggerated approximation of his size and does not take into account his lively, smiling face affixed atop. He has the ruddy cheeks of an English Christmas illustration and the familiar affability of most fat folks. One instinctively inclines to call him "Hitch," which is what practically everyone who knows him does.

A further contradiction of his mephitic reputation was the comfortable domesticity apparent in his surroundings. He has come to America with his wife, his young daughter and his two small dogs, which obviously dote upon him. They are Jenkins, a Sealyham terrier, and Edward IX, a golden-red cocker spaniel. Only once did he slightly suggest the tormentor who makes those brilliant films. He deliberately petted Jenkins overmuch just to show how Edward sulked when he was jealous. Then he gave them both lumps of sugar.

Every one who has read "Rebecca" — and practically every one has — must have finished it with the conviction that it was a natural for a Hitchcock picture. But the question has then arisen as to just how it might be filmed. Well, Mr. Hitchcock himself is not quite sure about it yet. Said he won't know for sure until he has talked with Mr. Selznick. But of one thing he is fairly certain: Rebecca will not be shown. That is very important (for the information of those who haven't read the book), because the whole menace in the story, the character of most tenebrous mystery, is built around a woman who has died before it all begins.

"To show her," said Mr. Hitchcock, "would be quite ordinary, wouldn't it? I rather think it must be done through the other characters. Rebecca must be reflected in their reactions. For instance, the little dog might be shown waiting for Rebecca, his mistress, to return home. Then we see a woman's legs. The dog rushes forward joyfully to greet here. Suddenly, without showing the woman's face, we know by the dog's attitude that it is not the one he is waiting to see. His tail droops; he goes away. The dog's tail becomes very important. The first time we see it wag we know that the second wife has begun to find her place in the house. I suggest this merely to give you an idea of the treatment by which it might be done."

Mr. Hitchcock has just finished putting another of Miss du Maurier's novels on the screen in London. It is "Jamaica Inn," which will have Charles Laughton as star. This was the first time that Hitchcock and Laughton, who are unquestionably England's greatest director and screen actor, had worked together on a picture. Mr. Hitchcock said it was tough.

"Laughton works into a character very slowly," he said. "It takes time. I had to shoot around him. But when he finally catches it, it's there — and you've got something fine."

Apparently no Hitchcock interview is ever complete without Mr. Hitchcock's latest idea for a picture he would like to make — some time. Today he has in mind a picture built around the English Derby — Derby Day.

"Can there be anything more exciting or dramatic than a million people all gathered together in one afternoon — all sorts of people, from top to bottom — just to witness the running of a race? I always liken it to the Judgment Day. Well, I should like to sift, say, a dozen characters from that crowd and, within the limits of an hour and a half on that fatal afternoon, tell their stories, climaxed by the finish of the race."

It sounds like a great idea — maybe too great, because, unfortunately, Mr. Hitchcock never seems to get around to doing those pictures he dreams about.