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Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940)




This is Hitch's only film to win a Best Picture Oscar, but no, he didn't win best director (he never did). This is a David O. Selznick production, and it seems more like a Selznick film than a Hitchcock one. It's got terrific storytelling, wonderful acting and a sumptuous production. Hitchcock does imbue the film with mystery and suspense, but it seems to be more of a professional job and less of a personal undertaking to get at the audience, which, after all, is basically why Hitchcock films are so appealing. Even if Hitch seems a little bit hamstrung by being a team player here, the plot is so ingenious and the characters so interesting that it's definitely a must-see and probably the best film Hitch made during the 1940s (and yes, I realize many feel that film should be Notorious, but feel free to keep that opinion if it's yours ). I don't know if I want to spoil it too much, but basically wealthy widower Laurence Olivier meets and eventually marries a simple young woman (Joan Fontaine), and later he takes her to his enormous estate Manderley where the overwhelming presence of his dead wife Rebecca threatens to shatter their marriage. To make things even more frightful, Rebecca's devoted housekeeper (Judith Anderson) goes out of her way to tell the new wife that she can never compare in any way to Rebecca. The strength of the film is that things are never actually quite what they appear to be, almost right to the very end.