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Rebecca (1940)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Writers: Daphne Du Maurier (novel), Robert E. Sherwood (screenplay)
Cast: Joan Fontaine, Laurence Olivier, George Sanders, Judith Anderson
Genre: Drama, Mystery

Is Joan Fontaine adorable in this film or what! I don't care what Rebecca looked like, she couldn't have held a candle to Joan. And interestingly enough we never see Rebecca, not at all. Hitchcock allows our minds to fill in the blanks of what the drowned beauty looked like. That works wonders for creating tension in this Gothic tale.

It's very telling that Joan's character has no name. Think about it, we never hear her first name she's always referred to as Mrs de Winter. It's like she only exists in Rebecca's shadow, a non person struggling for a breath....Surrounding her is the suffocating Manderley estate where everything screams Rebecca, especially the house keeper Mrs. Danvers, who's strange obsession with Rebecca adds a whole another layer to the film.

I'd have to say that Joan Fontaine was one of the most skilled actresses working in the 1940s. Just check out Letter From an Unknown Woman (1948) to see what I mean. Sure there were bigger names with more colorful personalities, like Bette Davis and Katherine Hepburn....but watch Joan's body language in this movie. She rolls her shoulders forward and makes her self smaller...Everything she does from her posture to her facial expressions comes out of method acting, she is her character.

And the script too is so brilliant too. For most of the movie her husband is out right rude to her, so was her lady boss at the beginning of the film. Then there's the house keeper who brow beats poor little Joan at every turn. It's like she's about to be swallowed up by this world that she has entered...Then after we learn the truth about Rebecca, her husband becomes caring and warmer towards her. Finally as we get close to the end of the film, Joan's character has found herself and can now stand firmly on her own two feet.

There might be more 'juicy and tantalizing' Hitch films, but as far as I'm concerned Rebecca is Hitch's best.