Based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier, the classic psychological thriller Rebecca was Alfred Hitchcock’s first American film. Joan Fontaine plays the unnamed narrator, a young woman who works as a companion to the well-to-do Mrs. Van Hopper (Florence Bates). She meets the wealthy widower Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier) in Monte Carlo, where they fall in love and get married. Maxim takes his new bride to Manderlay, a large country estate in Cornwall. However, the mansion’s many servants refuse to accept her as the new lady of the house. They seem to be loyal to Maxim’s first wife, Rebecca, who died under mysterious circumstances. Particularly cruel to her is the prim housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson), who is obsessed with Rebecca. She continually attests to her beauty and virtues (referring to her as “the real Mrs. de Winter”) and even preserves her former bedroom as a shrine. The new Mrs. de Winter is nearly driven to madness as she begins to doubt her relationship with her husband and the presence of Rebecca starts to haunt her. Eventually, an investigation leads to the revelation about Rebecca’s true nature. Producer David O. Selznick had the final cut of the picture, which was drastically altered from Hitchcock’s original vision.
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