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Monday, November 30, 2009

REBECCA (1940)

Left to his own devises, Alfred Hitchcock’s first Hollywood pic might have shared the odd, disquieting tone of SUSPICION/’41, which also involves a troubled marriage set amongst the British gentry. But REBECCA was a David O Selznick ‘Cinema of Quality’ project (a ‘Picturization,’ as the credits have it), so its source material had to be respected. Compared to Hitch’s other early work in the States, it looks old-fashioned, what with George Barnes' extra creamy lensing & Franz Waxman’s soaring score. But on its own terms, this modern Gothic (about a paid companion who finds herself mistress of a great estate, but unable to compete with the shadow of her glamorous late predecessor) is splendid fare. Selznick tried to recapture the refined tone with Hitch on THE PARADINE CASE/’48, but all the principals were miscast in that one. The cast for REBECCA is miraculously ‘right,’ with Judith Anderson & Florence Bates making stellar debuts in juicy supporting roles while Joan Fontaine gives the perf of her life and Laurence Olivier plays against the easy charm Ronald Colman or Robert Donat might have brought to the part. It’s off-putting, at first, but it pays off.

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