Starring: Joan Fontaine, Laurence Olivier, Judith Anderson, George Sanders, Reginald Denny
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Summary: A young bride is terrorized by the memories of her husband’s glamorous first wife
Other Nominations: Director, Actor (Olivier), Actress (Fontaine), Supporting Actress (Anderson), Adapted Screenplay, Original Score, B&W Art Direction, B&W Cinematography*, Film Editing, Special Effects
-This movie is a perfect example of how to slowly build tension over the course of a movie and reward the viewer with an amazing payoff when all the cards finally get laid on the table. The whole middle section of the movie feels like a thousand pinpricks with Joan Fontaine’s character constantly being needled until something has to give-I loved it.
-The acting is A+. Fontaine should have won the Oscar for her performance, as she perfectly conveys her character’s feelings of inadequacy with her body language at all times; an amazing for a 22 year old. Olivier is understated, but nevertheless very, very good and his facial expressions work really well both at the time and in retrospect (i.e. if you’re rewatch the film knowing everything like I did). Judith Anderson should have easily won the Oscar for her performance as Mrs. Danvers, which is still one of my favorite supporting characters in any film. Finally, Saunders is awesome as always playing exactly the kind of role he should be playing, a cad.
-Wonderful cinematography; my personal favorite thing they do is use a lot of wide shots when Mrs. de Winter is in the mansion which emphasizes just how small and insecure she feels there.
-It’s kind of inevitable, but the very beginning before the main focus of the film becomes clear and some of the stuff after we get the payoff I mentioned earlier is merely good instead of amazing. Yeah, not much of a complaint.
-This was the final film made my Selznick International Studios before they had to be liquidated. They were arguably the greatest independent movie studio of all-time: in their short existence as an independent from 1936-1940, they made Rebecca (1940), Gone With the Wind (1939), A Star is Born (1937) and the Prisoner of Zenda (1937), all of which are considered to be classics. Despite being the highest grossing studio in Hollywood at the time, they weren’t set up effectively for taxation purposes (they had nothing to reinvest their profits into unlike other studios which distributed movies and ran the theaters themselves). Even after liquidation, they still made major movies like Since You Went Away (1944), Spellbound (1945), Duel in the Sun (1947) and The Paradine Case (1948), but these were made merely to fulfill contractual commitments.
-Despite being the main character, we never actually learn the name of Joan Fontaine’s character, as she’s only referred to as Mrs. de Winter.
This movie stands up as one of Hitchcock’s best works and is one of my favorite movies of the era. If you haven’t watched it, you absolutely should