Monday, July 5, 2010

Behind the scenes of "Rebecca" (1940)

Based on the Daphne Du Maurier novel of the same name, Rebecca is a psychological thriller released by Selznick International in the spring of 1940. The plot focuses on a young ladies maid who marries a wealthy man and comes to live with him at his family's grand estate only to find herself, physically and mentally, fighting against the demonic maid Mrs. Danvers and the ghost of her husband's first wife. This film is considered to be Joan Fontaine at her very best, along with her Oscar winning performance in Suspicion (1941), and Laurence Olivier is astounding in his role as Maxim de Winter. This film was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and this won two Academy Awards; Best Picture of 1940 (this was the only film he ever made to win that accolade) and Best Black and White Cinematography.

However what you may not have known was that there is some very intresting trivia hidden behind this classic. Here are a few of them:

Over twenty actresses were tested for the role of the Second Mrs. de Winter; some of those actresses included Maureen O'Hara, Loretta Young, Vivien Leigh, Anne Baxter, Margaret Sullavan, Carole Lombard, Olivia de Havilland, and Anita Louise.

For the role of Maxim de Winter the following actors were considered: Ronald Coleman, Robert Donat, Leslie Howard, and William Powell. Donat and Coleman both declined the part and Laurence Olivier was chosen instead because he agree to work for less then $100,000 when Powell wanted to work at a higher price. Leslie Howard had done a lot of work the year before while he was starring as Ashley Wilkes in Gone With The Wind; in fact, he decided that he wanted to return to his native Great Britain and start appearing in films down there so he declined the role and took all of 1940 off so that he could move back to Britain and at the same time treat himself to a well deserved vacation to recuperate from all the strenouis work he endured while doing Gone With The Wind.

Originally Laurence Olivier wanted his then fiance Vivien Leigh to play the role of the Second Mrs. de Winter since she wasn't able to play opposite him as Kathy in Wuthering Heights the year before. When Joan Fontaine got the part instead Olivier treated her horrificly. Alfred Hitchcock got to make Joan more uncomfortable when he told her that everyone on the set disliked her. This made Joan very upset and uneasy which was what he wanted her to reveal through her performance.

Rebecca was adapted into a number of radio shows. They included one through the The Screen Guild Theatre on May 31, 1943 starring Joan Fontaine with then husband Brian Aherne and Agnes Moorehead as Mrs. Danvers. The second one was also through The Screen Guild Theatre and it was aired on November 18, 1948 with Loretta Young, John Lund and Agnes Moorehead. The Lux Radio Theatre did an adaptaion n February 3, 1941 with Ronald Colman and Ida Lupino and the final radio show adaptation took place on November 6, 1950 with Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh.

All in all, Rebecca is one of the many wonderful classics you'll ever see especially if you are a fan of Joan Fontaine, Laurence Olivier, or both.

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