Manderlay Reign - Ruminations on 'Rebecca'

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Allen Skurow, Oct 13, 2002.

  1. Allen Skurow

    Allen Skurow Extra

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2002
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    0
    A must-see for Hitchcock adherents weaned on the likes of Psycho, North by Northwest, and The Birds. Less a cohesive whole than a triumvirate of diverse styles. An aggregate of noir, gothic, romance, mystery, and manor manners.

    The first reel is fairly standard structure forties Hollywood. That is until a lineaged Laurence Olivier suddenly segues into Gloria Steinem's worst nightmare - snapping off directives to Joan Fontaine as if training a puppy to go on the newspaper. As a matter of fact, there so many of these acid tongue transmissions in the film that I frequently found my jaw dangling at the end of my face at the unmitigated galling hilarity coming from these privileged pie holes.

    The middle third of the piece (happy couple arrives at Manderley Mansion) is no less than a masterpiece of mood and method. Here we have a director at the peak of his powers. The vast foreboding interiors of the estate loom as a sublime study of light and dark - an entity. You can almost imagine the maestro himself looming above this diorama - this shadowbox - maneuvering his minions like chess pieces on the board. Highlights include Fontaine's terrific turn as a pathological neurotic, the sinister staff popping up like wack-a-moles from a wax museum (especially Judith Anderson's 'Martha Stewart channeling Darth Vader's Mother-in-law'), and a devastating detour into Rebecca's resplendent you-moved-her-hair-brush-two-inches-to-the-left-you-unworthy-little-bitch 'shrine'. This is pure cinema - pure genius.

    Alas, the final third is a bit too 'Postman Always Rings Twice', but it has a nifty twist to it. All in all, a sixty two year old marvel that simply refuses to be resigned to chestnut status. This is what it's all about Alfie...good show old chap!
     
  2. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 1997
    Messages:
    4,294
    Likes Received:
    30
    I agree with a lot of your assessment, but I beg to differ on the identity of the puppet master. No one was in control of a David O. Selznick production except David O. Selznick. The supplements on the Criterion disc will demonstrate this, as will reading the amazing tome of Memos from Selznick. He stuck his nose and fingers into every aspect of production, ordering reshoots constantly and changing things on a moment's notice. There are Hitchcockian touches, but the flavor of the film (and the adherence to the book--the excerpts of Hitch's screenplay are downright awful) is plainly attributable to Selznick, not Hitch.
     
  3. BarryS

    BarryS Second Unit

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2002
    Messages:
    424
    Likes Received:
    0
     
  4. David Dennison

    David Dennison Second Unit

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2001
    Messages:
    307
    Likes Received:
    0
    Rebecca is probably my favorite of Hitch's movies. Sometimes my favorite changes if I have just watched Vertigo, Rear Window, or N by NW. I am always mesmerized by the journey into Manderlay and of course Judith Anderson's performance as Mrs. Danvers.
     
  5. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 1999
    Messages:
    9,190
    Likes Received:
    4,999
    Real Name:
    Robert Harris
    This is not meant as critisism and should not be read as such, however I found the topic curious.

    I wasn't certain what I was clicking into.

    The mansion in Rebecca is Manderley.

    I was wondering if there was a Rebecca connection somewhere in Bridge on the River Kwai, as what used to be Burma...

    or The Road to Mandalay.

    And to confirm, Rebecca was very little Hitchcock, aside from his great abilities with design and actors, and much, much more Selznick, with whom Hitchcock did not share a joyous production period.

    So much so that even years later, when the chance arose, Hitch gave his killer in Rear Window a decidedly Selznickian appearance.

    RAH
     
  6. BarryS

    BarryS Second Unit

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2002
    Messages:
    424
    Likes Received:
    0
    Mr. Harris,

    I must say that I am in awe of being on the same board with you. I saw you in the Vertigo documentary regarding your restoration of the film. Movie lovers the world over owe you and your team a great debt of gratitude for the painstaking restoration of such classics as Vertigo, Rear Window and Lawrence of Arabia. Vertigo, in particular, is a beautiful, beautiful film and now, thanks to you, we later generations can have a pretty good idea of what this masterpiece looked like upon first release. Your care and hard work are invaluable to the world of classic films. Film lovers thank you! I'm sure that Hitch would thank you too!
     
  7. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 1999
    Messages:
    9,190
    Likes Received:
    4,999
    Real Name:
    Robert Harris
    BarryS...

    Your kind words are appreciated. There are many people on that team who gave thousands of hours to the project, starting with Universal's Tom Pollock, who now appropriately heads up the AFI. If a list were to be created inclusive of each and every individual who helped move the restoration along in some way, there would be a couple of hundred names.

    RAH
     
  8. Allen Skurow

    Allen Skurow Extra

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2002
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    0
     
  9. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 1999
    Messages:
    9,190
    Likes Received:
    4,999
    Real Name:
    Robert Harris
    Just to keep things in perspective...

    Mr. Selznick was about 38 years old when he produced Rebecca. Based upon his work in the prior decade and after, he was very much one of the kings of the high end novel to film.
    Mr. Hitchcock, at the time he directed Rebecca had reached the wise old age of 40.

    For a great deal of background on the subject see:

    David O. Selznick's Hollywood by Ron Haver
    Memo from David O. Selznick
    Showman by David Thomson
    Hitchcock and Selznick by Leff

    This is where one finds one's "credentials" as well as an occasional letter of transit.

    RAH
     
  10. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2000
    Messages:
    8,791
    Likes Received:
    201
    Real Name:
    John
    Thanks, Allen. You've given me a few good chuckles here. Before you go too much further, if you have the remastered DVD of Vertigo, you may just want to look at the back cover to see if you recognize any names from this thread. I seem to remember there is a documentary on it's restoration you might want to check out as well. Pay close attention.
     
  11. Allen Skurow

    Allen Skurow Extra

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2002
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    0
     

Share This Page