Joan Fontaine is adorable as an awkward and shy lost puppy in Rebecca. She’s almost always out of place, sticking out like a sore thumb, but effective as our window into a world to which few of its viewers would belong. She’s one of us – uncomfortable, self-conscious, and vulnerable. Her sincerity and lack of pretence do her credit, however, as she catches the eye of a handsome and wealthy, but troubled widower Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier). He seems hung up on the tragic death of his wife, Rebecca, who was, by all accounts, the perfect woman. Can the new Mrs. De Winter escape the shadow cast by this terrible lady or will her insecurity get the better of her?
Once Joan is taken home it’s plain that she has an uphill task ahead of her. Rebecca de Winter’s initials are seemingly everywhere and the entire household constantly reminds her of the correct way to do things… which is, of course what Rebecca would have done. If I were her I’d have immediately replaced the napkins and other sundry initialled items with an emblem representing the Manderley estate, then reminded people now and then that my ways won’t necessarily be what they’re used to. I’d then fire Mrs. Danvers at some stage before she might fire herself. Where would the fun be in that, though? How will our meek Mrs. de Winter fare? Probably not as well as I’d have, but then I’m no lady and probably don’t come very close to Fontaine in the looks department by any yardstick.
Rebecca is a superb Hitchcock film. It’s thoroughly entertaining and absorbs you into its mysteries and strangeness. Mr. de Winter’s actions don’t particularly make sense once all is revealed but such pickiness is easily swept away by everything else. Look, it’s a great film, and fun beyond its apparent sobriety. Well worth a watch.