"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again"Year: 1940
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Casts: Joan Fontaine, Laurence Olivier, Judith Anderson
Genre: Mystery & Suspense
Alfred Hitchcock's first American-made film and his only film to ever win an Oscar for Best Picture despite being nominated five times. Adapted from Daphne du Maurier's novel and expensively-produced by David O. Selznick (who also produced Gone with the Wind).
Joan Fontaine plays a shy and naive ordinary young woman (unnamed in the film and only referred to as "I" until she is married and become a Mrs. De Winter) falls for Max de Winter plays by Laurence Olivier, a handsome and wealthy widower who own a large country estate in Cornwall. They first met in Monte Carlo while she was working as a paid traveling companion for an American employer and he was there for a vacation.
After a brief courtship, they eventually get married and return to Manderley,- Max's Gothic-castle that is haunted by the memory of Mr. de Winter deceased wife, Rebecca, who's said to have died in a boating accident. Upon arriving, the new Mrs. de Winter is introduced to the household staff and discovers that the deceased Rebecca still has a strange hold on everyone at Manderley. When she tries to assume the role of the lady of the house, the head housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers is cold to her often drawing her unfavourable comparisons to the first Mrs. de Winter. Rebecca had it all; beauty, power, confidence, and was adored by everyone. She is mortified, confused, and intimidated by it and begins to feel that her happiness is at risk by the haunting presence of Rebecca. From there, the plot carries to a whirlwind and twist halfway through.
It was said that casting was an even lengthier process. Over 20 actresses were tested for the role of Mrs. de Winter, among actresses that were considered include Loretta Young, Anita Louise, Anne Baxter and Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier then-girlfriend. Olivier wanted Vivien to play the lead role but final decicion settled on Joan Fontaine who is a relatively newcomer at the time. Out of disappointment, Olivier treated Fontaine poorly that shook Fontaine. Hitchcock saw the advantage and ended up telling her that everyone on the set hated her, thus making her shy off-screen showcasing the realistic vulnerability act on-screen.
Laurence Olivier portrays a broken man who still lives haunted by the past convincingly and Judith Anderson as Mrs. Denvers gave a cold sadistic villain portrayal of the character who is dark and foreboding as that of the deceased Rebecca herself. She rarely blinking her eyes, as instructed of Hitchcock himself.
The film has delightful sinister characters that holds a mystery at its core. Especially the castle, Manderley, which is just as much a character as any person in this film that it itself becomes a central character in the film imposing its physical representation of the haunting spirit of the deceased Rebecca. Hitchcock also masterfully illustrates the psychological terror of the naive bride dominated by the "presence" of the deceased wife using camera angles, editing, and music to emphasize the lead character's fear and use of shadows to escalates the mystery.
There were one or two moments in the film where I don't particularly care for it but the visual and the eerie atmosphere makes up for it. While it dragged firstway through and the emotional cues seemed a little off, however it progress when the mystery and intrigue starts unfolding. I think what make this film's a success is the sustained mystery and the omnipresent atmosphere of it which I am fully anesthetized by it. Filmed in black and white, it shines. One of Hitchcock's enchanting work and the master’s largely exemplary works.
My rate: 4.5 / 5 PERSONAL FAVORITE