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My Cousin Rachel (1952) - Plot Summary Poster

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  • When Philip Ashley's much-loved (and rich) cousin Ambrose dies, he is convinced that Ambrose was murdered by his new wife Rachel to inherit his wealth. But when he meets Rachel and falls in love with her, he knows that his suspicions must have been unfounded. But were they, or is Rachel just trying to use Philip to get at the estate Ambrose left to him instead of to her? And will she murder him next?

  • It's the early 1830s. Twenty-four year old Philip Ashley has lived under the guardianship of his older wealthy cousin Ambrose Ashley in Ambrose's manor house on the Cornish coast of England since the passing of Philip's parents when he was a child. Ambrose has meant everything to Philip. Although he understands, Philip is nonetheless sad to see Ambrose leave temporarily for Florence, Ambrose who needs to get away from the English winters for health reasons. Ambrose's temporary vacation seems to turn permanent when he writes back to Philip stating that he has fallen in love and married widowed Rachel Sengelletti, a cousin by marriage and a native Brit who moved to Italy upon her first marriage. Philip's sadness turns to troubledness when he receives two subsequent letters from Ambrose in his deteriorating handwriting in a crazed style stating that he no longer trusts anyone in Florence including Rachel who is tormenting him, and that his health is declining. When Philip arrives in Florence to help Ambrose, he finds that Ambrose had died three weeks earlier of a brain tumor, something that Philip had recently learned was also the cause of Ambrose's father's death. Ambrose's will leaves everything to Philip to be held in trust until his twenty-fifth birthday. Rachel left Florence immediately following Ambrose's death, not certain if she would ever return. Not trusting that Rachel didn't kill Ambrose for his money perhaps not knowing about the will beforehand, Philip leaves word for Rachel to come to Cornwall for a visit, his intention to confront her with his suspicions. Upon Rachel's arrival in Cornwall, Philip finds that she is not not the staid, middle-aged shrew he was expecting, but rather a somewhat young, vibrant and attractive woman. He quickly falls for her, and has every intention of marrying her. And even if she doesn't agree to marry him, he intends to sign over Ambrose's estate to her as he learns second hand that Ambrose was intending on doing so, he not having changed his will before his death, and learns that Rachel is deep in debt. But Philip's life could be in danger if his earlier suspicions about Rachel are true, that she killed Ambrose for his money, as Philip's legal agreement states that Ambrose's money would revert back to him if she ever were to remarry, a belief some have that she is working in cahoots with her Italian lawyer, Guido Rainaldi, who may be that intended husband for love.

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  • On the Cornish coast, the wealthy Ambrose Ashley raises his cousin Philip like a son since he was a baby. They frequently have lunch or go to the church with Philip's godfather Nicholas Kendall and his daughter Louise Kendall. When Philip is twenty-four years old, Ambrose is advised by his doctor to spend winter in warmer places and he decides to go to Florence, Italy. Ambrose does not return in spring and tells that he met the widow Rachel Ashley and they will get married. The next letter he receives from Ambrose accuses Rachel of mistreating him and the next one asks to Philip to go to Florence. When Philip arrives in Florence, he learns that Rachel has traveled and he visits Rachel's friend and lawyer Guido Rainaldi. He tells to Philip that Ambrose died delusional because of a brain tumor, but Philip believes Rachel murdered his cousin. He returns to Cornwall and soon Rachel comes to the town and Philip invites her to stay in his property. When he meets her, Philip realizes that she is a beautiful woman and he falls in love with her. Then he believes that his suspicious are unfounded. He also decides to give all the wealth to her expecting to get married with Rachel. But she does not accept to get married and Philip soon gets sick. Is Rachel poisoning Philip or not? Is she guilty or not?

  • A young man plots revenge against the woman he believes murdered his cousin, but his plans are shaken when he comes face to face with the enigmatic beauty.


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The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • Orphaned Philip Ashley was raised by his bachelor cousin, Ambrose. They live on an estate in Cornwall, which Philip expects to one day inherit. He is not quite of age when Ambrose falls ill. To escape the damp climate, his doctor recommends spending the winter abroad. Ambrose decides to go to Italy. Philip must stay behind to manage the estate.

    Ambrose writes that he has made the acquaintance of Rachel, a widow and distant cousin of the Ashley family. Soon they are married. The Ashley solicitor, Mr. Kendall, warns Philip that Ambrose's marriage changes everything. If he and Rachel have a son, the child will inherit instead of Philip.

    Philip begins to worry when Ambrose stops writing to him. Then he receives a letter, only the handwriting is very shaky. Ambrose has been ill with terrible headaches. He no longer trusts Rachel and believes she is having an affair with Guido Rainaldi, a long-time friend. He begs Philip to rescue him before it is too late. Mr. Kendall recalls that Ambrose's father died of a similar illness.

    Philip takes the next boat to Italy but he is too late. The villa where Ambrose and Rachel lived is deserted except for a servant who speaks little English. Ambrose is dead. After the funeral, Rachel packed up and left to stay with friends. Philip visits Ambrose's grave and also meets Rainaldi, whom he dislikes at once. More than ever he is convinced that Rachel murdered Ambrose so she could get her hands on his money.

    On arriving home, Philip learns that Ambrose died before he could change his will. That means that Rachel receives nothing. Mr. Kendall doesn't believe that Ambrose was murdered; rather that he died of the same illness as his father; probably a brain tumor.

    Rachel wants to come for a visit so she can return Ambrose's belongings. At first Philip refuses to receive her. He is reproved by Mr. Kendall, who says that all the woman wants is to see the house where her husband lived. If she isn't welcome there, the Kendalls will let her stay at their home.

    Philip hatches a plan whereby he will allow Rachel to visit so he can confront her with his suspicions. He is purposely away from the house when she arrives. When they finally meet, he is stunned by her beauty and charm. She tells him about Ambrose's last days, when he was delusional and accusing her of spying on him. Philip asks about her future plans. She doesn't really have any except for returning to Italy. Philip senses that she has very little money and decides to make her an allowance.

    While Mr. Kendall approves of the plan, he thinks Philip is offering her too much. He has done some investigative work and learned that Rachel is a habitual spender. But Philip doesn't care about that. He now wants Rachel to stay for a long time.

    Louise, Mr. Kendall's daughter and Philip's friend, dislikes Rachel. She thinks first Ambrose and now Philip are being taken in by a deceitful woman.

    As time passes, Philip becomes obsessed with Rachel. Mr. Kendall informs him that Rachel is sending her entire allowance to Italy and is overdrawn at the bank. Philip promptly orders him to increase her allowance; obviously it is not enough. He and Rachel spend almost all their time together. She asks if he and Louise are in love and seems disappointed when the answer is no.

    Philip is now of age and a celebratory dinner party is planned. After he and Rachel share a emotional kiss, he decides to turn the entire estate over to her. Mr. Kendall tries to stop him but he insists that she receive what she would have gotten had Ambrose lived to change his will. Rachel is startled but agrees to Philip's plan. She makes a will leaving everything to Philip.

    Louise tells Philip that he is making an absolute fool out of himself but he won't listen. On the night of the dinner party, he presents Rachel with the Ashley family jewels which were stored in the bank. He also announces that they are getting married. His guests are so shocked that they don't know what to say. It is obvious that Philip is drunk.

    The next morning he awakes feeling ill. Rachel has returned the jewels to Mr. Kendall so he can put them back in the bank. She is very angry with Philip for making such a spectacle of himself and embarrassing her. Somehow Philip believes that she agreed to marry him. His behavior toward her turns ugly and threatening. Rachel then hires the vicar's daughter, Mary Pascoe, to be her live-in companion during the remainder of her stay. She will not allow Philip to see her alone.

    Soon Philip falls ill with a high fever. He dreams that he and Rachel are now married. She takes care of him during the illness. When the fever finally breaks, Rachel is sitting by his bed. She offers him a cool drink made of limes that she had sent from London. His illness baffled the local doctor, who had never seen a case of meningitis. Rachel had seen it often in Italy and knew the proper treatment.

    Mary Pascoe is gone and Philip asks Rachel when they can announce their marriage. She gently tells him they are not married nor will they ever be. Now that he is better she is returning to Italy. Philip's anger returns but he is too weak to make a fuss.

    More than ever he is convinced that Rachel murdered Ambrose. He searches her sitting room and finds a letter from Rainaldi. It is written in Italian which he cannot read but Louise can. A workman warns Philip that the bridge on the estate is unsafe and no one should use it. He conveniently forgets to tell Rachel and even suggests that she walk down to see the progress made. While she is gone, Louise translates the letter. It is from Rainaldi, who urges Rachel to bring Philip along if she can't do without him. Suddenly Philip realizes he has been wrong about Rainaldi and Rachel. They have no ulterior motives toward him. He bolts from the room after shouting to Louise to get help because Rachel has had an accident. She asks what he has done to Rachel but he doesn't hear her.

    As the workman warned, the bridge was unsafe and collapsed with Rachel on it, sending her to the rocks far below. She is still alive when Philip reaches her. Before she dies, she asks him why he did it.

    A voiceover explains that they once hung murderers at the crossroads but not anymore.

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