Max de Winter (Brett) has married an introverted and naive girl (David) and brings her to his stately mansion on the Cornish coast -- Manderley -- an estate highlighted by flowers, rose upon rose, and a sprawling castle dominated by the Head Housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers (Massey), who was in love with the previous Mrs. de Winter, Rebecca. Got that?
Character traits: Max de Winter loves his new wife but seems to be keeping secrets from her; David (no name for the character) is puzzled, loving, and frightened; Mrs. Danvers is somber and quietly contemptuous of the newcomer. Oh, and we can't not nod in the direction of the cheerful and thoroughly grounded family friend, Beatrice, played by a woman with a name straight out of Dickens: Vivian Pickles.
Queer little things happen from time to time. A retarded clam digger promising not to squeal about "what Oye knows" if they won't send him away. That sort of thing. And that's where the situation stands.
It's always been a tradition to give an opulent glittering ball once a year -- The Manderley Ball. Max de Winter doesn't care one way or the other but family friends press David to organize an elaborate costume party. David knows nothing of organizing costume balls so she seeks Mrs. Danvers' advice, or rather accepts it because it's so freely given. I won't describe how but, following the Head Honcho's guidance, David manages to transform the ball into a calamitous shock that leaves a considerable dent in her self esteem and alienates just about everyone else. Rappel: Mrs. Danvers dislikes David for having taken Rebecca's place.
There follows an angry confrontation between Joanna David and the dour Danvers. Danvers opens the second-floor window -- or first-floor if you're a Brit -- and politely, silkily, invites the new Mrs. de Winter to jump out and splash to death on the stones below. Before this interesting possibility is further explored, a rocket booms on the beach below, signaling a boat aground on the jagged rocks.
I don't know how far I should go with the plot. Not too far, I think, not now, anyway. Maxim de Winter arrives and takes David aside. He makes one of those startling revelations that typically end the episode of a miniseries. It's pretty appalling at that.
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