Per Alfred Hitchcock's instructions, Judith Anderson rarely blinks her eyes while playing Mrs. Danvers.
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Over twenty actresses were screentested for the role of Mrs. de Winter, which eventually went to newcomer Dame Joan Fontaine. One of them was Vivien Leigh, for whom Laurence Olivier was pressing, as they were a couple at the time.
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Due to the success of this movie in Spain, the specific jackets that Joan Fontaine wore during the movie began to be known as "rebecas". The word "rebeca" is still used nowadays to refer to this item of clothing.
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The first movie that Alfred Hitchcock made in Hollywood, and the only one that won a Best Picture Oscar. Although it won Best Picture, the Best Director Award that year went to John Ford for The Grapes of Wrath (1940).
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Because Laurence Olivier wanted his then-girlfriend Vivien Leigh to play the lead role, he treated Joan Fontaine horribly. This shook Fontaine up quite a bit, so director Alfred Hitchcock decided to capitalize on this by telling her everyone on the set hated her, thus making her shy and uneasy, just what he wanted from her performance.
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Mrs. Danvers is hardly ever seen walking, she seems to glide. Alfred Hitchcock wanted her to be seen solely from Joan Fontaine's character's anxious point of view, and this effect tied in with her fear about Mrs. Danvers appearing anytime unexpectedly.
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Just as in the original novel, Mrs. de Winter has no first name.
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For the only time in his career, Alfred Hitchcock was barred from the scripting process. Therefore, he banned producer David O. Selznick from his own set.
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Despite scouring most of America, New England in particular, producer David O. Selznick was unable to find a suitable location to represent Manderley, so he had to resort to a miniature instead, albeit a highly convincing one.
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The novel was bought by producer David O. Selznick for $50,000 as a vehicle for Carole Lombard, with the idea that he would attempt to get Ronald Colman for the male lead. According to Selznick's memos, when Colman put off accepting the part because he was afraid that the picture would be a "woman-starring vehicle" and because of the murder angle, Selznick turned to his second choices for the role, Sir Laurence Olivier and William Powell. Olivier was willing to work for $100,000 less than Powell, and so he was chosen. Leslie Howard was also considered for the part.
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In order to maintain the dark atmosphere of the book, Alfred Hitchcock insisted that this movie be shot in black and white.
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Alfred Hitchcock and cinematographer George Barnes used a technique known as "deep focus photography" in this movie. This is one of the few movies to use that technique before Citizen Kane (1941). Hitchcock had also used it in When Boys Leave Home (1927).
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Filming started five days after the U.K. entered World War II. This proved to be particularly troublesome to Sir Alfred Hitchcock and the movie's largely British cast.
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Alfred Hitchcock frequently clashed with David O. Selznick over Hitchcock's habit of cutting in-camera. Rather than give Selznick several complete shots of each set-up so the movie could be assembled in a variety of ways, Hitchcock had the final cut already worked out before shooting, and filmed only as much of each long shot and close-up as he planned to use in the movie.
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Having started in movies as an art director, Alfred Hitchcock was well-versed in using miniatures to save money, but had to convince producer David O. Selznick that the process wouldn't look cheap.
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Producer David O. Selznick wanted Olivia de Havilland to play the lead, but was faced with insurmountable problems. She was already committed to Samuel Goldwyn for Raffles (1939), Warner Brothers was being uncooperative about lending her out, and she was reluctant to accept the part because her sister, Joan Fontaine, was also under consideration for the part and her agent, Leland Hayward, was promoting his wife, Margaret Sullavan, for the role. Selznick also considered Loretta Young, Vivien Leigh, Anita Louise, and Anne Baxter for the role, but felt that Young and Leigh were the wrong "type". He finally settled on Fontaine, but his staff disagreed with his decision because she was not yet an established star.
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Another factor slowing down production was Alfred Hitchcock's refusal to rehearse while the crew was setting up lights. He claimed he found the noise distracting, even though rehearsing during camera set-ups was standard Hollywood practice.
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Whenever Rebecca is mentioned, particularly noticeable at around thirty-three minutes, thirty-nine minutes, forty-four minutes, forty-eight minutes, and two hours and three minutes, a brief, otherworldly appearance of the Hammond Novachord appears in the soundtrack. This first commercial polyphonic synthesiser is considered the grandfather of all modern synthesisers, and eventually managed to find its home in later science fiction and suspense movies, due to its unique sound.
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David O. Selznick borrowed Franz Waxman from MGM to score this movie, forcing the composer to work from the script and a rough cut rather than the final edit. When this posed problems later, Selznick had some of Max Steiner's music for A Star Is Born (1937) inserted where he felt Waxman's score wasn't working. This caused animosity between Selznick and both composers.
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Alfred Hitchcock agreed to screentest Joan Fontaine only after seeing her play the meek wife in The Women (1939).
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This movie's final cost was $1,285,000, approximately $500,000 over the original budget.
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This was the first movie that Alfred Hitchcock made with producer David O. Selznick. Hitchcock worked with screenwriter Robert E. Sherwood and Hitchcock's assistant Joan Harrison in the scripting process. But he was dissatisfied almost from the beginning of the shoot with Selznick's controlling, some called it obsessive, manner of "producing".
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David O. Selznick was so thrown by Alfred Hitchcock's methods that he began questioning his own judgement. He asked his wife Irene to come to the studio to look at some of the footage, a practice he rarely exercised. He even confided that he wanted her to tell him if he should just cancel the production. She viewed what had been shot and reassured him that the movie was excellent.
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Alfred Hitchcock's perfectionism slowed production from the start. Within two weeks, production was five days behind schedule.
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In 1944, Edwina Levin MacDonald sued producer David O. Selznick, author Daphne Du Maurier, United Artists, and Doubleday for plagiarism. She claimed that this movie was based on her novel "Blind Windows", and sought an undisclosed amount of damages. The lawsuit did not succeed.
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Some of the exteriors at Manderley were filmed at Del Monte, California, while the beach scenes were filmed on Santa Catalina Island.
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A half-sized version of Manderley was built on a separate soundstage for the opening sequence, in which the camera moves up the drive to the ruined estate in the moonlight.
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Unlike the novel, Alfred Hitchcock added the film projector sequence where Maxim and the second Mrs. de Winter see their honeymoon days.
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The original script named the heroine "Daphne" after writer Daphne Du Maurier. David O. Selznick objected, and the name was not used.
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After completion, this movie sat on the shelf for a month before David O. Selznick could work on the final cut. He was too busy preparing Gone with the Wind (1939) for its première.
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When Mrs. de Winter goes into the room to help Mr. Crawley, she sits down in a chair that appears again in Suspicion (1941) and Dial M for Murder (1954).
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Was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2018 by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant."
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This was Alfred Hitchcock's second film based on a Daphne Du Maurier novel (the first was Jamaica Inn (1939))
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Alfred Hitchcock chose very carefully the right lettering for the right characters, if we have to watch a handwriting analysis of the several letters shown in the movie: -Mrs. Van Hooper is authoritative (large T bars), sexually stimulated (thick Y and F loops), obsessive (loopholes in E and N), unwilling to being commanded (Independence loophole in P), and rude (thick tracks in general). -Maxim is very reflexive (large inter-word spacing), reserved (large inter-line spacing) and self-underrated (T bars very low). -Favell is self-overrated, brutal and impulsive (big R, Brutality loophole, short inter-word spacing). (According to the Marchesan Handwriting Analysis Method).
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"Lux Radio Theater" broadcast a sixty minute radio adaptation of the movie on November 6, 1950 with Sir Laurence Olivier reprising his movie role. Cast as Mrs. DeWinter was his wife, Vivien Leigh, whom the production had been unable to cast in movie. This radio adaptation followed the Hays Office mandate that Rebecca must die accidentally rather than being killed by Max DeWinter as she is in the novel. Prior to the release of the film, Orson Welles 1939 radio adaptation of "Rebecca" had faithfully followed the book in this regard. Welles' radio play included a promotion of this film.
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David O. Selznick was concerned with both stars' performances. He asked Hitchcock to speed up Laurence Olivier's reactions, which he thought were being played too slowly, and slow down his line readings, even asking Hitchcock to make sure Olivier knew what the lines meant. With Joan Fontaine, he thought Sir Alfred Hitchcock was directing her with too much restraint, and urged him to go for "a little more Yiddish Art Theatre".
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A chinchilla coat valued at $25,000 was loaned by Jaeckel's of New York to appear in Rebecca's closet. Nobody actually wears it in the movie. It is one of the items Mrs. Danvers shows to the second Mrs. de Winter.
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Robert Donat was one of Sir Alfred Hitchcock's choices for the character of Maxim de Winter. Melvyn Douglas, Leslie Howard, and Walter Pidgeon were also considered, but rejected by David O. Selznick. David Niven was deemed too young for the role, while William Powell was interested, but MGM had raised its loan-out fee.
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David O. Selznick insisted on personally supervising re-takes of the fire scene, which he thought had been indistinct as originally shot. The final shot of flames engulfing the title character's "R" monogram were redone because he thought the initial had not been as carefully framed as Mrs. Danvers would have placed it and the flames hadn't come up quickly enough or high enough.
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The adaptation for this movie by Philip MacDonald and Michael Hogan was based on the treatment written by Alfred Hitchcock, Alma Reville, and Hogan.
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The cast includes three Oscar winners: Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine and George Sanders; and three Oscar nominees: Judith Anderson, Alfred Hitchcock and Gladys Cooper.
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"The Screen Guild Theater" broadcast a thirty minute radio adaptation of the movie on May 31, 1943 with Joan Fontaine reprising her movie role.
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Although Sir Laurence Olivier was unsuccessful in his attempts to persuade Alfred Hitchcock and David O. Selznick to cast Vivien Leigh as Mrs. de Winter, she played the part in an American radio adaptation of the story in 1950, with Olivier repeating his role as Maxim.
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Second unit shots of Maxim de Winter's first meeting with his future second wife were filmed by stand-ins on the coast of Carmel, which stood in for the Riviera.
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Included amongst the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the four hundred movies nominated for the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
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Anne Baxter was one of the actresses screen-tested by Alfred Hitchcock for the leading role. He later used her begrudgingly in I Confess (1953).
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A very rough cut previewed in San Bernardino, California, in December 1939. The audience applauded when the title appeared and responded enthusiastically to the movie as a whole.
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This film is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #135.
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The top-grossing U.S. movie of 1940.
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This movie has a 100% rating based on 51 critic reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.
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David O. Selznick strongly lobbied for Nova Pilbeam to play the second Mrs. de Winter, but was overruled by Alfred Hitchcock.
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Principal photography was completed twenty-seven days behind the original thirty-six-day schedule. Three of the lost days were caused by Joan Fontaine's contracting the flu and another three by a sudden strike by the stagehands' union.
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In her autobiography, Maureen O'Hara states that she was the first choice for the lead role.
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Featured Judith Anderson's only Oscar nominated performance.
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Rebecca's handwriting was done by Helen Amigo.
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Included amongst the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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First shown on network television years after having been telecast only by local affiliate television stations.
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Laurence Olivier (Maxim de Winter) was only nine days younger than Daphne Du Maurier, on whose novel this movie was based.
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Although Vivien Leigh was not allowed to work on this film, she appeared in her breakout film role in Gone with the Wind. Joan Fontaine appeared in this film, while her sister, Olivia de Havilland, appeared in the other.
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In one scene there is an address book of Rebecca's shown. The handwriting on the cover is that of David O. Selznick's wife, Irene Mayer Selznick.
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Laurence Olivier, George Sanders, and Gladys Cooper all appeared in another Best Picture Oscar winner: Olivier in Hamlet (1948) (which he also directed), Sanders in All About Eve (1950), and Cooper in My Fair Lady (1964).
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Included among the American Film Institute's 2001 list of the top 100 Most Heart-Pounding American Movies.
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Opening credits: The events and characters depicted in this photoplay are fictitious. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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Alfred Hitchcock: Walking past a phone booth just after Jack Favell (George Sanders) makes a call in the final part of the movie. There are photos showing Hitchcock standing beside the phone booth looking at Mr. Sanders. Actually, the scene isn't played that way, and you have to be quick spotting Hitchcock, quickly passing by in the background while Sanders is discussing a parking matter with a policeman, with Sanders having only been seen in close up while talking on the phone.
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While Maxim does not mean to kill Rebecca in the movie, he kills her deliberately in the book. This was mandated by the censors of the Hays Office.
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Although producer David O. Selznick wanted this movie to stay faithful to the novel, director Alfred Hitchcock made several changes to increase the mystery and the suspense. In the novel, Mrs. Danvers is the mother figure who raised Rebecca from youth, is the source of the evil that existed in Rebecca. In the movie, Mrs. Danvers is much younger, and her past isn't revealed, while Rebecca is "the source of evil that exists in Mrs. Danvers." The movie added the raining right before entering Maxim's home Manderley and meeting Mrs. Danvers. The raining made the second Mrs. de Winter cold and shivering when she meets Mrs. Danvers. In the book, the second Mrs. de Winter travels with Maxim to London to meet Dr. Baker. In order to increase the tension and the suspense, Hitchcock let the second Mrs. de Winter stay at Manderley instead of travelling with Maxim de Winter to meet Dr. Baker (Leo G. Carroll). Instead of the second Mrs. de Winter, Frank Crawley travels with Maxim de Winter to London to meet Dr. Baker in the movie. In the book, the second Mrs. de Winter is the one who is having an uncomfortable feeling while travelling back to Manderley with Maxim in the end, but in the movie, Maxim de Winter is the one who is having the uncomfortable feeling while driving back to Manderley, where the second Mrs. de Winter is waiting. In the book, it is uncertain what happened to Mrs. Danvers in the end, but in the movie, Mrs. Danvers is destroyed along with Manderley at the end.
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Producer David O. Selznick wanted the smoke from the burning Manderley to spell out a huge R. Alfred Hitchcock thought the touch lacked any subtlety. When Selznick was preoccupied by Gone with the Wind (1939), Hitchcock was able to replace the smoky R with the burning of a monogrammed lingerie case. He also edited this movie in the camera, a method of filmmaking that didn't allow Selznick the opportunity to re-edit the movie.
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Many of the architectural details of Manderley, including ceilings and chandeliers, were matted in from drawings made by Al Simpson. The same was done with some of the flames during the climactic fire.
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In the book, the second Mrs. de Winter was fainting during the inquest just like in the movie. Frank Crawley drives the second Mrs. de Winter back to Manderley. While staying at Manderley, Jack Favell comes to see the second Mrs. de Winter and Maxim to talk about the death of Rebecca, but in the movie, Alfred Hitchcock lets Jack Favell meet the second Mrs. de Winter and Maxim during the break in the inquest to heighten the tension.
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Ronald Colman was originally cast as Maxim de Winter, but dropped out due to production code issues about a main character getting away with murder.
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This movie was a huge influence on Citizen Kane (1941): Both movies use deep focus photography. Both movies have mansions - Manderley in this movie and Xanadu in Citizen Kane (1941). Both Rebecca and Charles Foster Kane are dead and their lives are explored through the points of view of others. Both Rebecca and Charles Foster Kane have adulterous relationships. Mrs. Danvers in this movie and Mary Kane in Citizen Kane (1941) are dressed in similar fashion and both characters also behave coldly. This movie ends with a burning pillow with a giant "R" on it and Citizen Kane (1941) ends with a burning sled with "Rosebud" on it.
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The title character never appears in person in the entire movie.
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