Rebecca 1940 ★★★★

I'd forgotten enough about this not to realize it was essentially a dry run for VERTIGO -- the same themes, but done in a respectable, satin-swathed, Best Picturey way. The Manderlay section is really strong, though again consciously "sumptuous" in a different way than I associate with Hitchcock (the camera movement vs. editing balance tips more toward camera movement), but the Van Hopper scenes don't commend themselves and everything after the cottage confession only points up Du Maurier's penny-ante JANE EYRE ambitions. (Though I haven't read the book -- maybe the depth of Danvers' mad allegiance makes more sense there.) Joan Fontaine is perfect as the "funny, young, lost" Mrs. DeWinter haunted by Rebecca -- the first movie ghost to be represented primarily via graphic design, namely those slashing R insignias? -- and Laurence Olivier is fun as the mannered Maxim, which is a great pet name for a man too often governed by stricture. Not my favorite Hitchcock, but so obviously the one the Academy would recognize.

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