Everybody Loves Rebecca
Just a couple of additional notes following a commentary pass through the film with Richard Schickel. I’ll certainly never read DuMaurier’s book, so Schickel’s comparisons are helpful in consideration of the first hour of the film in which slavish devotion to text builds atmosphere and governs the devolpment of elements. It’s the second beach house scene that initiates reasonably radical departures from the book, largely to appease the Hayes Office by blunting objectionable implications about Rebecca’s and Danvers’ lesbian overtones and Maxim’s intemperate murder of his wildly misperceived wife, Rebecca.
That second beach house setting is a kind of mysery spot in which relationships established in the first hour of the film suddenly go to pot in the midst of bizarre reversals and revelations while Maxim and what’s-her-name invest several minutes in overdue exposition — which Hitchcock (according to Schickel) would have communicated more skillfully were it not for Selznick’s fascination for characters who endlessly talk.
The propulsive power of verbal revelation justifies itself by unravelling several mysteries that would not reveal themselves efficiently. The beach house scene opens the floodgates for spoken explanations that end the largely-gloomy film on a happy, hopeful note that culminates in the rapid, bouncing pace (and dramatic conflagrations) I have to attribute to George Sanders energetic presence and Favell’s electrifying character. His consummate thorough-scoundrel perfectly counterpoints Danvers’ mesmerizing Svengali character, both of whom enliven the illusion of the never-seen titular character with their own very singular devotions to Rebecca. It’s a very good film that deserves the kind of talented thought that might remake it better.
Rebecca and Mrs. Paradine were presented as exceptionally beautiful women everyone loved, and both of them lost control of that incredibly intimidating power. It’s a theme Whedon’s dealt with comically in a couple of separate Buffy episodes, but it’s also a vital component in the still-unmade superhero chickflick that might just shatter box office records and revolutionize the art…simultaneously.