Another day, another remake: DreamWorks is developing a new version of Alfred Hitchcock's 1940 classic Rebecca, Variety reports. Steven Knight, who wrote Eastern Promises and Dirty Pretty Things, among other films, will write the adaptation, which will be based on the original book by Daphne DuMaurier. Rebecca is about a widower (Laurence Olivier), his new bride (Joan Fontaine), the shadow cast by his dead first wife, and all the suspense you can cram into an English manor. It's Hitchcock's only film to win an Oscar for Best Picture,
In Rebecca, du Maurier explores the relationship between past and present. For Maxim and his second wife, the past and the present are inextricably linked. The wife’s insecure past leads her to feel insecure in her new marriage, and Maxim’s past relationship with Rebecca damages his relationship with his new wife.
One of the main conflicts of Rebecca revolves around Maxim and the narrator’s efforts to escape the past. From his first entrance in the novel, Maxim is tormented by the memory of his marriage to Rebecca and his eventual murder of her.
The narrator’s jealousy of Rebecca permeates the majority of the novel. Because of her youth and insecurity, the narrator is unable to understand why Maxim chooses to marry her. As she learns more and more about Rebecca, she begins to compare herself to Maxim’s first wife, who seemed to be far more beautiful, elegant, and sophisticated than she could ever hope to be.
Daphne du Maurier gradually creates an unbearably tense atmosphere, which was my favourite aspect of the novel. It was unlike anything I’ve read. I’d feel the atmosphere when Mrs Danvers – she terrified me – entered the room when Mrs de Winter was alone, and I’d keep thinking about it long after I’d put the book down. I personally did not find the novel thrilling – the mystery was unexpected, but not horrifying – but it was certainly suspenseful. I also enjoyed the juxtaposition between the past and present Mrs de Winters.
Daphne du Maurier was born May 13, 1907, in London, England. Her grandfather, George du Maurier, wrote the popular novel Trilby (1894). Her parents, Gerald and Muriel du Maurier, were British actors. Du Maurier combined both her grandfather’s writing skill and her parents’ flair for drama in her own highly dramatic fiction. The author of sixteen novels and many short stories, as well as plays, nonfiction, and poetry, du Maurier’s popular acclaim began with her first novel, The Loving Spirit, published in 1931. Sir Frederick Browning liked The Loving Spirit so much that he sought out the young author, and they married shortly after meeting. Du Maurier lived in Menabilly, which she discovered while walking in Cornwall and which became the prototype for Manderley, the setting for Rebecca. Reprinted more than forty times, Rebecca is du Maurier’s most famous novel. Du Maurier died April 19, 1989, in Par, Cornwall, England.
du Maurier fuses psychological realism with a sophisticated version of the Cinderella story. The nameless heroine has been saved from a life of drudgery by marrying a handsome, wealthy aristocrat, but unlike the Prince in Cinderella, Maxim de Winter is old enough to be the narrator's father. The narrator thus must do battle with The Other Woman - the dead Rebecca and her witch-like surrogate, Mrs Danvers - to win the love of her husband and father-figure. The fantasy of this novel is fulfilled when Maxim confesses to the narrator that he never loved Rebecca; indeed, he hated her, a confession that allows the narrator to emerge triumphantly from the Oedipal triangle.
When Daphne du Maurier was a child she went to stay at a house called Milton, near Peterborough. It was a huge house and very grand with a vast entrance hall, many rooms and a commanding housekeeper. This was a house with numerous staff, where even the children would be waited on at breakfast by the butler. Daphne liked the house, feeling at home there and held it in her memory.
In 1939 Daphne du Maurier adapted Rebecca for the stage and the play, like the novel, has retained its popularity ever since. The story does leave one with lots of unanswered questions and there have been a number of attempts to write sequels to Rebecca. In 1993 Susan Hill wrote Mrs de Winter, which continues the story to quite a successful conclusion and in 2001 Sally Beauman wrote Rebecca’s Tale, which moves the story on twenty years and then looks back at what happened with interesting results and without spoiling any of the tension of the original novel. Undoubtedly the interest in Rebecca will continue for a long time to come.
Published in 1938, Rebecca is the fifth novel by Cornish author Daphne du Maurier, also known as Lady Browning. The novel was an instant bestseller and has never gone out of print (source). In addition to her seven novels and numerous short stories, du Maurier also wrote twelve books of non-fiction, including an autobiography. On top of everything else, she was also an avid historian. Apparently that's a great combination for writing a fast-paced psychological thriller, because she totally nailed it.
Rebecca, the title character, is dead before the novel opens; her presence, however, pervades the entire story.
Rebecca tells the story of a young "companion" who, while accompanying her employer on vacation in Monte Carlo, meets the wealthy widower, Maxim de Winter. After a brief courtship, the young girl and Maxim are married and return to his home in England. All of the servants at Manderly, especially Mrs. Danvers, seem to be constantly comparing the new Mrs. de Winter to Rebecca, the deceased former wife of Mr. de Winter.