75 jaar geleden: première van “Rebecca”

rebecca3162In 1939 tekende de Britse regisseur Alfred Hitchcock een contract bij producer David O.Selznick om in Hollywood de ondergang van de Titanic te draaien. Aangezien dit niet doorging, kreeg Hitch de verfilming van “Rebecca”, de pas verschenen roman van Daphne Du Maurier, voorgeschoteld, die vandaag 75 jaar geleden in première ging.

Hitchcock kreeg hiervoor klasse-acteurs als Joan Fontaine en Laurence Olivier ter zijner beschikking om the story of a young and timid heroine, whose life is made miserable by her strangely behaving newly wed husband, the wealthy widower Maxim de Winter, te verfilmen.
De Winter’s wife Rebecca has died in mysterious circumstances. His house is ruled by Mrs.Danvers, the housekeeper. She has made Rebecca’s room a shrine. Du Maurier focuses on the fears and fantasies of the new wife, who eventually learns, that her husband did not love his former wife, a cruel, egotistical woman. Because of the familiar plot, suits of plagiarism were brought against du Maurier, but they were dropped when the widespread use of the theme, beginning from Charlotte Brontë‘s “Jane Eyre” (1847) was established (later Du Maurier published a biography of Branwell, the brother of sisters Brontë).
Orson Welles made a radio dramatization of Rebecca. It was performed in December 1938 by The Campbell Playhouse and sponsored by Campbell Soup. The adaptation starts with Bernard Herrmann’s waltz-ladden score but is then interrupted by an “important message from a man who keeps one eye on the dining table and another on the pantry…” Welles played Maxim de Winter and Margaret Sullivan the second Mrs de Winter.
The producer David O. Selznick sent a transcript of the broadcast to Alfred Hitchcock, who turned it into a movie in 1940, starring Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine and George Sanders. “Rebecca” was one of the top five box-office hits of 1940 and won Academy Awards for Best Picture and Cinematography. However, Du Maurier herself did not like the film, which shifted the locale from Cornwall to America.
In 1993 Susan Hill wrote “Mrs. de Winter”, which was supposed to be the continuing story of “Rebecca”. However, this turned out to be a Courths-Mahler type of story, which I considered not worth reading after thirty pages or so.
However, ook Alfred Hitchcock was niet tevreden over het eindresultaat. Dat kwam omdat hij teveel toegevingen moest doen aan producer David O.Selznick. Deze vond dat hij te zeer van het originele boek afweek en was “verwonderd dat deze Hollywoodziekte ook al tot in Engeland was doorgedrongen”. Hitchcock had daar uiteraard een heel andere mening over: hij vond dat een boek en een film twee verschillende media waren en dat ze beide met de geëigende middelen dienden te worden aangepakt.

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