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Alfred Hitchcock: The Shape of Suspense

Wednesday, January 16, 2013
7:00 p.m. Rebecca
Alfred Hitchcock (U.S., 1940)

Hitchcock’s first American film is a superbly polished adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s story of a young bride (Joan Fontaine) whose marriage is haunted by the spirit of her husband’s first wife, Rebecca, to whom the brooding groom (Laurence Olivier) and his demonic housekeeper (Judith Anderson) are obsessively attached. What begins as something of a ghost story develops rather late into a murder mystery and finally into what it has been all along, a psychological thriller. “Indeed,” writes Raymond Durgnat, “it’s interesting to switch the movie round, to banish the (rather boring) heroine to a peripheral role, and to hinge the film on the passionate and sadomasochistic love-hatred of Maxim (Olivier) and Rebecca,” and the use he makes of his present wife, whom he imbues with the power to damn or redeem him.

—Judy Bloch

• Written by Robert E. Sherwood, Joan Harrison, Michael Hogan, Philip MacDonald, based on a novel by Daphne du Maurier. Photographed by George Barnes. With Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, Judith Anderson, George Sanders. (130 mins, B&W, 35mm, From Swank Motion Pictures)