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"Rebecca," Alfred Hitchcock's first American project, is a Gothic tale filled with suspense. There is fine acting, beautiful cinematography and more twists and turns than your favorite roller-coaster. I wanted to see this film because I have watched a number of movies lately starring Joan Fontaine, and this is considered by many to be her finest work. "Rebecca" is the only Alfred Hitchcock-directed film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture. It is based on the 1938 novel of the same name written by Daphne du Maurier. Filmed in black-and-white, "Rebecca" has a darkly brooding, mysterious feel to it. Fontaine is perfect as the naively sweet second Mrs. De Winter, living in the shadow of her predecessor, Rebecca. Fontaine and Laurence Olivier have wonderful chemistry in this film. All of the actors are top-notch, but Dame Judith Anderson is simply unforgettable in her role as the demented housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers. "Rebecca" is a sweeping, captivating picture that every lover of classic films should see.
One of the cool things about retro-watching classic Hollywood films are the secondary screens listing the secondary actors and actresses. For example, take "All About Eve" (1950): And I have to give yet-another shout-out to Edith Head, who has won more Academy Awards (8) than any woman in history (Walt Disney has her beat with 22, which could be a difficult number to surpass): : I know two things about "All About Eve" going into the film: 1) It's one of the most famous movies ever made, and 2) I know nothing else about it. That is a *good* combination - I know it has Bette Davis in it (and also Marilyn Monroe from the above screen - if it's even possible, you might not recognize her at first unless you knew she was in the film (*)), and that it won an Academy Award for Best Picture from 1950, but that's about it - if I were writing a review of the film, you'd be getting a *v-e-r-y* pure critique, but I can hardly call what I do "reviews" so much as "calls for discussion" (because I want to enjoy the movie). I'm on the border of doing a separate thread for Gary Merrill - I've seen him in more than enough things where he deserves one: Likewise George Sanders, who not only plays the entitled critic Addison DeWitt in "All About Eve," but also played the scoundrel Jack Favell ten years before in "Rebecca." I've seen so many of these actors over the past month - Hugh Marlowe (who played Lloyd Richards) was an important character in "The Day the Earth Stood Still," released just a year after this was. And can anyone give a better "eat-shit" look than Bette Davis? *** SPOILER ALERT *** We all "know what happens" at the beginning of the film; it's how we get there that's the mystery. Yet, there are hints and clues throughout the movie (Eve (Anne Baxter) getting caught preening in front of the mirror with Margo's (Bette Davis's) gorgeous dress, for example). Interestingly, the one brash person in the world of Margo - Birdie (Thelma Ritter) - is also the one who plays the fool, and I mean the Fool in King Lear: Pay attention to everything she says in the film so you don't need to watch it twice. (*) This is such a great screen shot - remember my comment above about Marilyn Monroe. You can't really see Addison DeWitt (George Sanders), but it captures the essence of the three females *so well* (remember, Monroe wasn't famous yet, and she has a very minor role, but it still represents her in a picture-perfect way): A very interesting thing I noticed about "All About Eve" is the motif in the theme song, which is repeated in numerous places throughout the film - the first five notes are *exactly* the same as the first five notes in that of "Gone with the Wind." Perhaps my favorite exchange of dialogue in the film, between a furious Margo Channing (Davis, the actress) and an equally furious Lloyd Richards (Marlowe, the playwright). An angry screaming match: Richards: "Just when does an actress decide they're her words she's saying, and her thoughts she's expressing?" Channing: "Usually at the point when she has to rewrite and rethink them, to keep the audience from leaving the theater!" Richards: "It's about time the piano realized it has *not* written the concerto!" One thing about Addison DeWitt, the rogue theater critic: He knows what he's doing. Yes, he's corrupt as hell, but he still knows what he's doing, and only someone so full of self-interest would take the time to do the research that he did, all about Eve. If you understand the symbolism of this final scene, I like you, and want you to be a frequent poster in this forum; if you don't, please keep at it, watch as many great movies as you can, read as much as your time permits, and let's discuss things along the way. Likewise, if you understand why this is a genuinely great motion picture, but possibly a touch overrated, please also be a regular contributor (I don't really know why I'm saying these things, because I want everyone to be regular contributors here). "All About Eve" is a must-see for all serious students of film.
Earlier this year, I watched the 1927 silent film "The Lodger," which is widely considered the first "real" Alffed Hitchcock film (after he found his mojo), as well as the first filming of The Lodger, which was remade, in various guises, no less than four times, this being the third of five that I know of. Although this is a remake, Hitchcock had nothing to do with this: It was produced by Robert Bassler and directed by John Brahm, For those who don't know, Jack the Ripper was active in London during 1888 in Whitechapel, a district in the East End of London, in the borough of Tower Hamlets (there are (as of 1965) 33 "local authority districts" in London: 32 are boroughs, and, the 33rd is the "City of London" itself). A "district" is an unofficial, loose term for "neighborhood" - "borough" is an official term, and the district of Whitechapel is inside the borough of Tower Hamlets. If you read the Wikipedia entry for Jack the Ripper (above), it's really quite a grisly tale - the most troublesome fact? The Ripper was never caught. Since this takes place in 1888, I did some financial conversion for you to put the figures in 2016 dollars: Mr. Slade (played by Laird Cregar, an American actor) offers 5 pounds a week for room and board, which equates to 595 pounds today, or $731.85 - a considerable weekly sum for the rooms he was renting, and the meals he would be served. Mr. Robert Bonting (played by Sir Cedric Hardwicke) originally started his tea-broker business (in 1868) with 100 pounds, or $12,423 in 2016 dollars. Kitty Langley gave Annie Rowley one Sovereign: a gold coin worth about one Pound Sterling, i.e., one Pound. Since 1957, they've been minted again, but are used as gold bullion (they're certainly worth a lot more than one pound in 2016 - they're gold, and weigh slightly over one-quarter ounce (as of this writing, gold is trading for about $1,130 an ounce, so today's Sovereigns are worth $250-300)). Interestingly, and tragically, Laird Cregar went on a crash diet (which included prescribed amphetamines) to obtain the part in this film, and that caused a strain on his system that would eventually kill him this very same year, in December of 1944. Vincent Price delivered his eulogy, and Cregar currently has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Cregar died at age 31, and could have conceivably become much more well-known than he currently is - I suspect most of you reading this haven't heard of him. *** SPOILERS FOLLOW *** This may, or may not, be a major spoiler, so I advise you to skip this paragraph entirely until you've finished the film, even if you read the rest of the Spoilers Section: it is a known quantity, in advance, that "The Lodger" in Hitchcock's 1927 film turned out to be innocent in the end. However, the reason for that was because the big-name star of that film, Arthur Chesney, did not want his reputation sullied by being associated with Jack the Ripper (whom a certain percentage of viewers still remembered). I say this only because, if I remember correctly, there was some controversy about what Hitchcock really wanted (or am I thinking of "Suspicion?"), and given that there are so many remakes of the 1927 version, it seems highly unlikely that "the lodger" will end up being innocent in every single version. We're about to see ... How coincidental that the lodger's name is Mr. Slade. Robert Bonting, the landlady's husband, was a tea-broker on Mincing Lane, which was, in the late 19th century, the world's leading center for spice and tea trading. There are almost exact similarities between Mr. Slade turning the pictures of the old actresses (in his bedroom) around so he couldn't see them, and with what Arthur Chesney did in Hitchcock's 1927 film. For a moment, I thought the part with the two shrews in the tavern (playing the concertina) could be an upcoming sign of dullness, but it only lasted for a minute or two, and it had a dramatic reason for existing. I'm over halfway through this film, and am really enjoying it, even more than the Hitchcock version (which was, of course, silent). Speaking of which, the techniques Hitchcock used in his silent film were so vastly different, that they make for a fascinating study. For example, to create tension when The Lodger was descending the stairs, he couldn't use footsteps (there was no sound), so he had to show a close-up of a hand, sliding down the railing. Hitchcock, himself, admitted that footsteps would have made for a more-effective buildup of tension, and he would have used them had the technology been available. It's too bad he wasn't around for more color films, which have a very different strategy than filming in black-and-white. Look at this cinematography - what an imposing shot this is: *** END SPOILERS *** Listen to what I say here: Even if you don't think you like silent films, watch Hitchcock's 1927 version of "The Lodger" first, *then* watch this version. They make wonderful companion pieces, even though this is a remake - this is a splendid picture that stands on its own; it's better still when watched after the original: You'll love them both, and watching both makes both of them better: Even though these two films were made independently of each other, they are best viewed as a diptych, making sure to go in chronological order. Whaam!