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Trivia / Rebecca

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  • AFI's 100 Years... Series:
  • Auteur License: This was essentially Hitchcock's final film before obtaining one. He and producer David O. Selznick clashed over various aspects of the production (for instance, Selznick often disagreed with Hitchcock's heavily storyboarded vision for the film). As a result, even though this was the only film Hitchcock directed to win Best Picture and it earned him his first Best Director nomination, he didn't consider it part of his canon.
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  • Creator-Preferred Adaptation: Daphne Du Maurier considered the film to be the best of all the adaptations of her work.
  • Enforced Method Acting: Laurence Olivier treated Joan Fontaine horribly. Realising the potential in this, Alfred Hitchcock told her that everyone on set hated her - resulting in a natural shy and uneasy performance from her.
  • Executive Meddling:
    • Alfred Hitchcock had a habit of creating "in name only" adaptations and was an unproven talent in the US (this was his first American film) so producer David O. Selznick granted him much less creative freedom than he had been granted in his previous British films. The film is noticeably darker than his previous efforts as a result, as Selznick insisted on keeping to the novel's gothic atmosphere and avoiding many of the touches of humour Hitchcock wanted to include.
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    • Hitchcock then tried counter-executive meddling by only filming the shots that he wanted to see in the final cut of the film, and even made it impossible to include a flaming letter R visual effect that Selznick had wanted for the finale.
    • And of course, The Hays Code created Hollywood meddling as they were forced to change the cause of Rebecca's death from the novel.
  • Hostility on the Set: Invoked. Laurence Olivier treated Joan Fontaine horribly, feeling his wife Vivien Leigh should have had her part instead. Hitchcock told Joan that everyone else hated her too, in order to create an authentic feeling of isolation for her.
  • Reality Subtext: The second Mrs de Winter's feelings of inadequacy, that she can't compare to Rebecca, rather eerily parallel Joan Fontaine's rivalry with her older sister Olivia de Havilland. In their youth, Olivia was the one who was pushed as an actress while Joan was The Un-Favourite of the family.
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  • The Red Stapler: Sort of. After the success of the movie in Spain, the jackets Joan Fontaine wears were known as 'rebecas'. They're still called that to this day.
  • The Shelf of Movie Languishment: After completion, the film sat on the shelf for a month before David O. Selznick could work on the final cut.
  • Troubled Production:
    • Production on the film started five days after World War II broke out, causing lots of problems with the mostly British cast and crew. Alfred Hitchcock's perfectionism slowed production down, to the point where he refused to allow lights to be set up during camera rehearsals - because he found the noise distracting. Within two weeks, the film was behind schedule. Stagehands went on strike during filming and Joan Fontaine suffered a nasty flu. The film ended up going $500,000 over budget.
    • The now-cancelled Broadway production of the musical adaptation, as detailed here. After a successful run in continental Europe, producer Ben Sprecher canceled the London production as too costly. Even so, he decided it was ready for Broadway. A mysterious British investor, supposedly named "Paul Abrams", then put $4.5 million into the play... more than 10 times what the biggest-rolling investors usually throw into a Broadway musical, even one that's been wildly successful in London. But no one had ever heard of Abrams, and the producers later claimed they never met him in person. In September 2012, Abrams supposedly died of malaria. Yet there had been no obituaries for a wealthy man who died of malaria in the British newspapers, and no death certificates listed malaria as a cause. A spokesman for the estate refused to take phone calls, and used an email address that had been created a month earlier. Sprecher (who had never been lead producer on a Broadway musical) had already built the sets, so he lost millions when the production was canceled the following month. The FBI arrested a stockbroker on Long Island for his attempt to defraud the producers by fabricating the foreign investors who were prepared to put the $4.5 million in.
  • Wag the Director: A weird case in which the director had to Wag the Producer: Alfred Hitchcock had to resort to some tricky measures to get around producer David O. Selznick's creative demands. Among others, he edited "in-camera" — shooting only the scenes he wanted to include in the final cut so that Selznick couldn't recut the film if he didn't like it. This is why, for example, the film does not end with a giant "R" appearing out of the smoke from the burning Manderley, as Selznick originally envisioned.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Early drafts of the script named the heroine Daphne (as in Daphne du Maurier). This was the heroine's name in the early drafts of the novel too.
    • Laurence Olivier lobbied hard for his then-girlfriend Vivien Leigh to be cast as the lead, and they did a screen test together, but Alfred Hitchcock and David O. Selznick thought she was too glamorous for the part.note  Leigh later played the part alongside Olivier in a 1950 radio adaptation. Fontaine's sister Olivia de Havilland was a strong contender too. Maureen O'Hara claimed in her autobiography that she was the first choice. Anne Baxter was also considered.
    • Hitchcock wanted Robert Donat for Maxim DeWinter. David Niven was dismissed as too young and William Powell wanted it.
    • Selznick wanted the smoke from the burning Manderley to spell out a huge "R". Hitchcock thought the touch lacked subtlety. While Selznick was preoccupied by Gone with the Wind, Hitchcock was able to replace the smoky "R" with the burning of a monogrammed négligée case lying atop a bed pillow.


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