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Mismatched Bookends

Changing the way you think and blog about books!

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Review of "Rebecca: The Making of a Hollywood Classic" by Jennifer K. Lafferty

May Contain Spoilers)


This is an amazingly encompassing book about the classic film "Rebecca". The author really pulled together all of the most interesting information to help us understand how this film came about. I am a huge fan of the movie so I had to read this book.


Wells starts out mentioning a lot of major players in the film. And all the woman behind the men in the film. It was very interesting that even back then, woman were running the show. At least that is how I read it.


The producer of "Rebecca", David O. Selznick, was instrumental in bringing the director, Alfred Hitchcock, to America to work on this film. In fact, Selznick was instrumental in getting a lot of movies produced at that time and pulling a lot of leading ladies from other studios to come work for him. His behind the scenes work and attention to the tiniest of details was amazing to read about. He was also responsible for some of the most iconic pictures of all time including Gone With The Wind, A Star Is Born, and Duel In The Sun.


The thing I found the most interesting is the book, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, has never been out of print since its publication in 1938. That is pretty amazing.


The book explains how hard Selznick was to work with and sites many examples of this. In fact when asked, Hitchcock's daughter remembers that this was her father's favorite film but Hitchcock would say differently. Selznick was known for his obsessive memo writing. The most fascinating fact is from his memos dictated from 1916 when he was 14, to 1965 when he died, he dictated enough memos to fill 2,000 file boxes.


On the set of "Rebecca", Hitchcock and Selznick butted heads but "Rebecca" was Hitchcock's first American film and the one his daughter loves best. He was very careful to pretend he was listening to Selznick but do things the way he wanted them done. My favorite quote from this book is the following ""Hitchcock, who was annoyed by Selznick's continual interference, tried to cope with the matter by pretending to go along with Selznick's suggestions then doing things his own way". But despite all of the problems that arose, Selznick said he would only work with Hitchcock.


The book then talks about the script and curiously enough Daphne du Maurier turned down the chance to write the screenplay. A man named Michael Hogan who got little credit did most of the work.


Because times were what they were and movies could be not released because of language or sexual situations, Selznick had to change a big part of the book where Rebecca gets murdered because if they followed the book and had the man murder her with no consequences, they would be sure to be a blip on the morality radar and have a chance of not getting the film made. You can read in the book what they came up with instead. Other than that "Rebecca" had nothing outright or landish that would get the movie pulled.


Then the book gets into talking about the whole process of casting the leading lady. A very long and very interesting process that caused a lot of problems.


Then there was the casting of the leading man. And in casting both the leading roles, the director and producer butted heads.


Next, the book goes on to talk in detail about how the supporting cast came together to make the film even better.


I don't want to give all the surprises away but things like the set and how it was made, and where the movie was shot is discussed in the book.


Also discussed is the tempo of the movie regarding a quick or slow moving film and who wanted what.


As far as our leading lady, Hitchcock did many things to make Joan Fontaine feel insecure. He turned most of the cast against her and left her feeling cold and insecure, fatigued and weak. It is believed he did this to get her to act up to his standards.


Hitchcock was also described by many of the woman as being very vulgar. They did not want to be around him.


As far as cinematography, cinematographer George Barnes came from 20th Century Fox and he was "a master at lighting and noted for his soft-edged deep focused photography." He was nominated for eight Oscars.


Composer Franz Waxman was nominated for an Oscar.


The book also explains all of the other awards that Rebecca either won or was nominated for.


And the book ends with information on the radio and television adaptions, remakes, spoofs and bollywood films that were made from "Rebecca". And one very special surprise at the very end of the book.


As someone who loved the movie Rebecca, I really liked this book. It was an easy read and it was so fascinating to find out all of the backstage goings-on. If you look at IMDB, which I always use for my movie information, a lot of their information is incorrect or missing. If you have not seen Rebecca, see it first of all. And then read this book. If you are a lover of the cinema, especially old movies like what they show on Turner Classic Movies, you will probably love this book and recognize a lot of familiar names of the time. So basically see "Rebecca" the film and read Rebecca by Jennifer Leigh Wells.