Sunday, April 20, 2014

Mrs Danvers interview Rebecca novel Hitchcock film

You've heard the story:
A man's diabolical housekeeper accused of trying to kill his new wife!

Mrs. Danvers gives her side of the story: An Exclusive Interview

Last night I dreamed I went to the television studio again. It seemed to me I
Rebecca Judith Anderson
Laurence Olivier
Joan Fontaine Poster
stood by the iron gate leading to the studio and for a while I could not enter, for the entrance was barred to me.

There was a padlock and a chain upon the gate. They called the producer and got permission. And with that, my husband, Maxim and I were allowed inside.

"On today's show we're checking in on a dysfunctional family, a family from the area of Cornwall.... This is Mrs. de Winter. You've asked that we not use your first name and we'll respect that." 

Considering that this references a story and film over 70 years old, it will contain spoilers. There are quotes and paraphrases from the novel, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and some references to the characters as portrayed in the Alfred Hitchcock film. What if the characters; primarily Mrs. Danvers appeared today to tell her story on a daytime self-help chat show?

"Your marriage was nearly torn apart by the memory, we could say the ghost of your husband's first wife, Rebecca, correct? This former wife died at the peak of her beauty, popularity. She died about a year before he married you."

"Yes and Mrs. Danvers said Rebecca still inhabited the house. She was in that room in the west wing, she was in the library, in the morning room, in the gallery above the hall. Even in the little flower room, where her mackintosh still hung."

Rebecca Laurence Olivier Joan Fontaine
vintage classic car Lobby Card

"And just to acquaint our audience, Mrs Danvers is...."

"The housekeeper at Manderley, that's the estate belonging to my husband's family. But you see, Manderley went on as it had always been. I gave no orders. I left everything to Mrs Danvers. 

"The servants obeyed her orders still, the food we ate was the food Rebecca liked. Her favorite flowers filled the rooms. Rebecca was still mistress of Manderley. Rebecca was still Mrs. de Winter. I had no business there at all."

"And Mrs Danvers, the housekeeper was unkind to you, viciously unkind.... She seemed to dislike you and undermine you from the beginning?"

"From the moment we met, there was something beside scorn in those eyes of hers, something surely of positive dislike or actual malice. I did not want to let her see how much I feared and mistrusted her. ... She was like a shadow, watching me, appraising me."

"Mrs. de Winter is going backstage and we're going to bring out Mrs. Danvers, the personal maid of Rebecca, the first Mrs. de Winter. Come on out and join us." The 'Applause' light flashed off camera.

When the figure of Mrs. Danvers abruptly appeared at his side, some of the
applause was replaced by shudders of exclamation. There was nervous laughter.

She was tall gaunt dressed in deep black whose prominent cheekbones and great hollow eyes gave her a skull's face parchment white set on a skeleton's frame.

"Welcome, to the show." The host put out a hand to shake hers. Mrs. Danvers set her hand into his as if her hand were some heavy, limp lifeless thing simply attached to her wrist. She was motionless. The host opened his hand, she took her seat and wiped her hand on her black frock.

As they attached her microphone he quietly mentioned that her hands were cold. She glanced at him briefly with those eyes. He welcomed her again. She said nothing but seemed to nod slightly.

"Mrs. Danvers, you were previously personal maid and nanny to the first Mrs. de Winter, Rebecca."

She spoke in a peculiar way, as though something lay behind her words… "She was lovely as a picture. Men turning to stare and she not twelve years old. She used to wink at me like the little devil she was. 'I'm going to be a beauty aren't I, Danny.'"

"And later you were employed as housekeeper at Manderley."

"I came to Manderley when the first Mrs. de Winter was a bride," she said and there was a spot of color on the gaunt cheekbones.

"The house had been in my charge for more than a year and Mr. de Winter
never complained. It was very different of course when the late Mrs. de Winter
was alive; there was a lot of entertaining then, a lot of parties and though I
managed for her, she liked to supervise things herself. .... Mrs. de Winter was
most particular about her sauces and I always had to refer to her."

"Well, we don't really have to talk about that. You still feel her presence at

"Sometimes, when I walk along the corridor, I fancy I hear her just behind me.
That quick, light footstep. I could not mistake it anywhere... It's almost as
though I catch the sound of her dress sweeping the stairs as she comes down
to dinner. Do you think she can see us, talking to one another now? Do you
think the dead come back and watch the living?"

"Uh... Rebecca had been dead a year when Mr de Winter married again, isn't that correct? You above all the rest remain in the deepest mourning for her?"

"No one ever got the better of her. Never. Never. She was beaten in the end,
but it wasn't a man. It wasn't a woman. It was the sea. .... 
They say drowning is painless don't they?"
"Mrs. Danvers, would you like me to set you up some appointments with a grief counselor, maybe arrange for some anger management?"

Clearly the answer was no. 

"We're going to pause here and have a short word from our sponsor...."

Barbie Collector 2008 Black Label - Pop Culture Collection
Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds Barbie Doll

A doll in the green suit worn by Tippi Hedren as Melanie Daniels in The Birds, a famous short story by Daphne du Maurier. The suit was created by designer Edith Head and Mattel works to make details as realistic as possible. For the doll or movie memorabilia collector. The handbag and necklace are similar to those seen in the film. ... Back to the show.

"Is it true that you dislike Mrs. de Winter and if so, why?"

"That girl, the second Mrs. de Winter? She tried to take Rebecca's place. She let
him marry her. How do you think I’ve liked it, watching her sit in Rebecca's place, walk in her footsteps, touch the things that were Rebecca's?"

"Now just a minute Mrs. Danvers. You're reminding me of a special series of shows I did on petulant and pungent former mothers in law.... You also remind me of Miss O'Brien Downton Abbey. Maybe if you added some color into your wardrobe??"

"She thought she could be Mrs. de Winter, live in her house, walk in her steps,
take the things that were hers. But Rebecca is too strong. You can't fight her. No one ever got the better of her. Never. Never."

"I always say that we must acknowledge today to advance ahead... Isn't it so that you are also mad at Mister de Winter for taking a second wife. He seemed to forget about Rebecca so quickly?  You don't believe he should have happiness, think he should go on suffering?"

"What do I care for his suffering? He’s never cared about mine. He knows she sees him, he knows she comes by night and watches him."

"The annual fancy dress ball didn't turn out at all well for the present Mrs. de
Joan Fontaine, Judith Anderson
Winter, did it Mrs. Danvers?"

A little smile of scorn passed her lips. "I took her to the West Wing... She wanted to see Rebecca's room. It's the loveliest room you have ever seen, it looks out over the sea. 

"I showed her the lovely expensive furs, presents from Mr. de Winter. Showed her Mrs. de Winter's nightdress the one that she wore for the last time before she died. Her underclothes, specially made by nuns of St. Claire."

"I don't think the nuns where I come from did that kind of work -- undershorts and all," the host said, trying to lighten the mood. There was more nervous laughter in the audience. 

Mrs. Danvers didn't seem to notice, continuing where she'd left off. "She was beautiful, her dark hair was like a halo. It came down below her waist when she was first married. Mr. de Winter used to brush it for her then. 

"I'd come into the room time and time again and see him in his shirt sleeves with two brushes in his hand. 'Harder, Max, harder,' she would say, laughing up at him and he would do as she told him." 

A 1979 BBC production with Jeremy Brett as Maxim De Winter, Joanna David as Mrs. De Winter, Anna Massey as Mrs. Danvers. This production is closer to the novel. 

"Back to the costume. You knew that Rebecca wore it previously, and yet you deliberately suggested she wear the same costume worn by Rebecca the year before. A sight sure to bring great distress to Mr. de Winter."

"I said that many of the paintings would make wonderful costumes. It isn't my
fault that she took that suggestion, the painting of Lady Caroline de Winter.  To
use that costume. It was Mr. de Winter's favorite painting."

"You were really controlling and intimidating her, the new Mrs. de Winter, bullying her. I mean if you told her to jump did you expect her to ask how high?"

Her head snapped to the side and she looked him in the eye. Her face was like that of an exulting devil. Her expression was loathsome, triumphant. She remained silent.

Rebecca Laurence Olivier Joan Fontaine fancy dress

"Mrs. de Winter claims that you brought her to the open window...."

"Mrs. de Winter?! I just opened a window for her. She was overwrought. The air would do her good." Mrs. Danvers spoke hypnotically, diabolically...

"I wasn't standing by her. I wasn't going to push her. .... She was unhappy and prepared to jump of her own accord." She clenched her fists. "Why didn't she go? She wasn't afraid. What was the use of her staying at Manderley? 

"Mr. de Winter didn't love her. There wasn't much for her live for.  She wasn't happy.  None of us wanted her. She should be dead, not Mrs. de Winter."

Members of the audience gasped. A few in the front rows looked behind them
as if checking for empty seats so they could sit farther away from this person. 

Looking at that diabolical smile on her white skull's face, everyone had to remember that she was a living breathing woman, a person like us all, made of flesh and blood. She wasn't dead, like Rebecca. We could speak to her, but no one could speak to Rebecca.

The host took a deep breath before responding. "Now ma'am, this isn't supposed to be Mean Housekeepers of Beverly Hills. We're not making a circus here, we aren't equipped to do an intervention today. Can you guess how many women have sat in that chair livid because their ex-husbands, former sons-in-law have moved on with their lives?

"Here's a little something to think about, Mrs. Danvers." He smiled warmly at her and then into the television camera. They looked like people from two different planets inhabiting the one small stage. "In his wallet, Mr. Rogers always carried a quote that said, 'There isn't anyone you couldn't learn to love, once you've heard their story.'"

No real response from Mrs. Danvers, though he thought he heard a very low growling sound and perhaps the grinding of her teeth.

"I guess you and Rebecca weren't a fans of Mr. Rogers?" He leaned back in his chair and thought for a minute. "We're almost finished here. We consulted a physician who told us..."

Mrs. Danvers put up her hand to shush him.  "She did what she liked she lived
as she liked ...... 'Come on, Danny, hair-drill,' she would say and I'd stand
behind her by her and brush away." 

The host interrupted. "What a woman she must have been. Makes me wonder how often did this Miss Rebecca have to brush her own hair?" He paused, scratching his head, leaning forward as if they were in private. "Didn't you think she was pregnant? An affair with Mr. Favell..."

"She was not in love with anyone," said Mrs Danvers with sudden passion. "She despised all men and was above all that. But she had a right to amuse
herself hadn't she? Lovemaking was a game with her, only a game. She told
me so. She did it because it made her laugh. She laughed at him like she did at the rest."

The host continued to talk about Rebecca's health... "Did you know, Mrs. Danvers, that she was really ill? That she went to see this particular doctor?"

"Mrs. de Winter never needed a doctor. Like all strong people she despised them. .... The only thing that ever worried her was the idea of getting old, of illness dying in her bed. She said to me a score of times when I go, Danny I want to go like the snuffing out of a candle that used to be the only thing that consoled me after she died."

Rebecca Judith Anderson Joan Fontaine

"Mrs. de Winter was outwardly a perfectly healthy woman. But, she couldn't have a child. And she had cancer. She was dying. There was nothing that could be done. Did you know she was to see this doctor, she was really ill and it was just a matter of time?"

"I can't understand it. I don't know what it means..... Why would she keep
something from me? She told me everything."
"Did she, Mrs. Danvers? Did she? My guess is that she used you as much as
she used everyone else."
A sudden fire in her eyes, Mrs. Danvers tore her microphone off and flung it as she ran down the aisle in amongst the audience. People stood, scampering as if she were highly contagious or they expected her to suddenly burst into flames. 

She went through the double doors and out of the building. The young cameraman couldn't keep up with her. Finally she disappeared altogether.

"Well," the host said as he straightened the empty chair and sat back down himself. "I guess that's a wrap, folks. We can't fix what we don't acknowledge." He began to talk about next week's show....

Rebecca 1960 Original U.S. One Sheet Movie Poster
When the film came out some thought
that women would want to be like the beautiful but unseen Rebecca.
"The most glamorous woman of all time."

Dame Daphne du Maurier's novel Rebecca was first published in 1938. Many film adaptations of the novel have been made and all are at least somewhat different from the original text. There is even a musical version. Its first incarnation was as a stage play in London 1939-40, closing early when a bomb hit the theater. (see below for more info.)

It was made into a famous film by Alfred Hitchcock in 1940. The film was produced by David O. Selznick and starred  Laurence Olivier as widower Maxim de Winter and Joan Fontaine as the second Mrs. de Winter. Judith Anderson, known at the time primarily for her work on the stage, was Mrs. Danvers. 

This was Hitchcock's first film in the United States and it won two Academy awards, Best Picture and Cinematography, out of a total 11 nominations. It would be the only Best Picture award Hitchcock would ever win. 

For producer David O. Selznick, he'd also won Best Picture the previous year, or as it was called in 1939 and 1940, Outstanding Production for Gone With the Wind.

The following year, Fontaine won the Oscar for Best Actress for her work in Hitchcock's film, Suspicion in which she co-starred with Cary Grant. This would be Mr. Hitchcock's only Academy award for acting in all of his films.

Particularly with Daphne du Maurier it's good to enjoy both the book and at least one film version of her work. I believe the author said that of her approximately 20 novels and short stories six or seven had been made into films. Her books are often more exciting and more frightening.

In 1939, du Maurier herself adapted the novel, Rebecca for a stage play version. It opened in 1939 at Queens Theatre London, starring Owen Nares, Celia Johnson as the second Mrs. de Winter and Margaret Rutherford as Mrs. Danvers.

On or about September 24, 1940, the theater was hit by a German Luftwaffe bomb. It destroyed the facade and lobby areas, making the theater unsafe. The show and the theater itself had to close.

It r
emained closed until a ₤250,000 restoration was completed by Westwood Sons & Partners almost 20 years later. The auditorium retained its Edwardian decor while the lobbies and exterior were rebuilt in a modern style. The reconstructed theatre opened July 8, 1959 with John Gielgud's solo performance in Shakespeare speeches and sonnets, Ages of Man.
(Thanks to the Queens Theatre web site for some information.)

Celia Johnson is well known for her performance in 1945's Brief Encounter alongside Trevor Howard, Stanley Holloway and Joyce Carey. Johnson was nominated for an Academy Award. A scene from this movie was shown in the 1980s film 84 Charing Cross Road with Anne Bancroft, Anthony Hopkins and Judi Dench.

Margaret Rutherford is known for portraying Miss Marple in several 1960s films based on Agatha Christie novels. In 1963 she won the best supporting actress Oscar as The Duchess of Brighton in The VIPs. Having a long and varied career she was also in Noël Coward's Blithe Spirit, The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde and she portrayed the Nurse Carey in the two Miranda mermaid films.

On June 7 & 8, 2014 certain Bow Tie Cinemas in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York are scheduled to show Rebecca. Keep watch for big and small venues in your area where you can catch the film on a big screen.

Was there a Mr. Danvers? What do you think? 

Have you seen the film Laura? How would you compare the movies Laura and Rebecca? Is it just coincidence that braids are an on trend hairstyle for the summer of 2014?

Appearing in films such as Laura, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, in 1984, Judith Anderson also played the Vulcan High Priestess on Star Trek.

Mrs. Danvers was a prototype for many characters such as Hoffman on Dark Shadows (1966-1971), Miss O'Brien on Downton Abbey and Opal on Devious Maids

Whenever I see James Cagney in White Heat (a 1949 film noir gangster prison film). Its ending reminds me of the ending of Rebecca. Similar but a very different movie.

Some books that can accompany Rebecca:

The Wrong House: The Architecture of Alfred Hitchcock by Stephen Jacobs, one of my favorite books on his films. Hitchcock had said that Manderley was like another character in the movie.

Mourning Films: A Critical Study of Loss and Grieving in Cinema by Richard Armstrong

Film Adaptation in the Hollywood Studio Era by Guerric DeBona. Just about anything to discuss the adaptation of a novel or short story into film. During the studio era, the era of the Production Code, there were more boundaries. Do you take into consideration the restrictions the producers and directors had in making the film? Consider what might have been, examine the finished work or a little of both?

Hitchcock and Adaptation: On the Page and Screen by Mark Osteen. A look at one director's adaptations.

Hitchcock's Villains: Murderers, Maniacs and Mother Issues Eric San Juan, Jim McDevitt

Growing Pains: The Shaping of a Writer  by Daphne Du Maurier

What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist-the Facts of Daily Life in Nineteenth-Century England by  Daniel Pool. Simon & Shuster. 1994. From this book I learned that the housekeeper can be called Mrs. as a sign of respect even if she was unmarried, was the head of the female staff. She kept the household accounts, was in charge of the linens and carried a large keyring with all the household keys on it.

Aprons and Silver Spoons: the Heartwarming Memoirs of a 1930s Scullery Maid by Mollie Moran

You can stream a vintage live NBC Theater 62 film of Rebecca with James Mason, Joan Hackett and Nina Foch as Mrs. Danvers. It's complete with 1962 commercials, and is offered at no charge if you have Amazon Prime.

Best Movie Villains Top 50 All Time AFI 50 Greatest Film Villains 
Mrs. Danvers is ranked No.31

Vamps Vampires Villains and Flappers: Do you think of Female Vampires of the 1910s-1920s as Villains?

Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca on DVD is available with different shipping times and rates

This article is part of the Great Villain Blogathon


  1. Ha! This is FANTASTIC! I love that you've taken Mrs. Danvers' point of view.

    It's been a long time since I've seen this one, and your review makes me want to see it again soon!

    Thanks for participating in the blogathon with such a unique and clever contribution. :)

    1. Thanks so much for your comment and for hosting the blogathon. Terrific topic.

  2. What a clever take on the film! And I love the word from our sponsor....:) That doll is hilarious. Du Maurier is a favorite author from childhood, and I think this film does a great job capturing her style. The Birds? Not so much.

    1. I appreciate your comment. Are there more film (and play...) versions of Rebecca than her other works? Maybe not. The Birds maybe. I heard they're both getting remade presently. Interesting to compare. How can you, do you want to remain true to the source? She was third generation writer I think...

  3. very cool idea and fun reading, you did a really good job with this capturing Mrs Danvers as that creepy and persistent villain. Thanks for being part of this!

    1. I appreciate the comment. I never saw a behind-the-scenes photo of Anderson in her Mrs.Danvers where she's smiling. I wondered if that's intentional. I read that Hitchcock was really smart about things like that, he wanted them to sort of stay in chr for 'publicity shots.' (Now I'll probably find one and bust my theory!) What a wonderful blogathon.

  4. By a curious coincidence, I'm currently watching a new BBC adaptation of Jamaica Inn - I'm a big fan of Du Maurier! Whilst I do prefer the book to the film, Hitch certainly bought something special to Rebecca, perhaps it does not have the suspense of his later films but - for me - it's one of his best. Although perhaps I'm biased by the source material!

    1. Thanks for your comment. Rebecca is a favorite film of mine, too. I've heard it called a woman's film, go figure with Mr. Hitchcock. The women's films of the 1940s aren't, from what I'm reading, exactly the same as the 'chick flicks' of today. :-)

  5. I enjoyed your very creative and imaginative post -- and I bet you had a ball writing it! Good stuff!

    1. Thanks for your comment. She's an interesting character and open to some interpretation. I tried to present her in a way I've not seen before and I hope true to du Maurier's book. Mrs. Danvers is still influential in television characters to this day. Glad it was enjoyable.

  6. What a creative and imaginative post -- I bet you had a ball writing it! Good stuff!

  7. I LOVED it! Just like it'd be if Mrs. Danvers was a guest in a TV show. I laughed the hardest with the "word of our sponsors".
    Judith is terrificly bad. She is another kind of villain in The Ten Commandments.
    And, oh, I think there never was a Mr. Danvers.
    Thanks for the kind comment!

    1. She was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar but didn't win. It was the year James Stewart won for The Philadelphia Story but Rebecca won Best Picture. She was a very talented actress, thanks for the comment.

  8. You did an amazing job reviewing Mrs. Danvers in this post! I loved the whole idea of a TV show, and giving us information by the questions you asked. You characterized her perfectly, even down to her description of looking like a skull face. This is one of my favorite movies, and it was really fun to read your take on it!


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