Re-Watching the Classics: Rebecca

Rebecca is a classic film by anybody’s standards. This is Alfred Hitchcock’s first Hollywood film and his only film to win an Oscar. The film is based on the now classic novel by Daphne Du Maurier of the same name. This film stars Laurence Olivier, one of the greatest actors ever to be filmed and a fresh face yet to be a big name on the silver screen, Joan Fontaine.

Fontaine was not the first choice for this starring role, with  Margaret Sullavan, Loretta Young, Maureen O’Hara, Anita Louise and Anne Baxter all being considered as well as Olivia de Havilland, Fontaine’s older sister, who was producer David O. Selznick’s first choice. When Fontaine was chosen, it did not make everybody happy. Olivier wanted his then girlfriend and future wife, Vivien Leigh to get the part. Olivier reportedly treated Fontaine horribly for this reason, Hitchcock used this and told Fontaine everybody on the set hated her. This helped with Fontaine’s performance of always seeming on edge and scared.

Fontaine plays a young women who has lost her parents and is working as a companion for a wealthy woman. She does not come from wealth and from the very start of the film she has a hard time learning the manners of the rich. Olivier plays Maxim de Winter, a wealthy widower. The first time we see him, it appears he is depressed and about to commit suicide, when his future wife, Fontaine seems to stop him. When Fontaine’s boss falls ill, this opens up some time for Fontaine to get to know Maxim. They soon wed and move back to Maxim’s estate Manderley.

As the new Mrs. de Winter learns the ways of her new home, she soon finds the shadow of the first Mrs. de Winter, Rebecca is still present. Though Rebecca is not a ghost, her presence haunts the new Mrs. de Winter. The head of the house staff, Mrs. Danvers, played by Judith Anderson, helps keep Rebecca’s presence known.

Will Rebecca’s past drive this new marriage apart? Was Rebecca what she seemed?

After watching this film, I was debating on posting a review on my site. Is this a Film Noir? That question can probably be asked of most movies classified as film noir. I have heard arguments for and against this one. I would say this is a suspense film with film noir aspects. A Gothic tale with some scenes of noir.  1940 being just the beginning of film noir you can see why this film was influential on films to come. For one thing in order to maintain the dark atmosphere of the book, Alfred Hitchcock insisted that the film be shot in black and white. He also used deep focus photography throughout the film, something Citizen Kane would use to great effect in the next year and would be found in many films noir after. Hitchcock also made good use of shadow, a staple of noir.

He also did a fair number of shooting at night, with rain and fog used to great effect, another staple of noir.

That being said, is the story noir? I would say it definitely has noir elements. Our main protagonist is put into a world and situation she is trapped in. She must fight to keep what she wants, the love of her husband. This story isn’t as gritty as some noir, but, without giving away any spoilers, this film gets pretty dark in the last third of the film.

Whether you consider this film a film noir or not, you must admit it is worth watching and is a classic either way. I would say this film has noir elements that would go on to influence future films and is worth watching for the film noir aficionado. I am by far not the expert to classify this one way or another, but it is currently the 4th most popular film classified as film noir as well as the 6th highest rated film noir on IMDb.

Re-Watching the Classics: Dial M for Murder

I have been reviewing movies on this site for almost 10 months now and this is the first film I have looked at from one of the greatest directors of all time(some may say there is no question he is the greatest). I will have to say that Alfred Hitchcock is the reason I started watching classic film noir. I seen Rear Window and wanted to see more films like it and if it had Grace Kelly in it…all the better. This lead me to more Hitchcockian films and film noir. Some may argue this is not a film noir and they maybe right, it might be an early neo-noir? I’m not sure how you would classify it, all I know is it is noir.

This film is based on a play by Frederick Knott and was released in 1954. It revolves around a very small cast of characters with most of it taking place in a small apartment in England. The film starts out with Tony, played by Ray Milland and Margot played by Grace Kelly in what appears to be a happy marriage. This scene even has background music more akin to a Walt Disney movie then a Hitchcock film. After we see the kissing couple we go to the next scene with Margot kissing…a different man. This man is crime writer Mark Halliday played by Robert Cummings. This film has great dialog to tell the story as we find out Margot and Mark had an affair and Margot would have left her husband, but he has changed since Mark has been gone and now she is conflicted. In the next scene Tony has Lesgate (or is it Swann?) played by Anthony Dawson, come to the apartment to talk about selling his car. This is where Tony tells Lesgate his perfect murder and how and why Lesgate will kill his wife. When Tony and Mark go out to dinner, Tony steps away to call his boss, but he is really calling his wife so she will be in position to be murdered by Lesgate. When Margot fights back and kills Lesgate in self-defense, Tony has to change his plans, but this may still work for Tony.

When Chief Inspector Hubbard played by John Williams gets involved in the case the tension gets cranked up a notch. With Millard and Kelly at the top of their game and Hitchcock doing some of his best work I don’t think there is any question this is an all time classic and should be watched by every movie buff. I can not imagine any fan of noir not finding this film entertaining.

But, is this a classic film noir or not? This is part of the fun of the noir genre as it is a genre with a lot of different takes on how it is classified. Other genres you recognize as soon as you watch them, Westerns, Science Fiction and Horror are easy to spot. Some people will look at a film and call it a film noir and some might say it is just a crime film or a thriller or maybe a murder mystery. Here are some argument points for and against this being classified as a film noir.


The main character of this film is a bad guy trying to pull off the perfect crime.

It has a very claustrophobic feel with most of the film taking place in a small apartment. Also both our main characters are prisoners in a marriage they do not want to be in anymore.

Characters like Margot and Lesgate have choices, but none of them are good. Tony also seems to be stuck in a situation he can not get out of, once Lesgate fails to complete Tony’s original plan.

This film does not have a happy ending for many of our characters, I will not go in-depth here because I do not want to spoil it for those that have not seen it yet.

Though Hitchcock used many techniques in filming this movie, he did go to the classic film noir well in quite a few scenes:

Like this one where he uses shadows and a fish eye point of view.

And the complete murder attempt is shot in the shadows and gives a very black and white feel.


Some say film noir can not be filmed in color, though this is not the norm, I have seen a few films in color that are considered film noir by many.

Grace Kelly character isn’t a femme fatale. This is true and some say every film noir has to have one. I don’t like this rule, though I love a good femme fatale, I believe there are plenty of great film noir movies without one.

I would love to hear more points from you on FOR or AGAINST this being a film noir.  Leave your point of view in the comments below.

Favorite Tidbit: Though this is almost always shown in 2D it is actually Hitchcock’s first and only attempt at 3D and was completely filmed in stereoscopic 3D. Now this is a Blu-Ray 3D I would love to see released.

Update: This has been released on Blu-Ray 3D and is available.

Review: Night Film by Marisha Pessl


Night Film is a book that falls into a bunch of different categories, some may call it a horror book, some a mystery book others may put it on their contemporary fiction  or literature shelf.  I think because of all these elements it makes for a great noir read.  I’ll tell you right now, this is one of my favorite books.  It’s a very unique book with an interactive internet element, I read it as a straight novel and didn’t check out any of the extras on the web. I may re-read this and check out the web extra as I go.

This book’s main character is Scott McGrath, an investigative journalist that has his career ruined by a mysterious director by the name of Stanislas Cordova.  When a new investigation starts involving Cordova, Scott has to find out what is going on, no matter what the consequences.  Cordova is the interesting character that drives the plot, we just get snippets of him as the story progresses and we as readers and our hero Scott has to find what is real and what is legend or myth.  Cordova is a fictional character that seems real and real interesting.  Cordova is part Stanley Kubrick, half Roman Polanski, a bit of David Lynch and maybe a dash of Alfred Hitchcock thrown in for good measure.

Here is a great trailer for the book, and it definitely gives you a feel for what you’re in for:

This isn’t a short book at over 600 pages it takes a bit of time and effort to read, but it’s worth every minute and every page.  When you get done you are wowed and wish it had another 100 to 200 pages.  The writing is great and keeps you up late at night reading “just one more chapter.”  Let’s face it this hits all my hotspots, it’s a great written book, it’s dark and it’s about movies to boot.

I would love to see this turned into a mini series for HBO, Showtime or even an FX or AMC.  I think this would be the best way to give credit to the lengthy story.  Marisha Pessl has a movie deal already for this book and Rupert Wyatt is set to direct.  Let’s hope this is as good as this book deserves and I will be at the theater opening night when it comes out!