We are doing our quarterly Novel/Movie Series for the public library online. This month we are discussing "Rebecca" Daphne du Maurier's novel and the movie by Alfred Hithccock.
· It’s not difficult to understand the relief the narrator feels when Maxim finally leaves the house for once. If you think about all the tension that is involved with worrying about what he thinks, what he is thinking about (Rebecca), and what somebody might say that would set him off, it’s exhausting.
· It’s an interesting exposition of the way in which women live in the imagined minds of men. How does he see me? How does he think of me? Am I presenting the right image?
· It reminds me of what I have read about adolescent females these days, posting dozens of versions of a selfie and asking their friends which one is just right, living in fear of presenting the “wrong” image. It must be crazy making.
· The narrator thinks: “If Maxim had been there I should not be lying as I was now, chewing a piece of grass, my eyes shut. I should have been watching him, watching his eyes, his expression. Wondering if he liked it, if he was bored.”
· Rebecca is such an interesting detailing of female insecurity.
· The narrator enters the cottage at the beach and after Jasper barks hysterically, she perceived a figure “sitting in the corner against the wall.” “It was Ben.”
· Ben reveals that he is terrified of being sent to an asylum (something Rebecca threatened him with), and the keen observation that the narrator is “not like the other one.”
· “She gave you the feeling of a snake.” He says of Rebecca.
· I’m not sure, but I’m wondering if this is the first time we knew that Rebecca was a terrible person. Before, wasn’t she just described as beautiful, accomplished, whatever? She was threatening for sure, but were we certain that she wasn’t just threatening to the narrator?
· But then, as always in this novel, du Maurier refuses to allow us to stand on solid ground. The has the narrator remembering that Ben is “an idiot.”
· As she walks up to the house, she notices a car parked down the drive, not at the usual place in front of the house. Then, she notices that there is a window opened in the west (Rebecca’s) wing. And, then, there is a man (another menacing man) standing by the window.
· She notices that her things have been moved in the morning room, things like her knitting. There is even an imprint of a person on the sofa.
· “I did not want to catch Mrs. Danvers in the wrong.” I love this sentence. She is the mistress of the house. Mrs. Danvers is the one doing wrong, but she is so intimidated by Mrs. Danvers that she is dodging and weaving to keep from finding Mrs. Danvers in the wrong.
· She is standing behind a door when Favel comes into the room. When Jasper barks at her, Favell turns around and is surprised. She says: “I have never seen anyone look more astonished.”
· But in the film, Favel is outside the library window and catches her hiding behind the door. She is the one to turn and is surprised.
· I love Favell as a character, in part because I love George Sanders. In the novel she says that Favell was “smiling at me in a familiar way.” That’s George Sanders’ specialty.
· He makes fun of the narrator by telling Danny that she was “hiding behind the door.”
· Favell then enlists the narrator in sharing a secret, or keeping a secret from Maxim, a sort of compromised position, a betrayal.
· It is an interesting comment on the weakness of her character that she agrees to this even though she knows that Maxim (in his own words) doesn’t approve of him and doesn’t know he is there.
· Whether she agrees to this because she is afraid of Danny or she wants so desperately to please Favell, or everybody, the reader doesn’t know.
George Sanders (1906-1972)
Sanders’ career as an actor spanned over forty years. He was often cast as a sophisticated but villainous character. His voice is unmistakable. You can walk into a room and hear that voice and know immediately that it is either him or his brother (Tim Conway).
Born in Russia, his family left on the eve of the Russian Revolution and went to England. While working in an advertising agency, the agency secretary (Greer Garson) suggested he take up acting as a career.
Strange Cargo (1936)
Foreign Correspondent (1940)
All About Eve (1950, for which he won the Oscar)
The Picture of Dorian Grey (1945)
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)
The Saint (five films made between 1930 and the 1940s). Conway, Sanders older brother took over the role when Sanders tired of it.
Sanders was once suspended by United Artists for refusing to play the lead in “The Undying Monster” (1942). Sanders commented: “I’d like to be seen in pictures that at least seem to be slightly worthwhile.”
Fox initially announced him for the male lead (the detective) in Laura (1944), but he ended up not being in the film. Later, he appeared in a remake of Laura playing the role of Waldo Lydecker on “The 20 Century-Fox Hour.”
Sanders appeared with Peter Sellers in “A Shot in the Dark” (1964).
In 1967, he was in a film “Good Times” with Sonny and Cher. This may well have been what did him in.
In 1966 he declared bankruptcy. In 1969, after appearing in drag and playing the piano in John Huston’s “The Kremlin Letter,” he announced he was leaving show business.
Sanders was married to Zsa Zsa Gabor and Benita Hume, the widow of Ronald Colman. In 1967, Sanders’ brother, his mother, and his wife died. He has an autobiography “Memoirs of a Professional Cad” (1960). Brian Aherne wrote a biography of Sanders (1979). In 1970, he married Zsa Zsa’s older sister, Magda Gabor. The marriage lasted only 32 days after which he started drinking heavily.
In his last films, Sanders suffered from lack of balance and dementia. He grew reclusive and depressed (who wouldn’t). He found out he could no longer play the piano and so dragged it outside and smashed it with an axe. He died after swallowing five bottles of barbiturates. He left three suicide notes. One said: “I am leaving because I am bored….I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool. Good luck.
David Niven said that Sanders had told him in 1937 that he (Sanders) would commit suicide from barbiturates.