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Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Wicked Women

Mrs Danvers - rebecca-1940 photo

One evening last week, I went to a meeting of the ladies' group that I go to locally, and the subject was "Wicked Women in Literature, Stage and Screen."  

I thought about it for a little while and then one person leapt into my mind!

Rebecca - Mrs.Danvers - rebecca-1940 photo

Mrs Danvers in the 1940 black & white film (and no, I wasn't actually born at the time!) of Rebecca, based on the book of the same name by Daphne du Maurier.

Judith Anderson played the part and she was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress.

As the Housekeeper of Manderley, Mrs Danvers was required to mentally torment the young bride, the "second Mrs de Winter (Joan Fontaine), even encouraging her to commit suicide at one stage.  She constantly taunted the husband (played by Laurence Olivier) with the memory of his first wife, the never seen "Rebecca" of the title.  Mrs Danvers, as conceived by Judith Anderson is widely considered to be one of the screen's most memorable and sexually ambiguous female villains.

She was profoundly devoted to the first Mrs de Winter, Rebecca and she continually undermined the second Mrs de Winter.  The climax of the film occurs at Manderley's annual costume ball, where Mrs Danvers manipulates the young bride into wearing a replica of the dress shown in a portrait of one of the previous inhabitants of the Estate - the same costume worn by Rebecca to much acclaim the previous year, shortly before her death.

I can still remember how frightening she was in that film, and can still see one of the scenes now with Manderley being ablaze, with Mrs Danvers stood in one of the upstairs windows in the long black dress that she always wore.  It makes me shudder even now!

Another scene that always stayed in my mind was when Mrs Danvers took the second Mrs de Winter (I don't think we ever actually knew her name) on a tour of Rebecca's bedroom, showing her the wardrobe and her luxurious possessions, which she (Mrs Danvers) had kept intact as a shrine to Rebecca.  There were certainly sexual undertones during that scene.  


I don't know whether any of you ever saw the film, but I would thoroughly recommend it, although I suspect it might seem a little dated now.  Myself, I just love old black and white movies.


31 comments:

Claudia Moser said...

Love the movie and the book as well!

Thisisme. said...

You were quick off the mark there Claudia! So glad you actually saw that movie, and, yes, the book was great.

Shady Del Knight said...

I'm so glad you're up and around, dear Thisisme. I am an advocate for the preservation of black and white films of the past and enjoyed watching hundreds of them during the year 2007 in a concerted effort to catch up on all that I missed. For some reason I did not see this picture although I am familiar with all of the actors. Next month, in honor of Halloween, I have a number of related posts including a couple that explore the juxtaposition of beauty and terror that you might find interesting. I just learned that Alfred's coming to visit next month! I'm sure Ruby and Eli will be delighted to see him again. Please take good care of yourself, dear friend.

Thisisme. said...

Shady - Hi Tom. Well, you do surprise me, that you haven't seen that film. It really was a black & white goodie! I shall look out for your posts in honour of Halloween! Yes, little pesky Alfred will be with us again next month. You're right, the little ones will be so pleased to see him again. Alfred & Ruby have a real love thing going on. It's so funny! Thank you for your kind wishes dear friend.

Bouncin' Barb said...

It's been many years since I've seen that or even thought about it so I must look for it again. I love the old dark movies. They left so much to the imagination and it was truly scary. Now it's all guns, blood, and gore. Thanks for the reminder. Great post. And Daphne is next to Agatha in my book!!! Hugs.

Olive Cooper said...

I have seen the film and read the book. Both very good. It is fun to dislike the villain. That's why I had to go see "The Help" because I disliked Hilly so much.

Thisisme. said...

Hi BB. I'm with you on this one, those old black & white ones were much more scary, with such atmosphere. I think you would enjoy watching it again. I don't like all this blood & gore very much either!

Olive - Hi there. Lovely to see you here today! Gosh, I'm delighted that people seem to have seen this film, because it is very old! Yes, Boo Hiss to the villains!

Raindrops and Daisies said...

I adored that film,
thanks for reminding me of it.

I read the book years ago,
I must see if I can get it in the library and read it again.

Great post, I enjoyed it.

Shelly said...

I enjoyed the book, now I'll look forward to seeing the movie some day. I think the old movie villians and villianesses are much more frightening than the contemporary ones. Hope you are feeling better!

Desiree said...

I have not seen the film, but you have given a great review of Mrs Danvers' evil character!

Eva Ason said...

Good evening Diane. Unfortunately I haven't seen the movie nor read the book. But, do like watching old black/white movies. What a lovely description of Mrs Danver. It makes me think of an old actress in Sweden, Julia Ceasar, she was often playing a grumpy old mother-in law in many movies, but could also be funny.

Have a lovely evening!

Darlene said...

I've not read the book nor seen the film either. I never much cared for black and white films...they seemed to boring compared to color. However, one time I watched a show about how black and white films were made. They said that sometimes the actual colors of the clothes (or whatever) might be the worst possible combinations, but, it would make the perfect contrast in black and white. That's when I started to appreciate B & W films. (And, they are sooo much scarrier!)

Steadfast Ahoy! said...

Man! you gave me goose bumps. I could picture it all. She's obviously one of those stars "you love to hate".
Rosemary

becca said...

i love old movies will definitely check this one out

Belle said...

I read Rebecca when I was 13 years old. I'll never forget reading that book one summer. I then watched the movie on TV and it became a favorite. Mrs. Danvers was indeed a wicked woman, quite mad I think.

SkippyMom said...

So glad to see you This. I hope you are feeling better.

This is a GREAT movie - and you are right. It does give you the shudders. Even the book does, that woman is so evil.

Have you ever seen "Mildred Pierce" with Joan Crawford? That might be one of my favorite movies ever - and JC doesn't even play the villan. The daughter is the one. So good.

colenic said...

This has to be one of my favorite books ever....we read it for school when I was in 8th grade...and will never forget it..it was the first book that truly captured me and I read it in one night....
I saw the movie and honestly it was just as good as the book....
There was a sequel to the book...don't remember what it was called that I found several years ago and liked almost as much as the first....I will have to dig out my old copy and read again...

Glenda said...

All books by Daphne were a must read for me in my teen years. She's one of my all time favorite writers and Rebecca was the best of her books in my opinion. I never saw the movie though - I'll have to see if I can find it.

Chatty Crone said...

Oh I do too! I love the black and white ones - they really told a story back then. There were some really scary ones too! Whew.
sandie

kneesandpaws said...

My late father and I shared a passion for watching old black and white films together, and if we were especially lucky, we also had a bowl full of miniature pay day candy bars on hand. Usually home made buttered popcorn and a darkened room...but I don't remember seeing this one. I'm sure that I would have remembered it. Thank you for sharing it now because I love to have something good to watch. Lately most movies bore me to death! I guess I'm getting fussy.

rainbow said...

I love the old B&W Movies and you are right, the imagination is a lot more scary then the Special Effects and Graphics of today not to mention the language of today. Almost makes you not want to pay the big bucks to go to the Theaters any more.

MAKE IT A GOOD WEEK AND BETTER WEEKEND. LOVE TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY

Jo-Anne Rambling said...

I remember the movie and yes it was a good one the, I think a lot of the old movies are just better then some of the dribble they make now days....

dubgirl said...

Daphne du Maurier is one of my faviourite authors and 'Rebecca' is one of her best. The story has been made into several films but the version you are talking about is the best, full of suspense.

Sush said...

Oh yes quite the movie and book! Delightfully creepy! I was a tad disappointed when I saw your post title and didn't see you in your mini skirt...speaking of wicked women!

Hugs~

vintch said...

so, so creepy! this sounds like a perfect october flick. i haven't seen it. you always think up the most interesting posts!

Anonymous said...

I found the 1940 B&W movie on YouTube - it was good! I have seen a more recent portrayal of Mrs. Danvers by Diana Rigg (in color!) with Charles Dance and Emilia Fox that is also well done, on DVD. Long live the villainous women!
Ann G.

Katherines Corner said...

Loved the movie. I am a classic film fan!!!Hugs and wishes for a joy filled weekend.

Desiree said...

Hi Diane! I am concerned about you. I hope you're doing OK? Big hug xoxo

Gawgus things... said...

Have never seen it - might be a bit too frightening for me! Crikey, the husband didn't waste much time re-marrying did he, if the second wife was at the 'next' annual ball that the first wife had attended!!

Denise said...

Get some rest,hope your feeling yourself soon.I love most all 1940s movies and I do remember that one too.Denise

Denise said...

Get some rest,hope your feeling yourself soon.I love most all 1940s movies and I do remember that one too.Denise