Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Rebecca (1940)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Rebecca (1940)

In Alfred Hitchcock's Best Picture-winning first American film that was based upon a Daphne du Maurier novel - it told about a damsel-in-distress, recently married to a dashing and rich lord of an ancestral manor named Manderley, who was haunted by the memory of the man's first wife - a dead woman named Rebecca:

  • the opening scene of the revelation of the ruins of Manderley as the second Mrs. De Winter (Joan Fontaine) in voice-over described her flashbacked dream: ("Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter for the way was barred to me. Then, like all dreamers, I was possessed of a sudden with supernatural powers and passed like a spirit through the barrier before me. The drive wound away in front of me, twisting and turning as it had always done. But as I advanced, I was aware that a change had come upon it. Nature had come into her own again, and little by little had encroached upon the drive with long tenacious fingers, on and on while the poor thread that had once been our drive. And finally, there was Manderley - Manderley - secretive and silent. Time could not mar the perfect symmetry of those walls. Moonlight can play odd tricks upon the fancy, and suddenly it seemed to me that light came from the windows. And then a cloud came upon the moon and hovered an instant like a dark hand before a face. The illusion went with it. I looked upon a desolate shell, with no whisper of the past about its staring walls. We can never go back to Manderley again. That much is certain. But sometimes, in my dreams, I do go back to the strange days of my life which began for me in the south of France...")
  • the scene of wealthy, grieving widower Mr. Maxim De Winter (Laurence Olivier) contemplating suicide by jumping to his death
  • the scenes of Maxim's courtship of a young blonde woman (Joan Fontaine) in Monte Carlo; he proposed marriage to her as she was about to depart from France; he asked her to make a choice between leaving for America or returning with him to Manderley; she didn't understand his veiled marital proposal (delivered off-screen from the bathroom), thinking he wanted to hire her for some other purpose (Woman: "You mean you want a secretary or something?" Maxim De Winter: "I'm asking you to marry me, you little fool")
  • the first appearance of the stern and unsmiling housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson) to the second Mrs. De Winter in Manderley's great front hall; the newlywed couple were greeted by an army of over fifteen servants standing as if posed for a picture; the young bride met the unsmiling, severe, ominous, dark-haired, and slightly hostile housekeeper Mrs. Danvers as she appeared from the left in front of the lineup ("How do you do? I have everything in readiness for you")
  • the chilling scene of Mrs. Danvers touring the closed-off bedroom of deceased first wife Rebecca with the second Mrs. De Winter; the sinister Mrs. Danvers opened the curtains to the bedroom and went through her intimate belongings; she opened the woman's closet: ("This is where I keep all her clothes"), selected a fur coat, seductively held it and caressed it next to her own cheek (with a lesbian-fetish interest) and then brushed it by the cheek of a nameless, horrified, and recoiling second Mrs. de Winter, stating: "Feel this. It was a Christmas present from Mr. de Winter. He was always giving her expensive gifts, the whole year round. I keep her underwear on this side..."; she also showed off an embroidered pillowcase on the bed (monogrammed with an "R") and its "delicate" sexy nightgown inside - one of Rebecca's most intimate articles of clothing: "Did you ever see anything so delicate. Look, you can see my hand through it."
  • the striking scene when Mrs. De Winter courageously summoned Mrs. Danvers and demanded that all of Rebecca's monogrammed stationary and personal effects be destroyed immediately; when Mrs. Danvers protested, she stood up to Mrs. Danvers and asserted her controlling authority as mistress of the house: "I am Mrs. de Winter now"
  • the cruel set-up of the 'second' Mrs. De Winter, by suggesting that she take inspiration from the stairs-hall portrait of one of Maxim's ancestors with a fluffy white dress, similarly worn by Rebecca at the previous masquerade ball
  • the radiant new bride glided down the stairs in a copy of Rebecca's white ruffled dress for the costume ball and was told harshly by Maxim to take the dress off: ("What the devil do you think you're doing?...Go and take it off. It doesn't matter what you put on. Anything will do. What are you standing there for? Didn't you hear what I said?")
  • the following scene of the cruel torment that Mrs. Danvers inflicted on the second Mrs. De Winter: "I watched you go down just as I watched her a year ago. Even in the same dress you couldn't compare...You tried to take her place. You let him marry you. I've seen his face, his eyes. They're the same as those first weeks after she died. I used to listen to him, walking up and down, up and down, all night long, night after night, thinking of her. Suffering torture because he lost her...You thought you could be Mrs. De Winter. Live in her house. Walk in her steps. Take the things that were hers. But she's too strong for you. You can't fight 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"
Mrs. Danvers' Torment of the 'Second' Mrs. De Winter
Mrs. Danvers: "You tried to take her place"
Mrs. Danvers: "You can't fight her. No one ever got the better of her. Never. Never."
  • the chilling scene of Mrs. Danvers urging the second Mrs. De Winter to jump to her death from the second story window: "Why don't you go? Why don't you leave Manderley? He doesn't need you. He's got his memories. He doesn't love you - he wants to be alone again with her. You've nothing to stay for. You've nothing to live for really, have you? Look down there. It's easy, isn't it? Why don't you? Why don't you? Go on. Go on. Don't be afraid!"; distractions from explosive flares and shouts of the discovery of a sunken boat ("Shipwreck! Ship on the rocks") following a storm at sea prevented her from losing her sanity and jumping; it was the sailboat in which Rebecca had presumably drowned
Mrs. Danvers' Torment of the 'Second' Mrs. De Winter
"Why don't you go? Why don't you leave Manderley?"
Mrs. Danvers Urging Suicide: "Why don't you? Go on. Go on. Don't be afraid!"
  • the haunted Mr. De Winter's dramatic confession to his wife that Rebecca's body would be found there in the boat because he had planted it: ("I put it there"); he also revealed - to her shock - that he actually despised Rebecca: ("You thought I loved Rebecca? You thought that? I hated her!...But I never had a moment's happiness with her. She was incapable of love, or tenderness, or decency")
  • the scene of Maxim's reenactment of the troubling event of Rebecca's actual death in the boat house for his second wife - that summarily recounted how his marriage with Rebecca was a "rotten fraud"; as he spoke, the camera panned through the room, pausing on various key objects (such as the divan and the ship's tackle coiled up on the floor); it followed Rebecca's actions while he reconstructed them
  • in the sequence, Maxim described how the conniving Rebecca had attempted to have her husband murder her by telling him that she was pregnant with another man's child; during the fearsome taunting and quarrelling, Rebecca accidentally tripped over some ship's tackle on the boathouse floor, fell, and struck her head - and was mortally wounded; Maxim finished the story of how he panicked and then covered up the act; he took Rebecca's body to her boat, went into the ocean and deliberately sank it by making a hole in its hull, and then escaped and watched it sink; afterwards, he lied - claiming that Rebecca was lost in a storm at sea and drowned; and further, when a body conveniently washed up at Edgecoombe, he identified it as the body of his late wife
  • the night before a coroner's inquest into Maxim de Winter's first wife's drowning death, the second Mrs. de Winter was worried about how her husband might lose his temper at the hearing; she lovingly asked to be there at his side, as they stood together in front of the huge fireplace: "I want to go to the inquest with you....I promise you I won't be any trouble to you. I must be near you so that no matter what happens, we-we won't be separated for a moment"; Maxim examined his new wife's face, and noticed how she had lost her youth and matured in spite of his wishes. They shared a very mature, heart-felt embrace and some kisses after he confessed to her: "I don't mind this whole thing, except for you. I can't forget what it's done to you. I've been thinking of nothing else since it happened. Ah, it's gone forever, that funny young, lost look I loved won't ever come back. I killed that when I told you about Rebecca. It's gone. In a few hours, you've grown so much older"
  • the shocking discovery that on the day of her death, Rebecca had learned that she was NOT pregnant with a child but suffering from terminal, inoperable cancer; she knew that she had little time left before her death; Rebecca's last words in the office of her physician Dr. Baker (Leo G. Carroll) revealed that she was determined to end her life immediately to spare herself from a long and unglamorous death; when she was told she would die in a few months, she responded ("Oh no, doctor, not that long"); her intention was to provoke Maxim into killing her in the beach house (taunting him with the deceitful news of a pregnancy by another man and carrying a child that would someday inherit his possessions) to try to destroy him as well - but then she fell
  • in the final sequence, devoted and faithful housekeeper Mrs. Danvers was crazed by the truth that was revealed about Rebecca - that Mrs. De Winter actually had terminal cancer; she carried a lighted candle through the darkened hallways and set Manderley on fire, determined to burn the cavernous mansion; as the master of the house Maxim de Winter drove home from London and proceeded up the long driveway to Manderley, the sky was brightly lit by the flames of the mansion - he exclaimed: "That's not the Northern lights. That's Manderley!"; outside the mansion, he and Mrs. de Winter found each other and embraced, while they watched the great house burn behind them; Mrs. de Winter told her husband: "It's Mrs. Danvers. She's gone mad. She said she'd rather destroy Manderley than see us happy here"
  • the death of Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca's bedroom; she was consumed in the blazing inferno as the flames burned her and the memories of her beloved mistress; she was last seen through a West Wing window, remaining trapped inside Rebecca's bedroom as the burning roof caved in on top of her; the movement of destructive flames approached an embroidered, monogrammed "R" on the pillowcase
Manderley's Destructive Flames
"She said she'd rather destroy Manderley than see us happy here"
The Mad Mrs. Danvers in Flames
Flames Burning Monogrammed "R" on Pillowcase

Ruins of Manderley

The Disconsolate Mr. Maxim De Winter (Laurence Olivier) Contemplating Jumping to His Death in Monte Carlo

Maxim's New Young Acquaintance (Joan Fontaine)

(Off-screen) Wedding Proposal by Maxim De Winter

Newly-Married Bride Going to Manderley with Maxim

The Entrance of the Stern Housekeeper Mrs. Danvers

Tour of the Bedroom and Rebecca's Intimate Belongings

To Mrs. Danvers: "I am Mrs. de Winter Now"

Portrait of One of Maxim's Ancestors

New Bride Wearing Rebecca's Dress (To Match Portrait)

Mr. de Winter's Shocking Revelation About Rebecca: "I hated her"

Kisses In Front of Fireplace Before Coroner's Inquest: "Ah, it's gone forever, that funny young, lost look I loved won't ever come back"

Rebecca's Physician Dr. Baker (Leo G. Carroll) Telling About Rebecca's Terminal Illness and Her Desire to Kill Herself


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