Classic Movie Countdown: Best Picture # 5 — Rebecca (1940)

5. Rebecca (1940)

Other Nominated Films:
All This and Heaven Too, Foreign Correspondent, The Grapes of Wrath, The Great Dictator, Kitty Foyle, The Letter, The Long Voyage Home, Our Town, The Philadelphia Story

Finally, we are at the Top 5. And I can’t see any better way to get us here than with the master, Alfred Hitchcock. I want to cherish this slot since Rebecca is the only film that Hitchcock directed to win Best Picture. What’s odd though is that, aside from Best Picture, it won Best Cinematography and nothing else, although it was nominated for nine other awards. Looking at the winners for each award, it’s actually just…bizarre. 1940 was a fantastic year for movies, there’s no denying that at all. This is a year that included The Grapes of Wrath, The Great Dictator, The Philadelphia Story, and Foreign Correspondent just to name a few. Both Hitchcock and John Ford had two films nominated for Best Picture which is something you will never see happen today. Each acting category had a winner from a different movie…which is something I’m having trouble comprehending, and the film that took home the most Oscars was The Thief of Bagdad…which wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture.  I apologize for going way too deep into the award distribution itself, but this was just a weird…weird year.  Focusing on Rebecca now…well…this is even weird in and of itself! Since the introduction of awards for actors in supporting roles, Rebecca is the only film to win Best Picture without winning any of the Academy Awards for acting, directing, and writing.  Alright. Rebecca. Finally. Joan Fontaine plays an unnamed young woman who works as a paid companion to Edythe Van Hopper (Florence Bates). While in Monte Carlo, she meets the aristocratic widower Maximilian de Winter (Laurence Olivier) and they fall in love. Within a few weeks, the two would get married and move to Maxim’s house, Manderly, located in Cornwall, England. While the majority of Maxim’s servants accept the new bride, the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson), is still obsessed with the first Mrs. de Winter — Rebecca. While, in my opinion, this isn’t Hitchcock’s best film (he did also direct Psycho, North by Northwest, and so many other masterpieces), Rebecca still holds its own as one of the greatest psychological thrillers of all time. The combination of Hitchcock plus Olivier is a match made in heaven and I wish that the two worked together on more movies. Rebecca was the first of five nominations for Best Director for Hitchcock, but he would never win the award — which is preposterous. He would go on to receive the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award which is given to “Creative producers, whose bodies of work reflect a consistently high quality of motion picture production.” To end this passage, I just want to say one thing. Thank you, Alfred Hitchcock…for everything that you’ve created…for being the innovator that you are and for being so far ahead of your time…thank you.

Nominated for 11 Oscars, Winner of 2
Best Cinematography, Black-and-White – George Barnes (WON)
Best Picture – Selznick International Pictures (WON)
Best Actor in a Leading Role – Laurence Olivier
Best Actress in a Leading Role – Joan Fontaine
Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Judith Anderson
Best Art Direction, Black-and-White – Lyle R. Wheeler
Best Director – Alfred Hitchcock
Best Effects, Special Effects – Jack Cosgrove (photographic), Arthur Johns (sound)
Best Film Editing – Hal C. Kern
Best Music, Original Score – Franz Waxman
Best Writing, Screenplay – Robert E. Sherwood, Joan Harrison

Mrs. Danvers: Go ahead. Jump. He never loved you, so why go on living? Jump and it will all be over…

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