Dr. Christina J. Johns
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Dr. Christina J. Johns

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Book reviews, movie reviews, classic movie picks, classic actor picks, a discussion about all things arty. 

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Mrs. Danvers

Posted on May 18, 2020 at 6:25 PM Comments comments (0)

 

 

Chapter 14

• Chapter 14 contains the iconic confrontation between Mrs. Danvers and the narrator in Rebecca’s bedroom.

• Rather than being covered with drop cloths, she finds the room “fully furnished, as though in use.” There are flowers, Rebecca’s personal items like brushes and combs.

• There is the scent of white azalea and a dressing gown that “had not been touched or laundered since it was last worn.”

• Mrs. Danvers appears “Triumphant, gloating, excited in a strange unhealthy way.” The narrator feels “frightened.”

• Mrs. Danvers says she was “ready to show it to” her every day. She seems (in the narrator’s words) “excited” to show her the room and the personal items.

• In an odd and intimate action, Mrs. Danvers “forced the slippers over my hands.”

• Mrs. Danvers tells the narrator that Maxim was “always laughing and gay then.”

• After the confrontation, the narrator felt “bruised and numb from the pressure of her fingers.”

• Mrs. Danvers starts to spin a spell over the narrator saying: “Listen to the sea.” Maxim was pacing “up and down, up and down.” “I feel her everywhere. You do too, don’t you?” “sometimes I wonder…Sometimes I wonder if she comes back here to Manderley and watches you and Mr. de Winter together.”

• The narrator describes Danny’s “white skull’s face of hers, how malevolent, how full of hatred.”

• After the confrontation, the narrator goes back to her bedroom. “I felt deadly sick.”

 

Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers

 

(1897-1992)

 

Judith Anderson was an Australian actress who was a success on stage, and in film and television. After trying and failing in California and New York, she finally made a Broadway debut in 1922. She the toured in Australia and New Zealand. And worked in California and London.

 

She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 1941 for Rebecca.

 

Notable Films

Rebecca (1940)

Kings Row (1942)

Laura (1944)

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)

The Ten Commandments (1956)

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)

 


Rebecca: Chapter 13 and George Sanders

Posted on May 17, 2020 at 4:50 PM Comments comments (0)

 

Chapter 13

• 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.

 

Other films:

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 20th 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.

 

 



Where to Watch Rebecca

Posted on May 13, 2020 at 7:30 PM Comments comments (0)

 

 

Several people have asked where they could watch Rebecca (1940) since we're all confined. This is a site called Black and White Movies where you can watch on your computer.

 

If you have access to Netflix, I would strongly suggest you order the DVD. As I wrote the other day, the DVD includes a version in which there is narration throughout the entire movie about the making of the film. It's fascinating. In addition, there's an interview with Haskell, the film reviewer, which is also interesting.

 

http://www.bnwmovies.com/rebecca.html

 

Miss you all. Look forward to having a group discussion about these films and novels later. Keep well.

Christina, [email protected], 912-399-8481, Facebook: St. Simons Library Novel and Movie Series, www.christinajjohns.com, or www.islandcatpaws.com


Rebecca: Chapter 12

Posted on May 11, 2020 at 6:30 PM Comments comments (0)


Hitchcock: Rebecca Chapter 9

Posted on May 6, 2020 at 7:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Chapter 9

• When Maxim’s sister, Beatrice, and her husband arrive, the narrator wants to “hide, to get out of the window into the garden…” despising herself as she seeks an escape.

• The mention that you can leave through the window foreshadows the appearance of Rebecca’s cousin, Favell, in the window.

• In trying to escape Beatrice, she tries to find her room, Instead, she goes into the other wing of the house – the Rebecca wing.

• The narrator notes that from this wing you can view and smell the sea which is used as a threatening symbol, associated with Rebecca. In wonderful imagery, the narrator says that the mist upon the window is “as though someone had breathed upon it.”

• The narrator describes Mrs. Danvers’ face as a “mask,” and compares her to a “warden.”

• When the narrator is caught (by Mrs. Danvers) in the other wing, she feels “guilty and ashamed…”

• Mrs. Danvers asks her if she wants to see Rebecca’s room and it reminds her of an incident in her childhood, of another child telling her she knew of a book, locked, in her mother’s bedroom. So, the narrator is reminded of an incident that is associated with sexuality and guilt, and secrets.

• There is a debate among scholars about the sexuality of the relationship between Mrs. Danvers and Rebecca. Some see a clear implication of lesbianism.

• The narrator feels that Mrs. Danvers has been watching her, observing her secretly. Building the ominous imagery, as she walks down the stairway, she feels Mrs. Danvers behind her, watching her like “a black sentinel.”

• The narrator finally meets Beatrice, Maxim’s sister. Beatrice looks her “up and down” but the narrator senses “relief” in Beatrice’s eyes.

• Crawley helps steer her through difficult subjects in the conversation thereby establishing himself as an ally.

• She notices that Beatrice says she “hoped” they would be happy, not that she was sure they would be happy. Beatrice comments on her clothes and that Maxim used to be concerned with clothes and appearances.

• Beatrice tells the narrator that Mrs. Danvers “simply adored Rebecca.”

• The narrator feels that Maxim likes her the way she likes Jasper, the dog.

• Beatrice leaves, saying: “You see…you are so very different from Rebecca.”

 


Novel/Movie Series: Hitchcock Before and After Hollywood: Rebecca Chapter 7

Posted on May 2, 2020 at 12:15 AM Comments comments (0)




Chapter 7

Throughout the novel, du Maurier refuses to allow anything to be stable. Everything shifts and changes. There are no certainties and few pauses.

When the narrator and Maxim leave London, it is raining, but Maxim says to the narrator: “you wait, the sun will be shining for you when we come to Manderley.”

Manderley is supposed to be the haven, the citadel the place of peace and security. The narrator’s life has been insecure and Manderley is supposed to be her home, the place of comfort where she arrives a married woman, wife of a rich man.

But, it is far from that for her in reality. “how easy it was for him” she thinks of Maxim, arriving home at Manderley. But, she “dreaded this arrival at Manderley.” She envies the people living in cottages along the way imagining that their lives are “peaceful and steady, that way of living, and easier, too, demanding no set standard.”

But, at Manderley, “They wanted to see what I was like.” She dreads this examination of herself. She imagines, in detail people talking about her, saying bad things about her.

Du Maurier builds the tension of this arrival with a long description of the drive leading up to the house. “The length of it began to nag at my nerves.” And indeed, for the reader, the description goes on so long it provokes impatience.

Then, out of the tension combined with tedium, the impatience created in the reader, comes a clearing right before the house, and then “a wall of colour, blood-red, reaching far above our heads…rhododendrons. There was something bewildering, even shocking about the suddenness of their discovery…They startled me with their crimson faces, massed one upon the other in incredible profusion, showing no lead, no twig, nothing but the slaughterous red, luscious and fantastic, unlike any rhododendron plant I had seen before.” The flowers, representing Rebecca, were to the narrator, “…monsters, rearing to the sky, massed like a battalion too beautiful I thought, too powerful…”

In our first introduction of Mrs. Danvers in person, Maxim states: “Damn that woman.” We realize that Mrs. Danvers has arranged a situation that mirrors the narrator’s worst fears, groups of people, judging people, amassed at the steps of the house.

Then, the narrator describes Mrs. Danvers in a way that is as menacing as can be. “someone tall and gaunt, dressed in deep black, whose prominent cheek-bones and great, hollow eyes gave her a skull’s face, parchment-white, set on a skeleton’s frame.”

Mrs. Danvers is immediately associated with menace and death. The narrator describes shaking hands with her. Mrs. Danvers’ hand was “limp and heavy, deathly cold.” Her voice was “cold and lifeless.” “A black figure stood waiting for me at the head of the stairs, the hollow eyes watching me intently from the white skull’s face.”

The narrator feels a sensation of “discomfort and of shame. “There was a “little smile of scorn upon her lips, and I guessed at once she considered me ill-bred.” She smiles at Mrs. Danvers and the smile is not returned.

Mrs. Danvers takes the narrator to her new bedroom and points out that it has been especially opened and redecorated for her in another wing of the house from the room Maxim shared with Rebecca. Instead of thinking that this is a nice gesture, the narrator (helped along by Mrs. Danvers) feels as if this gesture is about not defiling the bedroom Maxim shared with the perfect Rebecca. She interprets the new room as a “second-rate room…for a second-rate person.”

Mrs. Danvers sets up the theme of the menace of the sea, where Rebecca died. She points out to the narrator that you can’t hear the sea from that room, her bedroom in the new wing. She makes the narrator feel inadequate for not having a personal maid.

Again, the narrator observes Mrs. Danvers: “those eyes that had no light, no flicker of sympathy towards me.” She looked at me with “mixture of pity and of scorn” “she despised me.” Was it, she wonders (because we are never allowed to stand in any position) “positive dislike, or actual malice?”

The narrator feels that Mrs. Danvers is talking about the way things were when Rebecca was there and watching the effect on her face. The look was one of “derision, of definite contempt.” The narrator knows that she fears Mrs. Danvers. And, then she despises herself for trying to gain Mrs. Danvers approval. She notes an “undercurrent of resentment”

 

Rebecca: Chapters 5-6

Posted on April 29, 2020 at 4:25 PM Comments comments (0)

We are doing our Novel/Movie Series "Hitchcock" Before and After Hollywood" online.  This is a summary of two of the chapters of the novel "Rebecca."


Chapter 5

• Maxim explains that “all memories are bitter, and I prefer to ignore them. Something happened a year ago that altered my whole life, and I want to forget every phase of my existence up to that time….I must begin living all over again.” “You have blotted out the past for me.”

• Mrs. Van Hopper gives flesh to the “phantom” the narrator has been pursuing in her mind. Rebeca was, she says, “very lovely. Exquisitely turned out, and brilliant in every way.” Then, she pushes the knife in: “I believe he adored her.”

• Rebecca, even in her handwriting, is everything the narrator is not: ““That bold, slanting hand, stabbing the white paper, the symbol of herself, so certain, so assured.”

 

Chapter 6

• The narrator, unlike Maxim, is keen to stop time, to make her memories of the drive to Manderley last. She feels the time slipping away from her, aware of the fact that they can never stop the fleeting time. “We can never be quite the same again.”

• She wishes to be older, more mature, not so young and foolish.

• Then, she receives a proposal, not a proposal where “men knelt to women,” not in “moonlight,” but over breakfast, and Maxim proposes in an extremely unromantic way: “I’m asking you to marry me, you little fool.” But, propose he does and she starts dreaming of being “mistress of Manderley.”

• But, before the proposal breakfast is over Maxim points out that the tangerine is sour. Then, the narrator notices the same thing: the tangerine is sour and she hadn’t even noticed, much like the marriage may turn out to be.

• And, Maxim had not said anything about being in love.

• The narrator starts to wonder if the proposal to Rebecca had been romantic, not over breakfast, but she tries to control her jealousy. ““Put it away” “Get thee behind me, Satan.”

• Maxim has given her a book of poems and inside she finds a dedication from Rebecca. She notes: “How alive was her writing though, how full of force.” She cuts the page out of the book, tears it up and puts it in the trash. Then, she goes back and sets fire to the fragments.

• But, the past will not disappear. When Mrs, Van Hopper finds out about the engagement, she tries her best to wound the narrator. “I simply can’t see you doing it,” she says. “…you are making a big mistake – one you will bitterly regret.” “…you know why he is marrying you, don’t you?....He just can’t go on living there alone.

 

Rebecca: Chapters 5-6

Posted on April 29, 2020 at 4:25 PM Comments comments (0)

We are doing our Novel/Movie Series "Hitchcock" Before and After Hollywood" online.  This is a summary of two of the chapters of the novel "Rebecca."


Chapter 5

• Maxim explains that “all memories are bitter, and I prefer to ignore them. Something happened a year ago that altered my whole life, and I want to forget every phase of my existence up to that time….I must begin living all over again.” “You have blotted out the past for me.”

• Mrs. Van Hopper gives flesh to the “phantom” the narrator has been pursuing in her mind. Rebeca was, she says, “very lovely. Exquisitely turned out, and brilliant in every way.” Then, she pushes the knife in: “I believe he adored her.”

• Rebecca, even in her handwriting, is everything the narrator is not: ““That bold, slanting hand, stabbing the white paper, the symbol of herself, so certain, so assured.”

 

Chapter 6

• The narrator, unlike Maxim, is keen to stop time, to make her memories of the drive to Manderley last. She feels the time slipping away from her, aware of the fact that they can never stop the fleeting time. “We can never be quite the same again.”

• She wishes to be older, more mature, not so young and foolish.

• Then, she receives a proposal, not a proposal where “men knelt to women,” not in “moonlight,” but over breakfast, and Maxim proposes in an extremely unromantic way: “I’m asking you to marry me, you little fool.” But, propose he does and she starts dreaming of being “mistress of Manderley.”

• But, before the proposal breakfast is over Maxim points out that the tangerine is sour. Then, the narrator notices the same thing: the tangerine is sour and she hadn’t even noticed, much like the marriage may turn out to be.

• And, Maxim had not said anything about being in love.

• The narrator starts to wonder if the proposal to Rebecca had been romantic, not over breakfast, but she tries to control her jealousy. ““Put it away” “Get thee behind me, Satan.”

• Maxim has given her a book of poems and inside she finds a dedication from Rebecca. She notes: “How alive was her writing though, how full of force.” She cuts the page out of the book, tears it up and puts it in the trash. Then, she goes back and sets fire to the fragments.

• But, the past will not disappear. When Mrs, Van Hopper finds out about the engagement, she tries her best to wound the narrator. “I simply can’t see you doing it,” she says. “…you are making a big mistake – one you will bitterly regret.” “…you know why he is marrying you, don’t you?....He just can’t go on living there alone.

 

Hitchcock: Rebecca Chapter 4

Posted on April 28, 2020 at 8:05 PM Comments comments (0)

 

Rebecca: The Unnamed Narrator

Chapter 4

• The narrator in Daphne du Maurier’s novel “Rebecca is never named. Du Maurier wrote later that this was because she could never come up with the right name for the character and as she continued to write, it became easier just not to name her.

• Maxim refers to the narrator’s name as “very lovely and unusual” but the name is never mentioned.

• The narrator, however, struggles throughout the novel to establish a “name” for herself. The narrator refers to herself as “a poor creature” “tortured by shyness.” She even says that she thought of herself “with scorn.”

• When she and Maxim are at the top of the cliff, she speaks to him, but he doesn’t answer, she says he “must have forgotten all about me…”

• She struggles to establish an identity for herself, and so the lack of a name, like everything else in the novel, is completely appropriate and echoes the themes in the story.

• And, the name of her rival, Rebecca, is so prominent in the story and indeed the title of the novel.

• The first time the narrator sees the handwriting of the former wife, it reflects the character of the woman, bold, assertive, and the note written by her ends with her name “Rebecca” written in her own hand, the first letter larger than all the others.

 


Rebecca: Chapter 2 Fear

Posted on April 23, 2020 at 6:55 PM Comments comments (0)

  Mrs. Danvers

 

In the first chapter of Rebecca, Du Murier describes the dream of her main character. The dream is returning to Manderley and in this first chapter she lays down the foundation of themes that are to come. Fear is the primary one, fear and foreboding.

 

In the dream, nature has overwhelmed the stately and manicured mansion and threatens it. The reader is left with a sense of unease, a sense of turmoil overrunning order. Manderley is identified as at the center of the dream and of the story and the reader is told very clearly that the couple can never go back to Manderley. Manderley is the source of fear.

 

In Chapter 1, the primary contrast is between the turmoil of nature and the stately mansion that used to be immaculate, organized. In Chapter 2, the contrast is between the softness of remembered nature in England and the “glaring” sun of the country where they are in self-imposed “exile.”

 

The task in exile is to banish memories of the past, of Manderley, to banish fear. But, at the same time, the central character talks about being afraid of fear itself. She says that she is afraid that fear may come back and become a “living companion” for them again.

 

In the first chapter, nature is threatening Manderley. In the second chapter, nature is no longer threatening, but a large part of the fond memory, the soft nature of an English spring. But, in the adopted country, the sun is always glaring and there are no shadows.

 

There is an unease even in the shifting descriptions. Nature is threatening, menacing and also nature is comforting and the subject of wistful dreams and memories. The adopted country is a haven, but also a place where boredom reigns and the light is always glaring.

 

Even in exile, there is always a “devil who rides us and torments...” The central character claims that they have given battle and conquered that devil, but then adds: “or so we believe.” The reader is never allowed to look firmly on anything – nature, light, shadows, glare.

 

Boredom in the adopted country is only a “pleasing antidote to fear.”

 

In this chapter also, du Maurier introduces a human source of that fear: Mrs. Danvers.

 

In another presentation of contrast, du Maruier leads us through a description of the delicious food at Manderley and its abundance. This is a comforting, pleasing thought. But, once again, the reader is not allowed to enjoy the image. The character starts remembering her concern about the waste of it all, about what happened to the food that was uneaten. Then, she adds that even though she wondered about the waste, she never “dared” to ask Mrs. Danvers about it. She describes herself as being afraid of that “freezing, superior smile of hers.”

 

So the reader is led down another rabbit hole of unease – from food, to waste, to fear, to distain.

 

And so, du Maurier introduces one of the central and probably most memorable characters in the novel, Mrs. Danvers, who will be like a mirror, holding up a reflection to the central character of herself, always wanting. Mrs. Danvers is also the central character’s introduction to something every woman is taught to fear 1) the evaluation of other women, and 2) being compared to other women.

 

From the first time she sees Mrs. Danvers, she thinks: “She is comparing me to Rebecca; and sharp as a sword the shadow came between us.”

 

And, not only is the character relentlessly compared to the supposed perfect Rebecca, she is also repeatedly compared to her social superiors. In the hotel in Monte, she is treated badly even by the servants. They sense her social inferiority and use it as an excuse to mistreat her. She doesn’t have the confidence to challenge them.

 



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