Tuesday, February 5, 2008

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Casting Coup: Rebecca

*Strangely enough, this third entry of the first Casting Coup Month met with the most criticism. My girl Friday hated the whole thing, for Rebecca is one of her favorite movies and books. Two readers believed Daniel Day-Lewis to be a better choice for Maxim de Winter than the actor I chose. And I, myself, lied a little. I called it one of the greatest movies ever made...and I just don't believe that. Hitchcock's Rebecca misses the boat for me. It's a very well-done piece of cinema, but I can't help but wish for a better Heroine...and I didn't really care for Judith Anderson's Mrs. Danvers. Who knows what I would think now, however?*


...and have we got a doozy for you. Nominated the same year as yesterday's film, Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca was another jewel in Selznick's crown. The man who produced the classic Gone with the Wind also gave us this weird, unconventional Gothic romance/mystery, but rumor has it Mr. Hitchcock had to fight tooth and nail to get a subtle version on the screen. It was the only movie Hitchcock made that won Best Picture, and Joan Fontaine was the only Hitchcock actress to win an Academy Award; but that was the next year, for Suspicion (in which she plays, more or less, the same damn role).

Sure, it won Best Picture and Best Cinematography (George Barnes) -- but that was it. They lost Art Direction (Lyle Wheeler) to Pride and Prejudice (Cedric Gibbons/Paul Groesse). They lost Original Score (Franz Waxman) to Pinocchio (Leigh Harline/Paul J. Smith/Ned Washington). They lost Film Editing (Hal C. Kern) to North West Mounted Police (Anne Bauchens), Screenplay (Robert E. Sherwood/Joan Harrison) to The Philadelphia Story (Donald Ogden Stewart), Special Effects (Jack Cosgrove/Arthur Johns) to The Thief of Bagdad (Lawrence Butler/Jack Whitney).

Alfred Hitchcock famously lost Best Director to John Ford (The Grapes of Wrath). Judith Anderson failed to score a Best Supporting Actress win, losing out to Jane Darwell (The Grapes of Wrath). Joan Fontaine lost Best Actress to Ginger Rogers (Kitty Foyle), only to win it a year later. And Best Actor did not go to Laurence Olivier, but to James Stewart (The Philadelphia Story).

Still, it's one of the greatest movies ever made. And so we salute this Best Picture-winner by giving it the Casting Coup Treatment.

P.S. There are eleven other versions of Rebecca, the most recent one produced for Italian television...this year.

Who is He: The faithful butler of Manderley.

Originally played by: Edward Fielding

My Choice: My own faithful retainer.

David Kelly (Agent Cody Banks 2, Waking Ned Devine)

Who is He: A "simple-minded" man in a rain slicker, who may know more than people give him credit for. By which I mean he does know more.

Originally played by: Leonard Carey

My Choice: A popular comedian who could play retarded while still being classy.

Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz)

Who is He: A doctor that becomes the key to the mystery.

Originally played by: Leo G. Carroll (was over a barrel when tarantula took to the hills...)

My Choice: Poirot's sidekick.

Hugh Fraser (101 Dalmatians, Patriot Games)

Who is She: The Heroine's American--caretaker?--in Monte Carlo. She is the reason our protagonist meets Maxim de Winter in the first place. One of those overbearing American types.

Originally played by: Florence Bates

My Choice: Once again...

Beth Grant (Southland Tales, Factory Girl)

Who is He: Beatrice's husband.

Originally played by: Nigel Bruce, aka Dr. Watson

My Choice: Our modern-day equivalent to the comic buffoon of the upper class.

Timothy Spall (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Enchanted)

Who is She: Maxim's sister.

Originally played by: Gladys Cooper

My Choice: Kick-ass writer/actress! And did I mention how beautiful she is?

Academy Award Winner Emma Thompson (Howards End, Sense and Sensibility)

Who is He: The local lawman, the magistrate.

Originally played by: Sir C. Aubrey Smith

My Choice: Bond henchman, Agatha Christie actor, worked with Woody Allen and Robert Altman...

Charles Dance (Gosford Park, Marple: By the Pricking of My Thumbs)

Who is He: Friend to Maxim and overseer at Manderley, but could he have some intentions of his own?

Originally played by: Reginald Denny

My Choice: An under-appreciated actor who will next be seen in Savage Grace.

Tony Award Winner Stephen Dillane (The Hours, Hamlet with Mel Gibson)

Who is He: Rebecca's ne'er-do-well cousin.

Originally played by: Academy Award Winner George Sanders (All About Eve)

My Choice:

Jason Flemyng (Stardust, Marple: The Murder at the Vicarage)

Who is She: Pure evil. Rebecca's devoted housekeeper, creepy and sinister and fucking scary as hell.

Originally played by: Academy Award Nominee Judith Anderson (Rebecca)

My Choice: I'm going to get a lot of flack for this, but I don't actually like Judith Anderson's portrayal of Mrs. Danvers too much. Not when there's a much more bad-ass rendition waiting in the wings.

Academy Award Winner Maggie Smith (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, California Suite)

Who is He: The husband, the lord of the manor at Manderley, the thinking woman's pin-up.

Originally played by: Academy Award Winner Laurence Olivier (Hamlet)

My Choice: The other thinking woman's pin-up.

Academy Award Winner Jeremy Irons (Reversal of Fortune, Lolita)

Who is She: The heroine, a woman whose whirlwind romance with Maxim leads to a forbidden secret and a dangerous mystery.

Originally played by: Academy Award Winner Joan Fontaine (Suspicion)

My Choice:

Sophia Myles (Tristan + Isolde, Marple: Sleeping Murder)

And as for the rest of you, I know y'all love that Maggie Smith. Can I get an amen?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's very interesting. I am taking a Theatre class right now and for my final paper I have to cast four characters in a chosen play. I chose Rebecca (I was so excited when I found a stage adaptation of it) and since the very first day of classes (Jan. 3) I have known about this project and I said to myself "I am going to do Rebecca and Maggie Smith is going to be my Mrs. Danvers!!"