Movie Review: Rebecca

So I just finished the first Oscar movie of the 1940s, Rebecca (although in part I was writing this while watching so it’s really long – spoilers pretty much throughout the post – you’ve been warned). My first thought while the credits were rolling was that some of the scenery was reminiscent of Gone with the Wind. Then I discovered that it was produced by the same company, so that kind of made sense. The first, of many things, that surprised me about Rebecca was that it was directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Instantly my interest was piqued. Add to that Nigel Bruce, the guy who played Watson opposite Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock, was also in the movie. I buckled in for some surprises.

Rebecca starred Joan Fontaine as Mrs. De Winter (she has no other name besides that, ever, so I’ll refer to her as DW) and Laurence Olivier as Maxim de Winter. The movie began the same way the story begins with a voice over by DW saying “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley” she continues to talk about the ruined home and then enters into the story of her life at a younger point in time. They go into a memory of a vacation in Southern France where DW was a paid companion to Mrs. Van Hopper (played by Florence Bates). The first we actually see of DW is her yelling at a man to stop because she thinks he is going to jump off a cliff (I quite agree that that is how it looked). The man tells her to get lost and the next wee see of either character is when they are in the hotel with van Hopper. Hopper is an older lady and a bit of a busy body. She spots Maxim (cliff man) and beckons him to join them. More awkward interactions ensue between Maxim and  DW while Hopper blathers before Maxim makes his hasty exit. The next day DW is at brunch alone and is invited/forced to join Maxim. They have an easy conversation and he offers to drive her somewhere to sketch (after insisting she eats more food).

While they are sketching DW brings up that she once saw a postcard of a fine old house by the sea and that she didn’t realize that it was his home, Manderley. Maxim says that he will never return and becomes rather introspective. Trying to cover the awkward silence she tries to change the subject to the water (since they are indeed by the sea) and how it takes so long for the water to warm up in England and how the water in southern France is so warm she could stay in all day. That is if it weren’t for the dangerous undertow. She then remarks on how a man drowned there last yer. Again Maxim decides to make a hasty retreat and brings them back to the hotel. There Joan walks in on Hopper being a gossip to her nurse (for she has fallen ill with a cold/flu) talking about how she knew Mr. and Mrs. de Winter. Then she adds that the Former Mrs. De Winter drowned in a sailing accident. This sets the bar for dear DW. She can’t quite seem to have an interaction with Maxim that doesn’t end pretty poorly.

This might be why she is so surprised when the next day he stops her in the lobby:
Maxim: Off duty?
DW: Well, yes. Mrs. Van Hopper’s cold turned into flu, so she’s got a trained nurse.
M: I’m sorry for the nurse. You keen on tennis?
D: Well, not particularly.
M: That’s good. We’ll go for a drive. (Takes the racquet and hides it in a bush).

That starts many outing for the two while Hopper is sick. However the romance is threatened when Hopper’s daughter gets engaged and they must leave at once. DW goes to Maxim and tells him goodbye. He then asks her if she would rather go with Hopper to New York or Manderley with him, as his bride. She chooses that later and is accepted by all the servants save for Mrs. Danvers who is quite put-offish and cold.

There is something weird about Maxim and DWs relationship. Maxim treats her a bit like a child. Telling her what/how much to eat, what articles to read, or takes her hand to wave to someone else. In one scene it might rain so he sends a servant to grab a coat. When he returns Maxim goes to put it on her instead of carrying it (since it’s a rain coat and it hasn’t started raining yet). DW asks if she must put it on and he replies, “Yes, certainly, certainly, certainly. You can’t be too careful with children.” That sums it up in a nutshell. DW is, herself, a bit awkward and clumsy. This apparently is a never dyeing theme – quite prominent right now (hello Twilight / Fifty Shades of Grey).

Poor DW, as she tries to get settled to a new life style there are constant reminders of the former ‘Mrs. De Winter’. Some are subtle, like the napkins that are monogrammed as R de W, while others are more overt like Mrs. Danvers constantly making reference to how things were done under the former de Winter. She is often served back handed compliments. (Such as Beatrice (Winter’s sister) comments about how Maxim acts: “I doubt he’ll fly off in a rage with you, you’re such a placid little thing”. The comments are always said kindly, but if you listen to the words and not the tone they are quite rude.

DW always walks on egg shells, fearing she’ll set off Maxim. One day she finally goes to the west wing (a part of the house that hasn’t been entered since The Former de Winter passed away). Danvers catches her and starts to show her evil side. She does all she can to push DW over the edge. Sinking so low as to tricking DW into dressing like Former de Winters for a fancy dress party. The night of the party Danvers opens a window for DW to ‘calm down’ and get fresh air. Then she tries to convince DW to just jump and end it since she’ll never make Maxim happy.

That same night (it was a big night) there is a shipwreck and we get into the Hitchcockian twists. The diving team finds the wreckage of the Former de Winter’s boat. This puts Maxim into a tailspin. DW searches for him, knowing the effect it will have on her husband. She finds him to apologize for the costume mishap and discovers the truth about Maxim’s freak outs whenever the Former de Winter is mentioned. Oddly enough telling the truth makes it possible for them to actually grow as a couple. So as not to truly spoil the twist I won’t divulge what the truth is. After DW somewhat stood up for herself (or at least stopped being the child Maxim was use to) I started rooting for the couple and in a weird way they had a happy ending. All in all I’d watch this Oscar winner again. It truly wasn’t what I was expecting, but perhaps that’s because I thought this Rebecca was the same as Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. Definitely not.

Until next time ~ Q

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Steven Moffat/Mark Gatiss vs Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Comparing A Study in Scarlet and A Study in Pink

So since I apparently can’t have enough posts on the subject I have one last thing for now. While I was reading the book I kept running into similarities in the show Sherlock. I figured since the book was fresh (and I just watched Sherlock while writing this) I’d do it now. So I whipped up a venn diagram comparing the two. As a designer I probably should have made it look, well designed, but I feel I’ve already spent to much time on it. There’s lots of writing so you should click on the image if you want to see it clearly. Also I’m positive there are more things that could be added to all lists, but like I said, too much time. Hope you enjoy, until next time~Q.

*Update* thanks to rozzychan for reminding me that in the ending bit of dialouge between Sherlock & Watson in Moffat’s recreation they chat about him being hurt in the shoulder as well. The diagram has been fixed to reflect this.

Book Review: A Study in Scarlet

So I finally have finished one of my summer reading books. I realized, after making my list, that I’d have to finish a book a week…which usually wouldn’t be a problem. I’ve done it in the past, but apparently I’ve gotten busier or something because its been tricky. However that is neither here nor there. On to the book.

I just finished A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I enjoyed this story, although I was thoroughly confused as to the second half of the book. It seemed to crop out of no where. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone so as fair warning SPOILERS AHEAD. The first half introduces us to the odd man that is Sherlock Holmes and a returning war veteran Dr. John Watson. Watson observes Holmes’ various acquaintances and is with him when he is summoned to a crime scene. There they discover a dead man whose face is contoured in anguishing fear. Sherlock methodically scours the scene, both the immediate area as well as out side. Then he quips off some facts that no one else as gleaned. Such as the murderer’s tall and sturdy frame and that they knew one another. Sherlock, after sharing some conclusions with Detectives Lestrade on Gregson heads out to conduct some of his own inquires. After a scene with a woman’s wedding band and a second murder both detectives are back in Homes’ flat. There, after a short while, Holmes’ delivers the murder – much to everyone’s surprise (the murder included).

Then the story shifts to several years before and across the ocean. The narrative picks up in John Ferrier’s point of view as he and a little girl, near death, are found in the Nevada dessert by passing Mormons who are on their way to the promise land. The story gets kind of odd after that, dealing with the Mormon lifestyle and beliefs. Long summary turned short, the girl was adopted by Ferrier and was the prize of all Salt Lake City. Ferrier promised her to Jefferson Hope whom the girl had fallen in love with. The leader of the town didn’t like that and decided that Ferrier had to either give her to his son or another Elder’s son. Ferrier is murdered while he, the girl, and Hope try to flee and the girl is brought back to Salt Lake. She died a month later, from despair. Hope vows then and there to seek vengeance again both of the sons. (One married the girl and the other killed Ferrier.) Of course the two murdered men were the sons. Then the story jumps back to London and ‘present’ time (Sherlock’s time that is) where Hope fills everyone in on what happened after he left Utah. That very night, after being brought to custody Hope dies of an aneurism.Then Watson and Holmes are chatting and he explains analytical thinking versus narrative thinking. Which, seemingly, is his secret. END SPOILERS

Over all I enjoyed the story. The one part that was tricky was the part that took place in Utah. I don’t know enough about Mormon culture to fully understand those parts. I got the gist though, but since I didn’t get it I wish that part of the book  would have been wrapped up quicker than it was, but it was still good. And the deductive bits, by all three detectives were so enjoyable it was worth wading through the Utah chapters. I think what I didn’t like was I had a sinking feeling for Ferrier and his daughter. I knew something bad was going to happen, if two murders were the result years later, how could it end happily? Yet I found myself rooting for Lucy (the daughter) and Jefferson to somehow end up together. My silly romantic side once again giving me false hope for a happy ending. When a person achieving his revenge is the happy ending you know you’re not reading a comedy. However a great beginning to the legend that is Holmes and Watson.

I enjoyed how he somewhat ended it with Watson telling Holmes that he would write Holmes’ story down so that everyone would know that it was he, not Lestrade and Gregson, who was the brilliant one. Holmes’ doesn’t seem to care though, he doesn’t want the publicity, even if he does comment that the others steal the limelight all the time. I guess part of him wants recognition, but not necessarily form the public though. I think he just wants the detectives themselves to not falsly take his credit.

Anyway the story ends with a Latin (or Roman) phrase: “Populus me sibilat, at mihi plaudo Ipse domi simul ac nummos contemplar in arca.” When I googled it I discovered it was from Horace, Book 1, Satire 1 and translated to “The public hisses at me, but I applaud myself in my own house, and simultaneously contemplate the money in my chest.”
I take that to mean it doesn’t matter what the public thinks, for I will be proud of my own accomplishments and think about the things I have done within myself. A nice sentiment. So overall, a good story, and I’ll be working my way through Doyle’s other works too, I’m sure.

Anyway, until next time~Q

My Love affair with Sherlock Holmes

I have been a fan of the brain child of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle since before I can remember. You may think this to be hyperbole but in my instance it’s true. I clearly remember a time before I was even in school listening to my dad’s tapes. That’s right cassette tapes. My dad, somehow, had gotten his hands on the tapes of the old radio series that played during world war II. (This performance will be transferred by short wave to our men and women over seas is a clear statement that still rings in my head from the tapes. I remember as a child not really understanding what that meant.) As a kid those were the stories I fell asleep listening to, occasionally an episode of Have Gun will Travel or The Saint would slip in, but my favorites were always The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Especially the ones staring Basel Rathbone and Nigel Bruce-which were most of them. Oddly enough, I have yet to actually watch anything with those two in them, because I love the audio version so much…something I may need to alter. I have seen Basil Rathbone in movies (the main one that comes to mind is The Court Jester with Danny Kaye) and thought he was brilliant.

Then when I was in middle school I found an audiobook called The Beekeeper’s Apprentice (also on cassette tape) and was introduced to a new Sherlock. Years later, after thinking perhaps I had made the book up because I couldn’t recall the books name, I refound the book. (One of the best parts of reading the book over the audiobook from the library was that I hadn’t realized it had been abridged. So I had bonus story and cases to read about-BEST SURPRISE EVER!) In quick secession I devoured the series until I finished it and although The Beekeeper’s Apprentice is still my favorite in the series (arguably it is actually my favorite book) I love the dynamic between Russell and Holmes. Even if Holmes isn’t quite the same man that Doyle created he is still his brilliant deductive self. If King would have turned Sherlock into a hopeless romantic or something it would not have worked. She presents the two characters in such a way that even the reader can see that there actions truly are what makes the most logical sense, and in that way I think it honors Doyle’s original character. But as usual I digress.

Recently, it seems, Sherlock has been revived once again, and both in his original home of the late 1800’s and in more modern way in the 2000’s. Where we’re use to him being first. When I found out that there would be a new movie of Sherlock I was quite ecstatic. Perhaps the fact that I had been studying abroad since the August before its release helped. It certainly came as a shock, I get back to the State mid-December and BAM a new Sherlock story. That it came out around Christmas was an added bonus – it could be a family activity. My family, like all families, doesn’t always agree. One thing we do all agree on are the Sherlock stories. It is one thing that the entire family enjoys. So although some of us didn’t see the movie until the following Christmas when it was out on DVD it was quite an enjoyable and a ‘bonding’ experience of sorts. Likewise I can’t remember the last time my mother and I went to a movie together in the theater. I can no longer say that now, as you know she and I went to Mirror, Mirror together. A month before that though, or so, we had gone to the second Sherlock movie, A Game of Shadows. A movie (like the former) that had a great balance between action/serious moments/comedic relief. Very enjoyable.

Now (well last year or so) the BBC has developed a modern series called simply Sherlock, and simply put I think it’s brilliant.  The second series just aired on PBS. The thing I like about this ‘system’ is that it aired in the UK on the BBC back in December. Why the lag between airing in the US and the UK I don’t know but coming full circle is that what I like about this system is that the second season has just been released onto DVD (yesterday, after the final episode in the series aired on Sunday). Guess what my birthday present to myself is this year. The writers of the show create such interesting twists from the originals, they really have made it their own (The Geek Interpreter vs The Greek Interpreter – love it!). Oh, I also love the dynamic between Sherlock and Mycroft. It makes it seems as a more adversarial relationship. Where clearly there is lots of left over baggage from a childhood of growing up far to bright for either of the brother’s own good . Before I had looked at the relationship as more one of mutual respect/acceptance. One where the two brothers, although both brilliant, don’t have scads in common so it’s just easier for the family dynamic to leave each other be, unless seeing each other is logical or necessary. In the Sherlock series they don’t call on one another unless necessary (that’s still the same) but when they do meet there is always an undercurrent of annoyance and arguing between the two. Which may be why Mycroft is always making John be the liaison between the two-which also adds to the comedy.

This has gotten quite lengthy, but I guess something that will always be true of me (if it has endured for the first 25 years of my life surely it will stay for the next 25 and more) is that I love Sherlock. Important that, I suppose? Until next time~Q