Is Netflix’s Rebecca based on Daphne du Maurier’s Gothic novel of the same name?
Rebecca: The book
In 1938, Daphne du Maurier published Rebecca, a Gothic romantic suspense novel about a young woman who’s a paid companion for an upper-class American, Mrs. Van Hopper. During a holiday in Monte Carlo, the pair crosses paths with wealthy widower George Fortescue Maximilian “Maxim” de Winter, who is much older than the young, naive and unnamed companion.
Speaking of, while the companion is the heroine of the story and kindles a romance with Maxim that results in her marrying him, we never know her name. Mrs. Van Hopper mostly refers to her as “dear.” Maxim never refers to her by name either during their courtship in Monte Carlo. At best, he might call her “darling” or “you little fool.”
Once they’re married, she does become known as Madame de Winter, or Mrs. de Winter, or even the second Mrs. de Winter, but we still never learn her first name.
It doesn’t really matter in one respect. Her name isn’t as important as the ghost that haunts her new home, Manderley, or the secrets that led to the first Mrs. de Winter’s death. Or, rather, Rebecca as she’s most often referred to.
Rebecca is everything the new Mrs. de Winter is not, as Mrs. Danvers, the de Winter’s longtime housekeeper, likes to remind her. Rebecca was vivacious, confident, stylish and beloved.
Mrs. Danvers never misses a chance to compare the new Mrs. de Winters to her predecessor. It’s no wonder she can’t help but become obsessed with Rebecca also. Especially because even though Mrs. Danvers assures her Rebecca was the love of Maxim’s life, Maxim refuses to talk about her.
Why? How exactly did Rebecca die? Was Maxim involved? Is the new Mrs. de Winter’s life now in danger?
In 1940, Alfred Hitchcock adapted the novel into a movie of the same name starring Laurence Olivier as Maxim de Winter and Joan Fontaine as Mrs. de Winter.
Judith Anderson starred as Mrs. Danvers and George Sanders played Jack Favell, Rebecca’s cousin and lover. (Yes, he’s a bit slimy, but his love for Rebecca was sincere. Hers wasn’t, though. For anybody or anything. In truth, she wasn’t actually a very nice person, even though Mrs. Danvers idolized her.)
The Netflix adaptation of Rebecca will follow Hitchcock’s footsteps and base this rendition on the novel too.
It stars Armie Hammer as Maxim de Winter, Lily James as Mrs. de Winter and Kristin Scott Thomas as Mrs. Danvers.
It won’t be “modernized” either. Meaning, it will stay true to its original time period, the late 1930s.