Ben Wheatley’s Rebecca is available to stream now on Netflix, and it joins a long line of Daphne du Maurier big-screen adaptations. The British author is a giant of psychological thrillers – she wrote 17 novels, as well as an assortment of short stories, plays, and non-fiction. Her work has been adapted for the silver screen by a host of directors, from the master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock to Roger Michell, who’s usually best known for romcoms à la the Hugh Grant-fronted Notting Hill.
Like its predecessors, the newest iteration of Rebecca features an all-star cast. Armie Hammer plays brooding aristocrat Maxim de Winter, while Lily James is his new wife and Kristen Scott Thomas portrays the intimidating housekeeper Mrs Danvers, who’s obsessed with Maxim’s late first wife – the eponymous Rebecca. Bodyguard’s Keeley Hawes and The Handmaid’s Tale’s Ann Dowd also have supporting roles.
Below, we’ve put together a list of the du Maurier adaptations to keep you busy if Netflix’s Rebecca has got you hungry for more moody mid-century romances. Enjoy!
The Birds (1963)
Alfred Hitchcock’s adaptation of the chilling 1952 short story of the same name sees the location of the tale change from a farm in Cornwall to the town of Bodega Bay, California. The original tale centres around a father trying to protect his wife and kids from an onslaught of feathery fiends, whereas in Hitchcock’s version the protagonist is socialite Melanie Daniels, played by Tippi Hedren. It’s a more glamorous affair, although it loses some of the understated claustrophobia of the short story. The special effects may not have aged well, but it’s still a genuinely frightening movie and the underlying sense of dread has stood the test of time.
Another Hitchcock joint, and one that set an extremely high bar for Wheatley. It won Best Picture and Best Cinematography at the Oscars and received 11 nominations in total – more than any other film that year. Laurence Olivier plays Maxim (do you see what we mean about the 2020 version having big boots to fill?), while Joan Fontaine takes on the role of the second Mrs de Winter. The movie is pretty faithful to the plot of the book, however the ending had to be changed to comply with Hollywood’s Production Code at the time – if crimes were depicted on screen, they had to be shown to be punished, which the novel doesn’t do (we won’t give anymore away, don’t worry).
My Cousin Rachel (2017)
Now for something a bit more modern – Rachel Weisz takes on the titular role in Roger Michell’s adaptation of the 1951 mystery-romance novel, the most recent du Maurier adaptation before Wheatley’s Rebecca. It’s no Hitchcock by any means, but the movie holds its own against the 1952 adaptation of the novel. It follows Philip (Sam Claflin) and his encounter with Rachel, the mysterious widow of his late older cousin who raised him – and who Philip suspects may be responsible for his cousin’s death. Like Rebecca, the story plays out against the dramatic Cornish coastline, where London-born du Maurier spent most of her time.
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