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Cover of the UK DVD release
|Directed by||Jim O'Brien|
|Produced by||Hilary Heath|
|Written by||Arthur Hopcraft
Based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier
|Music by||Christopher Gunning|
|Edited by||Michael Parker|
|5 January 1997 United Kingdom
13 April 1997 United States
While vacationing in Monte Carlo in 1927, Maxim de Winter meets the young and somewhat naive British companion of Mrs. Van Hopper, a typical Ugly American whose bout of influenza frees the girl – who, as in the original novel, is never identified by name – to spend time with the wealthy widower. When Mrs. Van Hopper announces plans to return to New York City, Max proposes to the girl and brings her to his Cornwall coast estate known as Manderley. There a large household staff is supervised by Mrs. Danvers, who was devoted to Max's first wife Rebecca, the victim of a sailing accident some ten months before, whose battered body was discovered forty miles up the coast and identified by her distraught husband.
The new Mrs. de Winter feels overwhelmed by the vast manor, and Mrs. Danvers does nothing to put her at ease, although she finds a friend in Frank Crawley, who oversees the estate. The young bride's discomfort with her new lifestyle isn't helped by the fact the memory of Rebecca has a strong hold on Mandereley and all of its inhabitants and visitors. Lacking self-confidence, she commits one faux pas after another until she is convinced Max is still deeply in love with his seemingly perfect first wife and regrets his impetuous decision to marry his second one. She is also curious about a cottage on the beach and Ben, a dimwitted scavenger who constantly assures her he has said nothing and begs her not to commit him to the asylum, references the girl doesn't understand.
Max's sister Beatrice and brother-in-law Giles convince him to revive his custom of hosting an annual costume ball at the estate. Mrs. Danvers suggests Mrs. de Winter replicate a dress worn by a family ancestor in a portrait hanging in the gallery. The girl complies, unaware the same costume was worn by Rebecca to much acclaim shortly before her death the previous year. When Max sees her descend the staircase just before the arrival of their guests, he furiously demands she change into a different dress.
In the early morning hours after the ball, Mrs. Danvers openly displays her contempt for the second Mrs. de Winter by taking her on a tour of Rebecca's bedroom, which she has maintained as a shrine. Showing the young girl Rebecca's wardrobe and luxurious possessions, she tells her she will never be worthy of replacing her former mistress, and she encourages her to commit suicide by jumping out the window to the stone patio far below. Her manipulations are interrupted by a distress signal from a ship that has run onto the reef just off the coast.
Divers hired to investigate damage to the hull of the ship discover the remains of Rebecca's boat with a body in the locked cabin. When it is raised, the body is identified as that of Rebecca by her jewelry and dress, and it is discovered that holes had been drilled deliberately in the bottom, causing it to sink.
Max confesses to his bride he strangled Rebecca in the beach cottage when she taunted him with the news that she was pregnant and that the child wasn't his. He locked her body in the cabin of her boat, sailed it offshore, drove holes into its planks, and then escaped in the dinghy, and when a body washed ashore up the coast, he intentionally misidentified it. He confesses he never loved Rebecca, revealing she was a vile woman who made a mockery of their marriage by consorting with numerous men of low character in a flat she kept in London and the cottage she maintained on the beach specifically for her many trysts.
A subsequent inquest concludes with a verdict of suicide, but Rebecca's cousin Jack Favell is unconvinced. He has a note from Rebecca urging him to join her at the beach cottage on the night she died because she had something important to tell him. Jack reveals he was Rebecca's lover and suspects she was pregnant with his child, a fact uncovered by Max, prompting him to kill her. He attempts to blackmail Max, who refuses his demands.
A notation in Rebecca's appointment book leads them to a doctor she visited on the day she died. He reveals that Rebecca was riddled with cancer and had only months to live, thus supporting the verdict of suicide. Max realizes she intentionally misled him into believing she was expecting another man's child to spur him to kill her in a murderous rage.
Upon returning to Manderley, Max and his wife discover the estate is in flames, the fire set by a vengeful and despairing Mrs. Danvers. Max races upstairs to rescue the woman from Rebecca's bedroom. Though he manages to make it to the bedroom and retrieve Mrs. Danvers, he stumbles on the way back down; Mrs. Danvers' fate is unclear. In an epilogue set ten years later, we learn that Max walks with a limp and is scarred slightly as a result of his heroic action. Having lost Manderley and choosing not to rebuild it, Mr. and Mrs. de Winter now live a quiet life in a small hotel, seemingly free of Rebecca's hold.
In the 1940 film adaptation of the Du Maurier novel directed by Alfred Hitchcock, the character of Rebecca is never seen. In the miniseries, she is shown from behind, and there are frequent flashes of her eyes and mouth (courtesy of Lucy Cohu), although her full face is never revealed.
The serial was filmed on location in Charlestown in Cornwall, the Luton Hoo Estate in Bedfordshire, Mothecombe House in Devon, and Rotherfield Park in Hampshire. Interiors were shot at Shepperton Studios.
- Charles Dance ..... Maxim de Winter
- Emilia Fox ..... Mrs. de Winter
- Diana Rigg ..... Mrs. Danvers
- Geraldine James ..... Beatrice
- Denis Lill ..... Giles
- Tom Chadbon ..... Frank Crawley
- Jonathan Cake ..... Jack Favell
- John Branwell ..... Ben
- Faye Dunaway ..... Mrs. Van Hopper
Awards and nominations
Diana Rigg won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie.