Rebecca - A Study In History
By Jake Guastella
With an intriguing back story and a popularity that's spanned the decades, the history of Rebecca is an amazing one. Indeed, there are a number of facts from the book's past that are almost as surprising and mysterious as the novel itself!
Before Daphne du Maurier's 'study in jealousy' bursts onto our stage, here's what you may not know about the genesis and legacy of the 1930s gothic classic which is still casting readers in its spell today.
R is for Rebecca
Maurier is known to have discovered old letters from her husband's ex-wife, Jan Ricardo. These letters were signed with a large and flamboyant 'R', which the author credits as the inspiration for the naming of her title character. It is widely speculated that the narrator's envy of Rebecca stems from Maurier's own jealous feelings towards 'R'.
In almost four hundred pages, the first name of Mrs de Winter is never revealed, a fact which has proven a constant source of fascination for readers. According to Mauriers son Kits Browning: She couldnt think what to call her and so she didnt call her anything. And then it became a challenge: could she actually write the whole thing without it?
Alfred Hitchcock won his only ever Best Picture Oscar for the 1940 film adaptation of Rebecca. The part of Maxim de Winter was memorably played by Laurence Olivier, who asked if his partner Vivien Leigh could play his onscreen wife. This request was turned down, and the role went instead to actress Joan Fontaine. In the movies script, the nameless narrator is referred to as I. But on set, the cast would call the character Daphne.
During World War II, the Germans are known to have buried messages in an edition of the novel. Secret sentences would be made using words that could be found via a code with page numbers, lines and positions in lines. This was later alluded to in Michael Ondaatjes Booker-winning The English Patient.
The books publisher Virago estimates that 4,000 Rebecca paperbacks are still sold every month. Amazingly, since it was first released in 1938, the novel has never gone out of print.
Production shots of Kneehigh Theatre's Rebecca
Whether youre a fan of the novel or new to the story, join us for Kneehigh Theatres spellbinding new adaptation of a haunting masterpiece from 16-21 March.
And if youre coming to see the show...
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