Rebecca: How a Lesbian-Inflected Movie Got Made
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Published in: July-August 2007 issue.


IN 1938, Daphne du Maurier’s melodramatic novel, Rebecca, became an international bestseller, and Hollywood producer David O. Selznick acquired the film rights for $50,000. Also in 1938, Alfred Hitchcock, then a noted director of British-made suspense movies, signed a contract with Selznick and was soon named to direct the screen adaptation of the novel. Thus began the making of Rebecca (1940), under Selznick International Pictures and United Artist. The monetary value of the contract between Selznick and Hitchcock is not indubitably known; however, it was Myron Selznick—David’s brother and Hollywood agent—who brokered the deal. Myron had first approached RKO on Hitchcock’s behalf with an offer of 16 weeks of work for $60,000. When RKO turned this down, Myron went to his brother, who paid more, although how much more is not known.

In the end, Hitchcock—at least for sixteen weeks in 1939—belonged to David O. Selznick, and Rebecca would mark the first film that Hitchcock made in Hollywood, the first he made with Selznick, and the only Hitchcock film to receive a Best Picture Oscar. Perhaps more importantly, it was the first of very few films Alfred Hitchcock ever made that he was not involved in all aspects of the creative process, and as a result was immediately dissatisfied with David O. Selznick’s controlling form of “producing,” the status quo for this period of the studio system.

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