Masterpiece Theatre: Rebecca

Program Description

The dead mistress of Manderley casts her irresistible spell from beyond the grave in Masterpiece Theatre's stunning adaptation of Rebecca. Charles Dance stars as the aristocratic Maxim de Winter, widower of the glamorous Rebecca. The exciting new actress Emilia Fox plays Maxim's naive second wife, whom he meets in Monte Carlo where she is companion to the flamboyant socialite Mrs. Van Hopper, played with unrivaled panache by Faye Dunaway.

And in a riveting performance, Dame Diana Rigg stars as the sinister head housekeeper of Manderley, Mrs. Danvers, devoted to her dead mistress in ways the novel's original fans can scarcely have imagined.

A modern classic since its publication in 1938, Rebecca is perhaps best known from the Alfred Hitchcock film starring Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, and Dame Judith Anderson. Though it won an Academy Award for best picture in 1940, when it was hailed as "an impeccably crafted Gothic love story...unsurpassed as a mystery romance," Hitchcock's first American film still does not do full justice to the psychological depth and sexual energy of du Maurier's extraordinary characters.

But now, at almost twice the length of the Hollywood version, Masterpiece Theatre's Rebecca thoroughly probes the passion, deceit, and terror at the heart of the book.

Rebecca tells the story of a young woman who unwittingly enters a labyrinth of horror that threatens to destroy her. Each turn takes her deeper into the mystery of her drowned predecessor and her own relationship with the moody and enigmatic Maxim. Du Maurier's genius is to meld the forms of gothic romance and suspense thriller in a completely convincing way.

The cast is unusually well-suited to the challenge. Charles Dance -- familiar to Masterpiece Theatre viewers as the dashing English intelligence officer Guy Peron in The Jewel in the Crown (Jewel co-star Geraldine James also appears in Rebecca as Maxim's loquacious sister) -- has played acclaimed leading-man roles opposite Meryl Streep (Plenty), Helen Mirren (Pascali's Island), Greta Scacchi (White Mischief), and Sigourney Weaver (Alien 3), not to mention leading villain opposite Eddie Murphy (Golden Child) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Last Action Hero).

Like the ingenue she portrays in Rebecca, Emilia Fox finds herself suddenly thrust into the big time -- deservedly so -- landing not only the role of the second Mrs. de Winter (the most celebrated heroine in literature with no first name) but also clinching the part of Anya in the latest Royal Shakespeare Company staging of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard. Jane Austen fans will recognize Fox as Darcy's sister in the recent production of Pride & Prejudice.

Legendary in Britain, where she was made a dame in 1994, Diana Rigg is also justly celebrated in the United States, where she won a Tony for her role as Medea on Broadway and was recently seen as Moll's mother in the highly rated adaptation of Moll Flanders on Masterpiece Theatre. She is currently starring in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? on the London stage.

Herself an acting legend, Faye Dunaway has appeared in more than 40 feature films, including an Oscar-winning performance in Network and Oscar nominations for starring roles in Bonnie and Clyde and Chinatown. She is currently being lauded for her role as Maria Callas in Master Class.

Rebecca also features Jonathan Cake, well known on British stage and television, as the rakish Jack Favell, cousin of Rebecca, who at a crucial point in the story makes a shocking accusation.

Rebecca is a Portman, Carlton, and WGBH co-production in association with Germany's Tele-münchen. It is produced by Hilary Heath (An Awfully Big Adventure) and directed by Jim O'Brien (The Jewel in the Crown, The Monocled Mutineer). The executive producers are Jonathan Powell for Carlton, Tim Buxton for Portman, and Rebecca Eaton for WGBH.

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