A few hours after Peter O’Toole’s death was announced, Joan Fontaine’s death was also made public.
Fontaine, the younger sister of Olivia de Havilland, is best known for her breakout role in Rebecca (’40). Notice, the character she played is nameless. She is merely The Girl. Crushed by a life of diminishing expectations The Girl steps into a marriage and a mansion that bring oppressive psychological tensions to new heights. Fontaine, blessed with aristocratic beauty, turns herself into a hunched victim, assaulted by the mad Mrs. Danvers and the ghost of Rebecca, never seen, but always present.
Maureen O’Hara claims that Hitchcock first offered the role to her, but she had to decline because she was already committed to Hunchback of Notre Dame. Hitchcock considered Vivien Leigh, Margaret Sullavan, Anne Baxter, and Loretta Young. But David O. Selznick was smitten with Fontaine and convinced Hitch to go with her.
Fontaine, scared to death by the role, by Hitchcock, and a hostile leading man, Laurence Olivier, played the nameless character to a pitch of uncertain perfection.
[Read more…] about In Memoriam: Joan Fontaine, 1917 – 2013
We continue our series of the Twenty Greatest Movies of each decade. Here are our our picks for the last five great movies of the 1940’s.
16. Notorious, 1946. No American actor has tampered with his own charming image more successfully than Cary Grant. In Only Angels Have Wings (1939) he is the tough boss of a suicidal jungle mail service. In Suspicion (1941) one is forced to ask: Is Grant playing his usually charming self but capable of cold-blooded murder? In None But the Lonely Heart (1944) a film I loathe, Grant convincingly plays a Cockney tough with mother issues. And in Notorious, Hitchcock, who understood Grant’s image better than any other director, cast Grant as a sexually repressed government agent who recruits bad girl Ingrid Bergman, daughter of a convicted Nazi spy. Grant’s dark side is brilliantly exploited as his character initially treats Bergman with contempt but gradually falls in love with the damaged, vulnerable beauty. Notorious succeeds, not because of the plot—tedious spy stuff—but because the love story is central and brilliantly convincing.