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What do you think of "My Cousin Rachel (1952)"?


FredCDobbs
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SPOILERS.....................

 

 

 

 

I've been waiting for years to see this whole film, and I saw it today on YouTube. I think TCM has shown it before, but I've always missed it.

 

Anyway, I don't like this film at all.

 

What could have been a very good romantic mystery was merely a series of flip-flop tricks of the screenwriter and director, designed to confuse the audience and change the whole "plot" of the film every 15 minutes, right up until the very end, and beyond the end.

 

I'll never watch it again.

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MORE SPOILERS.........

 

 

 

Here is what New York Times reviewer, BOSLEY CROWTHER, wrote about it in 1952:

 

 

“For Miss du Maurier's story, which has been masterfully mounted and staged by Producer Nunnally Johnson, Director Henry Koster and Twentieth Century-Fox, is perforce a dubious quantity, so far as its ultimate effect is concerned, it being in essence a mystery that is never remotely solved.”

 

 

This is exactly correct. The film has no ending, no solid ending, a mystery that is never solved and it is designed that way, that is, to have no ending. And this is not very satisfying. It would be like ending REBECCA when the new Mrs. DeWinter faints at the public hearing, with no conclusion to the film.

 

Crowther also said this:

 

This impulse of ambiguity, which runs all the way through the film and endows it with constant fascination and uninhibited suspense, considerably obliterates the effect when it crashes against the stone wall of the author's deliberate admission of inconclusiveness. And as one searches back through the complex of personality revelations and clues, one finds that the story is little but a package of deceptions and tricks.

 

Hey! That’s exactly what I said in my first post..... “flip-flop tricks” is the term I used.

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MORE SPOILERS.........

 

 

 

Here is what New York Times reviewer, BOSLEY CROWTHER, wrote about it in 1952:

 

 

“For Miss du Maurier's story, which has been masterfully mounted and staged by Producer Nunnally Johnson, Director Henry Koster and Twentieth Century-Fox, is perforce a dubious quantity, so far as its ultimate effect is concerned, it being in essence a mystery that is never remotely solved.”

 

 

This is exactly correct. The film has no ending, no solid ending, a mystery that is never solved and it is designed that way, that is, to have no ending. And this is not very satisfying. It would be like ending REBECCA when the new Mrs. DeWinter faints at the public hearing, with no conclusion to the film.

 

Crowther also said this:

 

This impulse of ambiguity, which runs all the way through the film and endows it with constant fascination and uninhibited suspense, considerably obliterates the effect when it crashes against the stone wall of the author's deliberate admission of inconclusiveness. And as one searches back through the complex of personality revelations and clues, one finds that the story is little but a package of deceptions and tricks.

 

Hey! That’s exactly what I said in my first post..... “flip-flop tricks” is the term I used.

 

Well the film is designed to give the audience the same feeling the Burden character has in the movie;  confusion as it relates to Rachel.  

 

It appears the director was successful in that goal.    Burden's character was driven nuts and so were many in the audience!

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Hi James,

 

Rachael had no reason to hide the laburnum seeds in an envelope in a locked drawer of her room, except to use as poison to kill Philip. Since there were laburnum trees growing on the estate, and also growing on her estate in Italy, she had no reason to hide the seeds in her room except to kill Philip.

 

Another plot flaw as that Philip signed over his entire estate to her, before she agreed to marry him and before they had time to get married. Nobody does this except a crazy guy. The laburnum doses were making him crazy just like they had made Ambrose crazy.

 

In a more realistic situation, she should have married him and then poisoned him, and the entire estate would have been hers.

 

She kept making him think she was in love with him, until after he had turned over the estate to her, and then she no longer needed him and didn't need to poison him.

 

There was no mystery at the end of the film, except for the one the author tried to push off on us in a fraudulent manner.

 

=====================
 

PS This film should have had a more solid ending, such as REBECCA did. It should have made it absolutely clear that Rebeca did try to poison Philip, and that he realized it at the end, and that he was sorry she died, but he was more sorry she had tried to kill him, since he loved her so much.

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Hi James,

 

Rachael had no reason to hide the laburnum seeds in an envelope in a locked drawer of her room, except to use as poison to kill Philip. Since there were laburnum trees growing on the estate, and also growing on her estate in Italy, she had no reason to hide the seeds in her room except to kill Philip.

 

Another plot flaw as that Philip signed over his entire estate to her, before she agreed to marry him and before they had time to get married. Nobody does this except a crazy guy. The laburnum doses were making him crazy just like they had made Ambrose crazy.

 

In a more realistic situation, she should have married him and then poisoned him, and the entire estate would have been hers.

 

She kept making him think she was in love with him, until after he had turned over the estate to her, and then she no longer needed him and didn't need to poison him.

 

There was no mystery at the end of the film, except for the one the author tried to push off on us in a fraudulent manner.

 

Philp signing over the estate is one of the mosts over the top plot devices in movie history.    There was no reason for him to do so.

 

If he married her she would have use of the entire estate and his riches by being his wife.    But as you noted that is just one of the unrealistic situations in the movie. 

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I read the book by Daphne du Maurier that the movie is based on and agreed with a lot of what everyone has been saying - it was not as good as Rebecca and I found it immensely frustrating that you never find out if Rachel had poisoned Ambrose and was trying to poison Philip.  That said, I liked the movie. It was faithful to the book, Olivia de Havilland was good as Rachel, and Richard Burton, in his first Hollywood movie, gave what I thought was one of his better performances.

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I read the book many years ago and saw the film, which is quite close to the book.  The book's ending is ambiguous; we never really learn whether Rachel is a murderess.  I think that in some ways, the book is more "modern" than Rebecca because today's audiences are more comfortable with ambiguity -- for instance, the movie "Doubt" in which we are never sure whether the priest was actually a child abuser.  I believe the film is a successful adaptation of the book; to give it a more resolved ending is unfair to the author's intent.

 

By the way, if you've read "Rebecca," Maxim deliberately killed Rebecca; it wasn't an accident.  So, you have our sweet, shy heroine ending up with a man who killed his first wife.....

 

DeMaurier's better stuff has more ambiguity and twists than most of the films based on her work, except for may Frenchman's Creek, which is rubbish (both as a book and as a film).

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I read the book many years ago and saw the film, which is quite close to the book.  The book's ending is ambiguous; we never really learn whether Rachel is a murderess.  I think that in some ways, the book is more "modern" than Rebecca because today's audiences are more comfortable with ambiguity -- for instance, the movie "Doubt" in which we are never sure whether the priest was actually a child abuser.  I believe the film is a successful adaptation of the book; to give it a more resolved ending is unfair to the author's intent.

 

By the way, if you've read "Rebecca," Maxim deliberately killed Rebecca; it wasn't an accident.  So, you have our sweet, shy heroine ending up with a man who killed his first wife.....

 

DeMaurier's better stuff has more ambiguity and twists than most of the films based on her work, except for may Frenchman's Creek, which is rubbish (both as a book and as a film).

 

Rebecca would have been a more nuanced movie if Maxim was hanged for commiting murder and with the sweet, shy heroine having to go back to her old life.    But hey,  I'm not feeling very romantic today! 

 

As for Rachel;  I don't mind that we don't know if she was a murderer or not.   What bugs me about the film is the Burden character acting like a 12 year old having his first crush.     How does he come off in the book?   e.g.  does he really sign over the house and all that came with it to Rachel before he even knows if she will marry him?    

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Rebecca would have been a more nuanced movie if Maxim was hanged for commiting murder and with the sweet, shy heroine having to go back to her old life.    But hey,  I'm not feeling very romantic today! 

 

As for Rachel;  I don't mind that we don't know if she was a murderer or not.   What bugs me about the film is the Burden character acting like a 12 year old having his first crush.     How does he come off in the book?   e.g.  does he really sign over the house and all that came with it to Rachel before he even knows if she will marry him?    

 

From what I remember of the book, that is what the character was like.  Apart from omitting a few of Ambrose's letters to Philip, the movie was incredibly faithful to the book. 

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