|My Cousin Rachel (1952)
Run time: Approved | 98 min | Mystery, Romance, Drama
Director: Henry Koster
Writers: Nunnally Johnson, Daphne Du Maurier
Stars: Olivia de Havilland, Richard Burton, Audrey Dalton
A fascinating suspense tale, based on Daphne du Maurier’s novel, about a young man who sets out to prove that his cousin is a treacherous woman and ends up hopelessly in love with her.
An eerie tale, brilliantly cast.
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This film, based on the Daphne du Maurier’s novel is practically unknown, as it appears to have been forgotten; it never turns on reruns, but it’s worth a look nevertheless.
"My Cousin Rachel" was directed by Henry Koster, based on the adaptation by Nunnally Johnson, who did a good job in creating the right atmosphere for the film. The great cinematography of Joseph LaShelle enhances what the director set out to do in more ways than he probably imagined. Mr. LaShelle was one of the most elegant cinematographers of that era. Just look at his seascapes to appreciate his art.
This film marks the beginning of Richard Burton’s career in the American Cinema. While it was not his first film, the actor brought such an intensity to his role that earned an acting nomination for best supporting actor. He should have been nominated as the best actor, since his role is the whole movie!
Olivia DeHavilland makes an excellent Rachel, at times loving, at others sly and calculating. She had a special beauty. Her eyes express a lot in her close ups. Ms. DeHavilland was totally convincing in her take of this woman who comes back to claim her inheritance when everything is taken away from her.
The rest of the cast is good as they play in ensemble fashion. Audrey Dalton makes a lovely Louise, the loyal friend. Also John Sutton, who unfortunately doesn’t stay around too long to make justice of his role of Ambrose.
As a Gothic mystery, this film will not disappoint.
If Gothic romance is your thing, you won't find a more absorbing and intriguing tale than this adaptation of Daphne DuMaurier's best-selling novel, MY COUSIN RACHEL. Not only is the atmosphere completely realized, but the elegant performances make the story even more compelling to watch as it unfolds a tale of possible murder and cunning deceit. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards for best costumes, B&W cinematography, art decoration and Burton's supporting role performance (which is actually a leading role).
RICHARD BURTON cuts a fine figure as the romantic hero of the piece–brooding, intense and passionate, reminding one of Heathcliff in the Bronte novel, "Wuthering Heights." He's an angry and impressionable youth who intends to accuse his cousin of murder based on his suspicious nature, but instead falls wildly in love with her the instant they meet.
OLIVIA DE HAVILLAND matches Burton scene by scene, her charming manners and poise as a woman of the world understandably provoking his interest. At first, he assumes she wants to claim her inheritance when she visits Cornwall. But soon he is able to see her in a different light and when he falls in love with her, he decides to leave his entire inheritance to her on his 25th birthday. It is then that the story becomes even more compelling when the ambiguous nature of Rachel comes at long last to the surface.
Franz Waxman has written a very dramatic and powerful background score that adds dimension to the Gothic tale that begins when a boy and his guardian walk across the moors and come to a gibbet where a man is hanging. "Always remember, Philip, death is the price for murder." And that's how the film's brief prologue begins.
It's richly scored, well directed by Henry Koster and features two outstanding performances from Olivia de Havilland and Richard Burton. Equally fine are John Sutton as Rachel's ill-fated husband, Audrey Dalton, Ronald Squire and George Dolenz.
Despite the ambiguous ending, it's an absorbing tale that is satisfying in its execution
Although I greatly admire Olivia de Havilland in this role, I must confess that as Rachel, it's my opinion she's guilty. It is hardly honorable for any woman to play twosome, leading on a young man by responding to his advances, accepting the offer of his jewelry and later his estate, THEN conveniently discarding him or any serious thought of a bond between them — well, that's a calculated play if ever there was one! She does it with such finesse however that one can only guess what is really in her heart. Anyways, it backs up the theory that if anyone is too nice or too good to be true, they probably are not true.
Richard Burton in this highly dramatic role of the young, impetuous heir, Philip, can only stand to gain our sympathy as he impulsively casts his worldly goods upon the altar of Love where Rachel resides. Such a one-sided gesture can only prove fatal in the long run, but burning Youth will have its way and learn a most difficult lesson by it.
I find it a riveting, wonderful drama well acted, well casted too. I regret John Sutton, as Ambrose, has such a brief part to play and wished he'd been included throughout, but that's not the course of the storyline unfortunately. This is a movie I appreciate seeing whenever I can. Wish there were more like it today.
This masterful, complex mystery story between a younger man and older woman deals with the very modern issues of trust in relationships, and how well you can know someone. This film was made long before I was born, but for any DuMaurier fan, it is a gift. It is no wonder that Daphne DuMaurier's books were so often made as films, with her combination of romance, mystery and mistrust that marked all of her work… it remains potent.
It is a shame that this Oscar nominated film has become all but lost. While this is a dark story, shot appropriately in noir/Gothic shadows, most video versions available (and bootleg DVDS) seem to be from time-darkened versions. How I long for this to be digitally remastered and made available in a really good DVD.
Obviously this film was recognized at the time it was made. Time has unfortunately underrated it, as I believe DeHavilland has also become underrated. The qualities that are valued in today's leading GIRL roles, flashy, young, trash talking, have no value for the pleasant, understated nuanced womanliness DeHavilland brought to this role. Her performance here is an acting lesson for film, especially as this role required the difficult job of balancing the audiences doubts about whether she is good or bad.
Burton's acting is a lesson too, in film intensity. He is much better here than in many of his later performances where he seems to have studied his pout a bit too much. This, and his role as George in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" are among his best work.
This is a must-see for anyone interested in acting, and complex, nuanced film story telling.