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REBECCA – Franz Waxman

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

David O. Selznick was captivated by the 1938 novel Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, a romantic psychological thriller, which he was determined to bring to the big screen. He purchased the film rights for $50,000, took on producing the film, and tasked Alfred Hitchcock to direct – his debut film in America. The screenplay was written by Robert Sherwood and Joan Harrison with adaptation by Philip MacDonald and Michael Hogan. Selznick insisted that the film remain faithful to the novel, and friction occurred when he overruled a number of changes made by Hitchcock. Selznick’s initial choices for the lead roles were Ronald Coleman and Carole Lombard, but both declined. Nevertheless a stellar cast was assembled, which included Joan Fontaine as the second Mrs. De Winter, Laurence Olivier as Maxim de Winter, Judith Anderson as the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, George Sanders as Jack Favell, Reginald Denny as Frank Crawley, and C. Aubrey Smith as Colonel Julyan.

The story reveals a young woman (Joan Fontaine) on holiday in the French Riviera who crosses paths with a recently widowed English aristocrat, Maxim de Winter. He is attracted to her, and they spend time together, which eventually leads to a marriage proposal that she accepts. When they return from their honeymoon to Manderley, his grand estate in Cornwall, she is overwhelmed. Soon it becomes clear that Rebecca, the first wife, continues to be omnipresent over the household, revered by her devoted servant Mrs. Danvers who meticulously maintains her bedroom as though she was still alive. Mrs. Danvers takes every opportunity to undermine and humiliate the new Mrs. De Winter, telling her that she will never replace Rebecca and even encourages her to commit suicide. All comes to a head when the body of Rebecca is found in a sunken boat, and Maxim confesses that his marriage with Rebecca was a sham. He relates that she rejected him for other men and would only assume the role of wife for appearances. When she declared that she was pregnant an argument ensued, which lead to her falling, striking her head and dying. To avoid a scandal, he took her body out to sea on a boat, scuttled it, and then identified another body as Rebecca’s for the funeral.

Rebecca’s lover Jack Favell uses the body’s discovery to blackmail Maxim into a payoff to remain silent. When Maxim goes to the police for assistance, they initially suspect him as a murderer, yet an autopsy reveals that Rebecca was dying from advanced cancer and they rule her death a suicide. When they return home, they find it ablaze, set aflame by the deranged Mrs. Danvers who dies as it collapses on her. The final shot reveals Rebecca’s ‘R’ monogrammed nightdress case being consumed by flames. The film was a massive commercial success, earning $6 million, more than three times its production cost of $1.29 million. It also received universal critical acclaim, securing an astounding eleven Academy Award nominations including; Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Sound Effects, Best Film Score, Best Actor in a Leading Role and Best Actress in a Leading Role, winning two awards for Best Picture and Best Cinematography.

Selznick’s initial choice for composer was Max Steiner, but time constraints and overruns with his other film “Gone With The Wind” forced him to seek alternatives. He secured Franz Waxman with a loan out from MGM Studios, who had him under contract. Selznick had a favorable impression of him as their earlier collaboration on The Young At Heart in 1938 had secured Waxman an Oscar nomination for Best Score. Yet Waxman could not begin work on the score as Hitchcock was weeks behind schedule, did not have a final edited version of the film, and was also writing for MGM productions as well as a back-up score to “Gone With The Wind”! Eventually Waxman got the edited reels and the rest is history. Waxman understood the challenge of scoring the film and related:

“When Mr. Selznick assigned me to write the score for the film, I was faced with a peculiar problem. The complexity and nature of the plot made it necessary to lean heavily upon music. …Rebecca, the real dominant character of the story, is dead – in actuality she never appears in the scenes, yet the entire drama resolves around her. Through the speech and action of others, and particularly through the use of music, her character with all its powerful effects, had to be revealed to the audience. For this reason, in composing the film score, I first wrote the main theme for picture representing Rebecca. It had to be a theme of sophisticated and haunting quality, which could be adapted on the screen, it was up to the music to give Rebecca’s character life and presence.”

The manner in which Waxman achieved this was brilliant in its conception. He chose to use the usual and familiar sounds of the acoustic orchestra for the live characters. However, for Rebecca, he juxtaposed her theme by emoting it with a non-acoustic “ghost orchestra”, which achieved a not of this world ambiance through use of an electric organ, and two polyphonic Novachords – the prototype of the modern synthesizer. Waxman provided ten themes for his score. First and foremost was Rebecca’s Theme, which serves as her identity. It offers a mysterious, intangible, haunting and surreal articulation, which perfectly captures her essence. Most interesting is how her theme is transformed at a crucial scene in the film. Waxman relates:

“When Rebecca’s successor learns about the true character of the dead mistress of Manderley – at this moment the theme, which so far has been given a haunting and almost lovely interpretation, turns suddenly vicious, revealing the true character of Rebecca, now played by the real orchestra in a dramatic and almost sinister form, ascending to the climax of the picture.”

The Manderley Theme supports the grand estate of Maxim de Winter. It unfolds with a classic restrained English regality. Notable is that its expression is minor modal and triadic in form, which imparts somber auras – a residual and intangible pall of sadness left by Rebecca’s departure. Maxim’s Theme offers a simple descending line, which speak to his psychic burden of Rebecca, and the resultant melancholia. The Love Theme supports the romance of Maxim and the second Mrs. De Winter (the author du Maurier purposely never revealed her name in the novel). It is string born, and full of yearning as it emotes from our heroine’s perspective. The Heroine Theme serves as the identity of the second Mrs. De Winter. Waxman conceived a simple, tender and unassuming melody, which perfectly captured her sweet nature. Danvers’ Theme supports our villain. Waxman understood the potency and unshakable bond between Rebecca and her dutiful servant, and so offers an articulation of her theme, which is kindred to Rebecca’s. While its phrasing by plaintive woodwinds is similar, lost are the fullness and harmonies, which imparts a starkness and coldness to her theme. Frank’s Theme is carried by warm strings and woodwinds tenero, which reflect his friendly and unpretentious nature. The Happiness Theme is a secondary theme linked to our heroine and utilized for scenes where she feels happy with the world. It emotes with a child-like innocence abounding with a joie de vivre. Ben’s Theme offers a bleak descending bassoon line, which is kindred to Rebecca’s Theme in that it is associated with her death. Lastly, we have the Sea Theme, which supports the restless waters off the Manderley estate. Blaring horns drammatico and restless strings speak to us of the surging waters that crash on the rocky shores.

The film opens grandly with Steiner’s famous fanfare for Selznick International. We flow into “Main Title”, which supports the roll of the opening credits. Dire horns and scurrying strings unsettle, yet give way to the film’s title, which is warmly supported by a grand and sumptuous rendering of the Love Theme. At 1:32 we flow into “Foreword”, a score highlight of exquisite beauty. It supports narration by Joan Fontaine relating her feeling towards the burned ruins of the austere Manderley estate. Waxman introduces his Manderley Theme carried by a somber solo English horn draped with harp adornment. The transfer of the melodic line to strings tenero, then solo flute before returning to the English horn is wondrous. A plaintive pastorale unfolds as we walk the overgrown paths bathed with ethereal light beams radiating through the drifting morning mists of the Manderley estate grounds. At 3:20 we change scenes to the imposing cliffs of southern France carried ever upwards by the haunting mystery of Rebecca’s Theme, which sow disquiet with dire horns and squealing discordant woodwinds. A dire crescendo carry us to Maxim who stands at cliff’s edge, as he slowly steps forward to his doom. At 3:59 a tentative solo clarinet and tremolo violins emote a portentous Love Theme, which support the arrival of Fontaine’s character. She startles him, earns a formal rebuke and as she leaves, we see a nascent attraction to her in his eyes, and a reconsideration of his actions. We close at 4:21 with a reprise of the Manderley Theme, which carries Maxim’s departure back to the hotel.

In “Hotel Lobby” Maximillian meets the insufferable socialite Mrs. Edythe Van Hopper and her companion (Joan Fontaine). He stops, joins them for coffee and endures her unending twaddle to better acquaint himself to Fontaine’s character. For the scene Waxman provides a graceful valzer gentile, which he renders in classic ABA form. For 2:37 minutes it creates the perfect ambiance without intruding into the dialogue. “Brunch” reveals Fontaine’s character accepting Maxim’s offer to join him for brunch. We see he is attracted to her and she finally relaxes and begins to warm to his charm. Waxman again supports the scene with a Viennese waltz, which provides a perfect unobtrusive ambiance. The music for this scene is not found on the album. In “Terrace Scene” we see “Fontaine” sketching Maxim on a terrace. We open on ethereal harp, which introduces the Love Theme born by solo clarinet. It is emoted from Maxim’s perspective, not hers as her feeling towards him are still nascent. At 0:23 comic woodwinds support his seeing an unflattering portrayal of his nose. As she discovers that the Manderley House she once saw was his, he speaks at 0:35 of his life there. Max’s Theme carried by a descending line by strings doloroso with harp adornment reveal the emptiness of his life. At 0:56 grim horns usher in the Manderley Theme, which entwines with his theme as his storytelling continues. She begins speaking of her love of swimming, but at 1:58 impassioned strings ascend as he walks away when she mentions a man drowned off shore the other day. At 2:14 we close on the Heroine Theme on solo oboe delicato as we see ‘Fontaine’ rejoining Edythe in hotel their room. It entwines with Maxim’s Theme when Edythe mentions that Max is a broken man since he lost his wife.

In “Tennis Montage I” comic, playful woodwinds bubble as Edythe teases ‘Fontaine’s’ plans for tennis. The string born Happiness Theme carries her to the lobby where she meets Maxim, who dissuades her from tennis so she may go for a drive with him. At 0:29 we shift to their drive in the country, supported with interpolation of Waxman’s sprightly music from “The Young At Heart” at Selznick’s insistence. Upon returning to the hotel at 0:50, a happy rendering of the Heroine Theme carries her back to the hotel room. We end comically with mischievous woodwinds as Edythe pens a letter to Maxim calling him naughty for avoiding her. “Tennis Montage II” offers a wonderful romantic cue, which reveals ‘Fontaine’ again skipping tennis to spend time with Maxim. We see them dancing supported by a Fox Trot rendered as a danza romantico. We see alight in her eyes that love has awakened in her, and this is born in the notes. At 0:33 a comic interlude the next day reveals Edythe warning ‘Fontaine’ that this will be her last tennis lesson as she needs to return to her duties. Later as they drive in the country the Fox Trot returns and supports their journey. The moment is broken at 2:54 by a woodwind descent, which usher’s in the plaintive Maxim’s Theme when she asks him why is spending time with her. He states that he is not spending his time with her out of kindness and asks her to leave if she does not believe him. She cries, supported by a sad rendering of her theme, yet a tender kiss to her forehead reconciles them empowered by a blossoming of the Love Theme.

In “Departure” Edythe learns of her daughter’s engagement and orders “Fontaine’ to pack for an immediate return to New York. ‘Fontaine’ is frantic to reach Maxim and as she tries to phone him, we hear fragmentary phrases of her theme and the Love Theme. Unable to reach him, she creates a ruse to reenter the hotel and races up to Maxim’s room carried by her theme. The music for the scenes is not found on the album. In “Proposal Scene” all pretenses are dropped as Maxim responds to the news of her departure by offering her two choices – to return to New York with Edythe or return to Manderley with him. When she asks would she return as his secretary, he says no, as my wife. Music enters with Maxim’s Theme as he proposes, joined at 0:16 by the Love Theme as she absorbs what he said, and then happily agrees. At 1:27 the Happiness Theme celebrates her joy with an exposition led by solo violin. We close comically atop woodwinds as Maxim informs a stunned Edythe of their engagement. “Marriage” opens grimly with Edythe departing and questioning her fitness to take on the role of mistress of Manderley. At 0:07 the Love Theme supports their marriage interrupted at 0:27 by a Jewish wedding interlude on woodwinds as another wedding party crosses their path. A very high register woodwind descent at 0:37 supports the minister dropping their marriage certificate, which they left, from the second story window. The return of the Jewish wedding music at 0:47 was excised from the editing scene and we close on a sumptuous exposition of the Love Theme as Maxim presents her with a bouquet of flowers and they depart. “Arrival At Manderley” reveals the two riding in an open air car through the gates of the estate. Waxman supports with Love Theme rendered as a traveling motif. Slowly we commence a stirring crescendo, which climaxes at 1:01 with a grand statement of the Manderley Theme as Mrs. De Winter beholds the manor house in all its glory. A diminuendo usher in at 1:30 a new melody abounding with optimism as they arrive in a rainstorm and are taken into the manor supported by faux fanfare.

“Mrs. Danvers (original version)” offers Waxman’s original conception, which he was told to change by Selznick. Mrs. Danvers’ Theme is prominent as this offers our first introduction to her, however Selznick believed that at this point of the story it was best to keep her subtle and lurking as it was too soon in the narrative for her (and her music) to overtly challenge the new bride. As such the film version channels the Rebecca Theme, which lingers omnipresent in all that is the manor. In the film version Mrs. Danvers joins Mrs. De Winter in her bedroom in the east tower. She informs her that this was not the original Mrs. De Winter’s room and that she has been running the manor since the arrival of the first bride. She escorts Mrs. De Winter downstairs to the dining room, pausing at the grand entrance to the former Mrs. De Winter’s bedroom, guarded by the dog Jasper. Waxman provides subtle unease with his soundscape with occasional intangible references of the Rebecca Theme. De Winter’s efforts to be pleasant and deferential to Danvers are genuine as she wants to belong, but we do not see reciprocity from Danvers. In Waxman’s original version De Winter is sitting in her bedroom. We open with Danvers’ Theme even though she has yet to arrive. At 0:36 refulgent strings ascend as she hears a knock on the door and calls for Maxim to come in, only to discover it is Mrs. Danvers. As they talk Danvers’ Theme supports on dark woodwinds mysterioso. At 1:37 the Heroine’s Theme joins yet makes no headway with Danvers. They depart carried by Danvers’ Theme until 2:18 when we have a grand refulgent ascent, which supports the imposing double doors of the first Rebeccca’s bedroom suite. Yet a diminuendo of uncertainty follows as they descend the staircase and we see the Jasper standing vigil. In “Dinner” de Winter sits down for her first dinner at Manderley and Waxman supports the elegant dining with slow marcia pomposa interpolated from Max Steiner’s “Pomp and Pageantry” cue from “Little Lord Fauntleroy”. The music for this scene is not found on the album.

“A New Day” reveals de Winter meeting Frank Crawley, manager of the de Winter estate in the dining room. Her theme and his warm theme rendered on strings join in this pleasant first meeting. As he departs with Maxim her happy theme carries the moment as she checks out the food and decides to only have coffee. As she departs the butler Frith escorts her out to the grand room, whose history he explains. He departs and as she travels to the library, Rebecca’s Theme is carried in on the wind through the open windows as a mysterioso. She is cold and when Frith joins her, he advises that a warm fire awaits in the Morning Room. He states that this is where the first Mrs. De Winter’s spent her mornings, and as she walks, she is carried by her theme. As she goes through the former wife’s address book Rebecca’s Theme fills the room. After a botched phone call a grim Mrs. Danvers enters carried by her theme. Danvers’ departure reveals that de Winter is unsettled, which Waxman supports with a foreboding soundscape. In a new scene Maxim’s sister Beatrice arrives with her husband Nigel. Beatrice unsettles de Winter when she relates that Danvers’ is most likely jealous of her as she adored Rebecca. The revelation is punctuated by a bold statement of Rebecca’s Theme. Later as they lunch, spritely music animates the conversation as Nigel interrogates de Winter. The moment is shattered by a grim statement of Rebecca’s Theme when he brings up sailing, which clearly unsettles Maxim. Later as they depart, we see that de Winter and Beatrice have bonded, yet we close darkly on Rebecca’s Theme when she brings up how happy they seem, realizing what happened to Rebecca. Music for these multiple scenes are not found on the album.

“Walk to the Beach” features the Happiness Theme, which darkens and becomes ominous. Maxim takes de Winter on a stroll to the beach and a bubbly rendering of the Happiness Theme full of the joie de vie carries their progress. She wants to see the boathouse, but this unsettles Maxim. When Jasper the dog runs away de Winter runs after him against Maxim’s wishes. He is now very unsettled and the articulation of the Happiness Theme slows and darkens as she follows Jasper to the door of the boat house. We close with the ominous bassoon of Ben’s Theme as the door slowly opens to reveal Ben, a beach hermit. In “The Boathouse” Ben recognizes the dog and de Winter asks for rope to fashion a lease. She walks in and finds the interior full of dust and cobwebs. Her entry is punctuated with repeating wailing statements of Rebecca’s Theme, which is sovereign over this domain. She is unsettled, finds a piece of rope, leashes Jasper and makes her way back to the stairs pursued by Rebecca’s Theme for her transgression. “Coming Back from Boathouse” reveals de Winter hastily walking back to the staircase pursued ominously by Rebecca’s Theme, which has grown menacing. She is frightened when she reaches the stairs only to find Maxim has left her. As she ascends the stairs a tortured rendering of her theme carries her upwards entwining with Rebecca’s Theme as she runs after Maxim. When she catches him, she finds him angry, more so when she admits she entered the boathouse. He is clearly plagued by memories associated by the boathouse and Rebecca’s Theme now dominates. Yet as she hugs him and confesses her love, Rebecca’s Theme dissipates, supplanted by the Love Theme, which unites them in love. Yet we end darkly as the handkerchief he hands her to dry her tears reveals Rebecca’s red emblem R.

In “de Winter and Frank” she queries Frank about the boathouse, Rebecca’s death and how he would describe her. Waxman supports the conversation with interplay of de Winter’s, Franks’s and Rebecca’s Themes. His theme’s expression is warm, welcoming and sincere, while de Winter’s is tender and genuine, and Rebecca’s Theme, subtle and intangible. The music finds a perfect confluence with the narrative of this scene. Unfortunately, this music is not found on the album. “An Evening Gone Wrong” reveals de Winter selecting a formal evening gown from a fashion magazine supported by sparkling strings adorned with harp glissandi. She enters the study carried by her embellished theme, yet instead of receiving a compliment, Maxim instead asks “What have you done to yourself?” He recovers, yet the damage has been done as we hear her theme deflate and become plaintive on a solo violin. They begin watching film of their honeymoon only to be interrupted by Frith who relates to a disagreement between Mrs. Danvers and Robert regarding a stolen cupid porcelain. When de Winter admits she broke the statue she is rebuked by Maxim and diminished before Mrs. Danvers. She admits that she may not be up to the role and asks him if he is happy with her. When he demurs, she is devastated. When he apologizes, saying he is difficult to live with, the film resumes revealing them happy and kissing on their honeymoon. The Love Theme blossoms and all is forgotten as the savor the sweet times. The music for this scene is not found on the album. In “Maxim’s Business Trip” de Winter reads a note from him that he has taken a day trip to London. She is forlorn and lonely and a plaintive rendering of her theme emotes this loneliness. As she looks out her bedroom window, a ghostly Rebecca’s Theme sounds as she sees Mrs. Danvers opening the windows of Rebecca’s bedroom. She is curious but hides behind a door when she hears voices. She is startled when a flirtatious Jack Favell speaks to her from an open window. Her invitation for tea is waved off by Mrs. Danvers and as he departs, he unsettles de Winter by stating he was Rebecca’s favorite cousin. The music for this scene is not found on the album.

Mrs. Danvers has disappeared and we see determination in de Winter’s eyes. “Rebecca’s Room” offers the score’s most poignant cue, a testament to Waxman’s mastery of his craft, and one of the greatest cues in his canon. A dark and ghostly tremolo is joined by plucked harp ascents, which carries de Winter up the stairs to Rebecca’s bedroom. As she enters the beautifully adorned room at 0:44 an ethereal rendering of Rebecca’s Theme envelops her. Throughout the scene a string tremolo perpetuo unnerves, but also, agitates. A harp glissando at 0:57 supports her opening the curtains to light up the room. Carried by her theme, Mrs. Danvers joins her and begins speaking of Rebecca. At 1:17 a stunning and resplendent harp glissando supports her pulling back massive drapes, which dazzles and illuminates the massive bedroom. As she relates her devotion to Rebecca, she reveals and caresses her clothes. She relates how she meticulously maintains everything as it was, even the perfectly ordered underwear drawers. We hear Rebecca’s Theme transformed, its articulation now sensual and emanating clearly from Danvers’ perspective. Interplay between Danvers’ and Rebecca’s Theme entwine as de Winter becomes increasingly unsettled. As a vacant staring Danvers relates her devotion to Rebecca, we hear statements of Rebecca’s Theme by a plaintive cello and then grieving violin adorned with metallic twinkling and harp glissandi. When Danvers’s shows her and caresses her night gown de Winter can take no more and dramatic crescendo at 5:35 carries her out to the massive doors. As Danvers relates that she believes Rebecca returns to watch de Winter and Maxim, Rebecca’s Theme resumes its ghostly articulation. A ghastly and frightening crescendo commences at 6:48, which drives the now terrified de Winter from the room. We close with an eerie diminuendo from which rises an ominous coda of Danvers’ Theme.

“The New Mrs. De Winter” opens dramatically with shots of crashing waves supported by the powerful horns and restless strings of the Sea Theme. At 0:11 De Winter sits at Rebecca’s desk in the morning room and we see determination in her eyes. An impassioned crescendo on strings surges as she summons Mrs. Danvers. As she empties the drawer’s contents, she sees an old invitation to a costume ball and we see a new resolve in her. At 0:35 Mrs. Danvers arrives carried by her theme and de Winter orders the disposal of the desk’s contents. When Danvers relates that they belong to Mrs. De Winter, Rebecca’s Theme attempts to emerge, yet it dissipates when she counters “I am Mrs. De Winter”. At 1:04 the music surges on a bright crescendo of joy as Maxim returns and de Winters runs to him and leaps into his arms, the moment crowned with a warm rendering of the Love Theme. An album – movie incongruity follows. The cue ends grimly on a statement of Danvers’ Theme, but in the film, we shift to the study carried by the Happiness Theme as de Winter convinces Maxim to hold a costume ball. “Party Planning” reveals de Winter sketching several costumes supported by playful strings and comic woodwinds. Mrs. Danvers joins, sees the sketches and suggest that she copy one of the dresses seen in the portraits of Maxim’s ancestors. Interplay of their two themes carry the scene. When she suggests the dress of Lady Carolina de Winter, de Winter agrees and Danvers departs quietly. The music for this scene is not found on the album.

“The Costume Ball” offers one of the score’s most dramatic scenes, which unfortunately is not supported on the album. It reveals Crawley, Beatrice and Nigel arriving in costumes. Waxman supports the scene with another valzer gentile, which sets a refined ambiance. We see de Winter descend the grand staircase carried by the waltz. When she surprises Maxim, he becomes angry declaring “What the devil do you think you are doing” and demands that she change out of the gown at once. She is shattered and flees humiliated carried by the waltz. When she sees Danvers entering Rebecca’s bedroom an eerie string and woodwind tremolo carries her into the room. She is angry that Danvers set her up. Danvers pours salt in the wound declaring that she could never hope to compete with Rebecca. Waxman supports with interplay of a distraught Heroine’s Theme and grim rendering of Danvers’ Theme. As Danvers states that Maxim does not love her and that she could never hope to replace Rebecca, a crescendo of pain carries the weeping de Winter to Rebecca’s bed. A diabolical rendering of Danvers’ Theme sounds as she opens the window and then begins to coax de Winter to end it all by jumping. Strings affanato carry de Winter’s despair as she contemplates her fate. A dire tremolo of strings with pulsing woodwinds slowly swell as Danvers’ coaxing intensifies. The moment of choice is halted by flare explosions of a ship run aground, which startles de Winter as she sees Maxim below. We close atop strings irato, which surge and carry de Winter’s flight to find Maxim. In “Searching for Maxim” an eerie violin tremolo supports as she searches for Maxim on the beach. She is startled by Ben, and as he asks “She won’t come back, will she?”, a grim bassoon emotes his eerie theme as de Winter is again taken aback. As she searches, great waves crash upon the rocks, supported by the power of the Sea Theme. De Winter finds Frank who brings her bad news – divers searching the wreck found a sunken sailboat that has been identified as Rebecca’s. Her ghostly theme supports the revelation. De Winter notices a light coming from the boathouse and walks there carried by a woodwind tremolo with harp adornment. She finds Maxim sitting inside alone and she apologizes for the dress. A plaintive rendering of the Love Theme supports her efforts to elicit his forgiveness and restart their marriage. The music for this scene is not found on the album.

“Confession Scene” is a powerful score highlight, which I believe may be one of the greatest cues in Waxman’s canon. It supports a stunning revelatory scene that shatters de Winter’s understanding of Rebecca and reveals Maxim’s hidden secret. Maxim declares that Rebecca has won and that she will always be between them. As he speaks his story-telling is supported as a mysterioso by solo alto flute tranquillo, which alludes to the Rebecca Theme. A bridge by the yearning strings of the Love Theme emotes from de Winter’s perspective, yet the narrative flow shifts the melody to foreboding strings, which play over a high register string tremolo. A plaintive Maxim’s Theme enters at 1:10 as he tells her the story of his sad relationship with Rebecca. A surge at 1:42 supports his revelation that it was he that placed her body in the boat. He asks if she still loves him and she turns away. But she returns to him carried by yearning strings, affirming her love. What follows is cathartic; French horns doloroso carry Maxim’s Theme as de Winter relates that she always felt inadequate overcoming his love for Rebecca. This elicits incredulity from Maxim and a forceful declaration that he did not love Rebecca. At 3:03 a solo violin doloroso emotes the Manderley Theme as he discloses his decision to live together in a loveless marriage. As he explains her deception and treachery during their honeymoon her theme darkens on strings at 3:30, now emoted with malevolence. Shimmering tremolo violins move to the forefront as he asks if she despises him for agreeing to live a life of deception on Rebecca’s terms. Interplay of the Love Theme and the Rebecca Memory Motif on alto flue reveals de Winter’s psychic struggle to absorb the revelation. He tells her that when Rebecca informed him one night that she was pregnant and that her son would inherit Manderley, he struck her. When she again moved towards him, she stumbled, fell, hit her head on an anchor, and died. With her true evil natured now revealed, her theme mutates at 5:13 into a malignant form emoted by dark menacing strings. We close with a pathos of strings tragico and a reprise of Maxim’s Theme draped with harp glissandi as he is emotionally spent from the catharsis. In “Telephone Rings” Frank informs Maxim that the police have asked him to meet with them to confirm that the person they buried was indeed Rebecca. Maxim confides to her his circumstances and we are offered a powerful rendering of his theme, which abounds with despair. Yet at 0:58 she comes to him supported by the Love Theme and shimmering harp, yet Rebecca’s Theme returns to plague him. At 2:14 a furious orchestral decent supports a scene change to the police station where Maxim admits that he must have misidentified the body.

“Fireplace Tableau” reveals de Winter joining Maxim by the hearth in the study. He is contemplative and a forlorn rendering of his theme supports the moment. She affirms her love for him and asks him to keep his head during the inquest. Yearning strings support her love, which blossoms at 1:37 upon a refulgent rendering of the Love Theme as they embrace and kiss passionately – finally reconciled in love. “Exoneration” reveals Favel’s attempt to blackmail Maxim has failed when a London doctor explains that Rebecca had a motive for suicide – she was dying of cancer. Maxim is exonerated and joins Frank for a drive back to Manderley. Frank’s warm theme supports the moment and speaks to their friendship. The music for this scene is not found on the album.

In “The Fire and Epilogue” Maxim senses something is wrong and orders Frank to drive faster. A flight agitato carries their progress. At 0:22 a violin tremolo and plucked harp take us to Manderley where we see Danvers holding a candle and walking in the darkness. Rebecca’s haunting theme carries her progress. As she comes upon a sleeping de Winter at 0:58, Danvers’ Theme emotes grimly and we see dark purpose in her eyes. At 1:14 we switch back to Maxim and Frank carried by the flight agitato. They stop and notice the sky ahead is lit up and realize it is Manderley. They race towards it building on the agitato, which explodes in a screeching orchestral frenzy at 1:34 as they arrive to find Manderley consumed in a massive conflagration. As the flames rage an orchestral torrent matches its fury. A desperate rendering of the Love Theme enters at 2:04 as Maxim frantically searches for his wife, culminating when he finds her and they kiss. At 2:22 blaring horns of doom resound as they see Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca’s bedroom. Her theme resounds on horns feroci as she stares outwards with a vacant stare. An accelerando is unleashed as the flames engulf Rebecca’s bedroom and a cacophony of horns supports the roof collapsing upon her at 2:58. As the camera moves towards Rebecca’s bed her theme resounds. As we move ever closer to the red R emblem on her pillow her theme swells as a monstrous furioso. We close with a grand reprise of the Love Theme, which ends in a flourish as “The End” displays to end the film.

I would like to thank Robert Townson and Varese Sarabande for this long-sought rerecording of Franz Waxman’s masterpiece, “Rebecca”. The audio quality is excellent and the performance of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under Joel McNeely’s baton, exceptional. This film presented Waxman with a unique challenge, in that the primary theme was attached to a character who never appeared in the film. Although Rebecca died a year earlier, her presence at Manderley was ubiquitous. To provide a juxtaposition with the live actors, he assigned a ghost orchestra consisting of an electric organ, and two polyphonic Novachords so as to provide an other-worldly sound. Instructive is how her theme transforms from the intangible to tangible when her true nature is revealed in the dramatic “Confession” cue. Waxman provided nine additional themes to support the film’s narrative, each carefully attenuated to its character or setting. Maxim’s was brilliantly conceived, a simple descending line, which never resolves, reflective of a man closed off to the world, and plagued by memories of Rebecca. Our heroine’s theme by contrast reflects her gentleness, sincerity and depth of her loving heart. How Waxman enhanced the film’s narrative with his music and thematic interplay was just extraordinary and cannot be overstated. In scene after scene Waxman masterfully helped Selznick and Hitchcock achieve their vision. Folks, I believe this score to be one of the finest in Waxman’s canon and a gem of the Golden Age. The album offers an exceptional recording and I highly recommend you purchase it for your collection. I again thank Robert Townson for restoring an essential film score for new generations of fans devoted to the art form.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score, I have embedded a YouTube link to the outstanding Confession cue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73YUZsf4WuA

Buy the Rebecca soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Main Title/Foreword/Opening Scene (4:41)
  • Hotel Lobby (2:36)
  • Terrace Scene (2:45)
  • Tennis Montage I (1:29)
  • Tennis Montage II (4:13)
  • Proposal Scene (2:21)
  • Marriage (1:38)
  • Arrival at Manderley (1:48)
  • Mrs. Danvers (Original Version) (3:12)
  • Walk to the Beach (2:00)
  • The Boathouse (1:06)
  • Coming Back from Boathouse (2:29)
  • Rebecca’s Room (7:23)
  • The New Mrs. De Winter (1:37)
  • Confession Scene (5:59)
  • Telephone Rings (2:30)
  • Fireplace Tableau (2:57)
  • The Fire and Epilogue (3:44)

Running Time: 54 minutes 28 seconds

Varese Sarabande VSD-6160 (1940/2002)

Music composed by Franz Waxman. Conducted by Joel McNeely. Performed by The Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Original orchestrations by Franz Waxman, Robert Russell Bennett, Hugo Friedhofer, Paul Marquardt, Joseph Nussbaum, Leonid Raab and Hans Sommer. Recorded and mixed by Jonathan Allen. Score produced by Franz Waxman and Louis Forbes. Album produced by Robert Townson.

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