My Cousin Rachel

  • 1952
  • 1 HR 38 MIN
  • NR
  • Mystery, Romance

The versatile de Havilland had been away from pictures for about three years when she was lured back for this Gothic period piece that was adapted from du Maurier's best seller. It had originally been slated for George Cukor to direct, and he wanted Garbo for the role. But she, of course, chose to be alone, and Cukor eventually stepped aside because he...read more

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The versatile de Havilland had been away from pictures for about three years when she was lured back for this Gothic period piece that was adapted from du Maurier's best seller. It had originally been slated for George Cukor to direct, and he wanted Garbo for the role. But she, of course,

chose to be alone, and Cukor eventually stepped aside because he and producer-writer Johnson couldn't agree on the script. Koster was tapped to direct de Havilland, and a young Welshman, Burton, who had just galvanized Londoners in his version of "Hamlet," was selected as the male lead. If the

picture was not a resounding success (the conclusion was unsatisfying), it did manage to get Burton a Fox contract, and that became the reason for his long and exciting stay in the US. It's the early 1800s in Cornwall, England. Burton lives in a huge stone house overlooking the thrashing sea. He

learns that his cousin and best friend, Sutton, has died in Italy but the reasons for the man's demise have not been clearly explained. Sutton had been sending letters to Burton and the last few missives indicated that perhaps he was being subtly poisoned by his attractive young wife, de

Havilland. The widow arrives at the estate, and Burton is both fascinated and repelled by her. She is beautiful and sweet, but Burton can't rid his mind of the suspicion that she killed Sutton. A relationship begins, and Burton falls in love with her against his better judgment. Sutton's will is

probated and Burton is the sole heir and executor. When he feels the time is right, Burton brings up the matter of the letters written by her late husband; she has a ready explanation for the allegations, saying that Sutton had a brain tumor and the pressure of it caused him to become paranoid and

suspect everyone around him of some attempt on his life. Burton thinks that sounds right and accepts her contention that Sutton was at death's door from natural causes. Burton turns 25 and gives de Havilland everything he owns: the mansion, the land, and a horde of jewels which have been in the

family as long as anyone can recall. The two of them are enormously happy, but there is, as yet, no mention of a permanent alliance. Dolenz arrives. He is an Italian lawyer in the employ of de Havilland and appears to be a wolf in attorney's clothing. When de Havilland brews up some of her

"special" tea, Dolenz suggests Burton try it, and the result is that Burton gets violently sick. His mind races and he fancies that he and de Havilland have been married. She helps him recover his senses, and when he is again healthy, he asks for her hand, but she won't marry him. Burton explodes

and physically attacks de Havilland, throttling her to within an inch of her life. He stops just short of choking her to death, then apologizes profusely, but his fury is again inflamed when he sees de Havilland and Dolenz in what he assumes to be a romantic conversation. Burton's onetime amour,

Dalton, arrives, and he is happy when de Havilland says that she is now going to leave the Cornwall estate. Burton is so sure that she did kill Sutton that he deliberately doesn't tell de Havilland that the rickety bridge she must cross is not fit for a human foot. The bridge crashes and de

Havilland falls to the rocks below. Burton races to help her, and she expires in his arms. Later, he reads a letter from Dolenz to de Havilland and sees that their relationship was strictly counselor and client, and the picture ends as Burton is riddled with guilt about de Havilland. He will go to

his grave wondering if she was or she wasn't a murderess. It was this "lady or the tiger" ending that caused moviegoers to frown at the end of the film. Ninety-eight minutes is a long time to sit and not be satisfied by the denouement. Waxman did a good score that subtly played against the story.

He also wrote the music for REBECCA, another story by du Maurier, starring de Havilland's sister, Joan Fontaine. Nominated for four Oscars: Best Supporting Actor (Burton), Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction/Set Decoration and Best Costume Design.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: The versatile de Havilland had been away from pictures for about three years when she was lured back for this Gothic period piece that was adapted from du Maurier's best seller. It had originally been slated for George Cukor to direct, and he wanted Garbo… (more)

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