ALL ARTS Documentary Selects


Daphne du Maurier: In Rebecca's Footsteps

The documentary uses archival footage and interviews to depict the fascinating life of Daphne du Maurier. The two female characters in the classic "Rebecca" are presented as revealing the contradictions within du Maurier herself.

AIRED: February 08, 2021 | 0:55:04



Narrator: It was in Cornwall that the English novelist

Daphne du Maurier imagined her Machiavellian plots.

Director Alfred Hitchcock adapted three of her works --

"Jamaica Inn," "Rebecca," and "The Birds."

"Rebecca" became a worldwide success,

has sold over 30 million copies,

and has been translated into nearly every language.

Daphne du Maurier wrote about 20 novels

and numerous short stories,

and yet it is "Rebecca" who haunts the work

and the life of the author.



In 1937, Daphne du Maurier is 30 years old.

She has already written several best-selling novels,

notably "Jamaica Inn."

She must, however, still follow her husband,

Major Frederick Browning, to Alexandria,

where he is stationed.

For Daphne, who loves solitude,

the mundane life of a military woman is torture.

The stifling heat and odors are bothersome.

The Sea of Cornwall haunts her thoughts.

In a few months, she writes the first draft of "Rebecca."

The novel takes place in Manderley,

actually Menabilly, an abandoned estate

that Daphne and her sister discovered one afternoon

during the fall.


Woman: "For me, the idea of a story arises very often by accident.

Like for a novel, it's a slow infusion,

but because of its magnitude,

a novel will go deeper into the emotional life.

Something starts to rise inside you

in an irrepressible way.

Before you know it, the novel begins to meddle

in your life.

It's like waiting for a child.

He grows up in you.

He becomes a part of you,

like a devil."


Feel this.

It's a Christmas present from Mr. de Winter.


Mrs. de Winter: He was always giving her expensive gifts

the whole year round.

I keep her underwear on this side.

They were made specially for her

by the nuns in the Convent of St. Clare.


Woman: "The theme is jealousy --

the narrator's jealousy of Rebecca, Maxim's first wife.

One day I happened upon letters written by Jan Ricardo,

my husband's ex-fiancee.

They were innocent letters of no import but preserved in time.

The handwriting, drawn with a firm hand,

revealed that this woman was far more confident

and audacious than I."


Varnam: Both Rebecca de Winter and the new Mrs. de Winter

are part of Daphne's own character.

So Rebecca has the independence, she has the power.

She likes to sail.

So she has lots of qualities of Daphne herself.

But so does the new Mrs. de Winter --

the shyness, feeling ill at ease in social situations.

So Daphne splits her own personality

in these two women in the novel.


Narrator: "Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again."


In the first scene, the narrator

moves in a waking dream,

a notion invented by Daphne's grandfather,

George du Maurier, born in Paris in 1834 and died in 1896.

Like many of his contemporaries, he experimented with hypnosis.

Musician, painter and satirical cartoonist,

he gained international fame thanks to his two novels,

"Peter Ibbetson" and "Trilby."


When Daphne was born May 13, 1907,

the name du Maurier is already famous.

Her parents live in the elegant neighborhood of Hampstead,

north of London,

in accordance with the codes of the Victorian era.

They lead a lavish lifestyle

and received with great pomp the London gentry.

But they are also bohemian artists.

The family legend says that the du Mauriers were aristocrats

who immigrated to England during the French Revolution,

abandoning their castle and their land.

De Rosnay: [ Speaking in French ]

Translator: This family was very, very proud

of their French blood,

and actually she learned how to pronounce her name.

She wouldn't say "du Mar-ee-ay" but "du Maur-ee."

Narrator: Daphne would discover much later

that they were only simple glassblowers riddled with debt,

but the romanticized version was never questioned

neither by her grandfather nor by her father, Gerald,

one of the most popular actors of his generation.

[ Speaking in French ]

Translator: He was the favorite actor

of Barrie, who was the father of "Peter Pan,"

the famous play that was so important in the upbringing

and imagination of the three du Maurier sisters.

Her mother was an actress, too.

Her name was Muriel Beaumont,

but she stopped performing when she got married.

And so the theatre and the entertainment world

was very important for the du Maurier family.

Daphne called it the land of make believe,

the imaginary world that coincidentally connects her

to Peter Pan.



And above all, there was this father,

unbearable for some, admirable and funny as all for others.

The actor father --

able to imitate people behind their backs,

to make faces, to make everyone roar with laughter.

Narrator: The du Mauriers speak in a coded language,

they play make believe.

Daphne dresses up as Peter Pan

or incarnates Eric Avon, her male alter ego

that allows her to swap dresses for boys clothes.

She becomes, thus, a flamboyant hero

who fights dragons to save her sisters

dressed up as princesses.

De Rosnay: [ Speaking in French ]

Translator: Daphne wanted to be the famous boy

that her father would have loved to have.

She even wrote a very, very awkward poem

when she was 13, 14 years old.

Woman: "And sometimes in the silent of the night,

I wake and think perhaps my darling is right,

and that she should have been and if I'd had my way,

she would have been a boy."


Dudgeon: Daphne, at 10, was taken to the first night

as she was to hear her father's plays.

"Dear Brutus," which became one of his most famous plays.

She saw her father playing her father.

She saw that she had been pegged on the little girl,

as Barrie would do,

and it was about a man who was fed up with life

and felt he'd let it go by.

And he goes out into a magic world

and he makes an imaginary daughter.

And the play is mostly about the relationship

between the father and the daughter.

And the relationship is very odd.

He's crawling all over her and so on and so forth.

It is sort of bordering on...


And she watched her father in the last act

rub this imaginary girl out of his life.

And she was so caught up with it,

she burst into tears and ran from the audience.

De Rosnay: [ Speaking in French ]

Translator: So what strikes me about Daphne as a teenager

is the image of her at Cannon Hall,

the image of a young girl not shy,

but who did not like the contact with others.

In any case, not with people she didn't know.

She was obliged to play

the role of a young girl from a good family,

but someone who already had her world.

She walked about with a pencil behind her ear and a notebook

since she was taking notes, keeping a diary.

Thus a teenager who was nothing like her sister Angela

or her younger sister Jeanne,

She was already in her own world.

De Rosnay: [ Speaking in French ]


Woman: "At that time, I was never myself.

I identified with the characters in the books I had read

and those that interested me at the moment.

Poems and short stories began to gush from my pen,

but they were rarely finished."

Varnam: Daphne du Maurier had a huge number of literary influences.

She was an incredible reader when she was younger,

getting through up to four or five books a week.

The Brontes were a huge influence on her work

and she continued to read the Brontes

all the way through her life.

She was also reading French literature,

Maupassant and Zola.

She read everything she could get her hands on.

De Rosnay: [ Speaking in French ]

Translator: in 1926, Daphne went to live in France in Modane

in what was called a finishing school,

a boarding school for young girls, rather chic.

She gained the acquaintance of the headmistress

of the boarding school, a certain Fernande Yvon,

who is 12 years older than she.

Bubbly, funny, very French.


Woman: "In fact, this woman I told you about,

Miss Yvon, a fatal attraction.

She's completely bewitched me.

Here I'm caught in her net."


De Rosnay: [ Speaking in French ]

Translator: Daphne describes this kind of attraction

that she felt for Fernande Yvon

as if it were Eric Avon.

All of a sudden...

who wanted to give Fernande flowers.

De Rosnay: [ Speaking in French ]

Taylor: They were almost masculine gestures

she had towards this woman.

She believed that deep inside her lived a boy in a box,

what she called "The Boy in the Box."

Narrator: On the arm of Fernande,

Daphne discovers the Paris of the 1920s,

the cafe on [indistinct],

where one rubs elbows with American authors Gertrude Stein,

Hemingway, Fitzgerald.

Encouraged by Fernande,

Daphne begins to write short stories,

notably "The Doll,"

rejected by publishers, scandalized by the thought

that this girl from a good family

could be its author.

Daphne herself is really interested in thinking

about the role of the modern woman,

particularly the sexually independent modern woman.

And we see that coming through in her very early story,

"The Doll," in which the main character, Rebecca --

perhaps a model for her later Rebecca de Winter --

has this -- this doll,

possibly some kind of sex doll,

that she's able to control

and she asserts her independence away from the male narrator

through her control of this doll.


Narrator: Regretfully, Daphne has to leave Paris.

Her relationship with Fernande remains passionate, however,

but she is 20 years old

and intoxicated by her power of seduction.

In 1928, London is in full swing.

Thanks to the suffragettes,

British women gain the right to vote.

[ Indistinct singing ]

The Bloomsbury Group,

a circle of artists and intellectuals in Cambridge

who reject as a whole the principles

of the Victorian era, dominates the art scene.

Virginia Woolf publishes "Orlando,"

the famous novel where the protagonist changes sex

during the narration.

Daphne and her sisters have become young women,

and all of them begin to show off their independence.


Unlike the exhilarating atmosphere

that reigns in London, Cannon Hall is overbearing.

Gerald will not tolerate his daughters behavior.

When Daphne is accompanied by her fling,

a young director, Carol Reed,

her father subjects him to humiliating interrogations.

Gerald relies on Victorian principles to reproach

his daughters for their behavior,

while he himself never hides from his infidelities.

Without the encouragement of Fernande,

Daphne struggles to write.

Her spirits crushed, she longs for their complicity.

Her parents worry about her melancholy demeanor.

Daphne has always loved the great outdoors

and the du Maurier decide to buy a house by the sea.

She reluctantly goes with her family to Cornwall.


Once she sees the moor, however, she is instantly seduced.

She rediscovers the sensations provoked by the books

she'd read as a teenager -- "Jane Eyre,"

"Wuthering Heights."

Taylor: She loved the fact that she lived in a land

that had myths and legends associated with it.

Cornwall was very remote from cosmopolitan England,

from London, from the society of theatre and writers

that she had grown up in.

And one thing that appealed to her about Cornwall

was that it seemed to be telling stories

that had very deep, long histories,

but also that captured something

of a kind of eternal note of sadness and suffering.


Narrator: Far from London and its conventions,

Daphne feels free.

She spends her time sashaying through the village of Fowey

and its surroundings.

She makes friends among the fishermen

and learns to sail.

When her family sets out to return to London,

she asks her parents for permission to stay alone

in their new house, Ferryside.


Woman: "One day, while walking towards Pond Creek,

I came across the wreckage of a schooner namedJane Slade.

She lay in the mud, abandoned.

Her hull was rotting, but her figurehead with bright colors

proudly defied the passage of time.

It was then that a member of the Slade family

arrived with a large box full of letters and family papers.

By that evening I had read them all.

The ink nearly erased,

took me back to the beginning of the 19th century.

There was something very intimate in those letters.

It felt like I was opening coffins

and examining the dead.

The following day, I couldn't stop thinking about it,

and I realized there was enough material there

to write a novel."

Daphne was not a modernist.

She was, in a sense,

and a good old-fashioned storyteller.

She believed in narrative. She believed in character.

She told page-turners.

She was quickly successful with "The Loving Spirit,"

and her subsequent novels made her a popular writer,

which removed her from the elite group of modernist writers

and took her away from cultural respectability, if you like.

Narrator: Daphne is 25 years old,

and buoyed by the success of "The Loving Spirit,"

she works on different styles.

She writes, "I'll Never be Young Again"

and "The Progress of Julius,"

where a possessive father drowns his daughter.

She doesn't fear Gerald's reaction.

Thanks to her copyrights,

she starts becoming financially independent

and breaks away from her father.

But if the author masters her characters,

the success of her novels

generates unpredictable events in her life.

Translator: One day she's with her sister in Ferryside,

and all of a sudden her sister says to her,

"You must come see.

There's a brown-haired man

absolutely threatening."

In du Maurier code, "threatening"

meant "to send you head over heels,"

"incredibly beautiful."

"There's a brown-haired man

who's going up and back in a white boat.

You have to come see."

So Daphne goes.

And in fact, there's a splendid young man

who seems to be walking past the house

hoping desperately to see something.

And she'll soon discover

that this is the young Major Browning,

a man with a very strong appearance,

a manly man,

but inwardly quite fragile.

And this young man had heard of Daphne du Maurier,

had seen her picture, had read her first novel,

"The Loving Spirit."

And their story began like that.

Narrator: Though very much in love,

Daphne is in no hurry to get married.

But Tommy, older and more conventional,

doesn't want a relationship without a commitment.

Three months later, she is the one who asks

for his hand in marriage.

The ceremony takes place at 7:00 a.m.

in the intimacy of the church of Lanteglos,

like the heroine of her first novel, "The Loving Spirit."

The Brownings would have two daughters,

Tessa and Flavia,

and then a son, Christian,

whom they nicknamed Kits.

Gerald greatly appreciates Tommy Browning,

but the marriage of his favorite daughter

only worsens his melancholy.

He dies of cancer two years later.

Willmore: Her father was really interested in birds

and used to go bird spotting

and used to actually buy them

and set them free when she was a child.

So I think she always knew how important birds were

and how much her father loved them.

And so she loved them, too.

When he died, she didn't go to his funeral.

She went on Hampstead Heath and let some birds go.

But then her father died and she wrote his biography,

and that really brought her to people's attention, I think,

because it was a very candid biography at the time.

It was quite -- she was quite open about her father

and quite shocked his contemporaries

who were concerned that their daughters

might write similar biographies about them

because it was quite --

quite candid and open in what she said about him.

Narrator: The biography of Gerald is Daphne's first collaboration

with her new publisher, Victor Gollancz,

who would become a valuable collaborator.

After "Jamaica Inn," in which Daphne

demonstrates her mastery of the bestseller,

Gollancz gives her an advance for

the next novel of £1,000,

the equivalent of 18 months of her husband's salary.

When Gollancz receives the first chapters of "Rebecca,"

he decides to invest in a massive

and unprecedented advertising campaign.

In order to attract female readers,

he presents "Rebecca" as a sentimental romance,

which strongly displeases Daphne.


Announcer: Announcing the return of the most

glamorous motion picture ever made,

David O. Selznick and Alfred Hitchcock

bring you the grand slam prize winner...

Narrator: In 1939,

Hollywood producer David Selznick

hires Alfred Hitchcock to adapt "Rebecca."

Only the ending would be reworked.

The film is a worldwide success.

Announcer: ...claim Daphne du Maurier's bestseller...

Varnam: Hitchcock with the adaptation of "Rebecca,"

he had to make some changes because Maxim kills Rebecca,

but he's, in many ways, the hero of the story.

And it was very problematic at that time to show

a hero getting away with murder.

I think there's a number of reasons

why Hitchcock was very attracted to du Maurier's work,

partly because he was fascinated by tales of suspense,

thrillers, mystery.

That was something he was really interested in.

But I think also because du Maurier is a very visual writer,

she translates to the cinema screen very well.

So I think that's one of the things

that Hitchcock saw in her work.

Narrator: War approaches.

Tommy must join his regiment north of London.

Daphne and the kids go with him, but he is more and more on edge.

He's one of those young high-ranking military men

traumatized by the First World War.

Daphne writes a few stories for a pacifist movement,

adapts "Rebecca" for the theatre,

and then she falls under the spell of the gentleman farmer

who lodges them and inspires her love story, "Frenchman's Creek."

Through writing, Daphne

lets herself get trapped by her characters,

her relationship with their host becomes ambiguous

and his wife discovers them in an embarrassing situation.

To avoid a scandal,

Daphne leaves hurriedly with her two daughters

and her youngest child.

London is being bombed.

Daphne takes refuge in Cornwall.

[ Air raid sirens wailing ]

[ Bombs exploding ]

[ Birds chirping ]

In 1943, Daphne is 36 years old,

and thanks to the copyrights to "Rebecca," rich.

She asks the owner of Menabilly,

Dr. Rashleigh, to rent her his estate.

To Daphne's great joy, he accepts.


Woman: "It was then that it all began --

not the Battle of Britain or the offensive on the weakened Europe

that my husband commanded from Africa,

but my personal battle to settle in Menabilly before winter.

You go crazy.

There's no electricity, no running water, no heating.

You'll never find servants. It's impossible."



"Summer gave way to autumn, autumn to winter,

and in December, the moving trucks arrived.

Madness finally paid off."

And she literally loved the house.

Her children would say

she would put her arms out to the walls

and hug the house.

She absolutely loved it.


Narrator: Victor Gollancz asks his flagship

author to welcome a photographer

to her house for the publicity of the books.

This photo shoot is an occasion for fits of laughter

between Daphne and her children,

to whom she has transmitted her sense of humor.

Very du Maurier -- mocking and incisive.

The pictures show Daphne as an accomplished mother.

In reality, everything concerning the house

is relegated to servants, children to nannies

and to the faithful governess "Tod" Maude Waddell.

Taylor: I think domestic life was...

very problematic for Daphne du Maurier.

She couldn't cook, she bought in domestic help.

She didn't really notice

that there were kind of creatures in the attic.

There were rats running up and down the walls.

For her, being a mother was really about

being a sort of friend

and a kind of role model rather than being a carer.

She was not really a caring mother.

Though, she did express

very different feelings towards her children

and she was very cuddly towards her son.

Montgomery: [ Speaking in French ]

I used to read a lot and my sister rode.

She had a pony, so she loved riding.

And my brother used to play with --

We used to play with the other children from the farm.

And so we split --

As children, we were bilingual in broad Cornish,

which you don't really hear these days.

I had two goats, which I loved.

And, yes, I was very, very fond of them and...

Came in once and they jumped on the piano

and knocked over the flowers.

My mother loved arranging flowers.

She was a great flower arranger and all --

We always had the house with a lot of flowers.

So she was not pleased when the goats [laughs]

knocked over the flowers onto the piano.

[ Speaking in French ]


Woman: "On this day, on this night,

she's mine and I'm hers.

At midnight, though the children slept

and everything was silent and still,

I sat at the piano looking at the woodwork

and quietly, quietly, without witnesses whispering,

the house murmured her secrets,

and her secrets transformed into stories.

In these moments, in a strange and disturbing way,

we were one,

the house and I."

I think she liked the idea that this was, as it were,

a sort of castle where she could imagine

she was a figure from history,

she could imagine that -- she could imagine

all the generations of people

and lives that it existed there before her.

Narrator: In Menabilly, in her cabin at the end of the garden,

Daphne isolates herself and imagines her first novel,

"The King General," which takes place between those walls

and is inspired by Dr. Rashleigh's ancestors,

[ Speaking in French ]

[ Laughs ]

[ Planes whirring ]

Narrator: In early 1945, Daphne was upset

by the announcement of Tommy's return.

She has become accustomed to living alone

and fears that he will disrupt her work habits.

Once they are reunited after four years of separation,

living together becomes difficult.

Yet Tommy makes an effort,

and when his duties call him back to London,

he presumes that Daphne and the children will go with him.

De Rosnay: [ Speaking in French ]

Translator: He says to her one day,

"It'd be nice if you come back to live with me in London."

She does not hesitate, not for a second.

She says to him, "No, I will come from time to time

when it's necessary."

So every weekend, Tommy Browning would take the train

and go back to Cornwall to be with his family.

There is a permanent duality in the life of Daphne du Maurier

because there is Daphne du Maurier, the writer.

She's generally quite alone.

She loves her solitude,

and her children and her family have learned

to respect her solitude.

And then there is Lady Browning,

since indeed her husband was ennobled after the war.

He was named Treasurer of the Young Princess Elizabeth,

the future queen.

And here she must also fall into line.

Narrator: Daphne has to go to London

often to accompany her husband at Buckingham Palace.

Once her sartorial problems are solved,

she is not insensitive to the splendor

of the ceremonies.

At Balmoral, she meets the Queen Mother,

who also appreciates her novels.

Nevertheless, she begins again to resemble that character,

the young and shy Mrs. de Winter.

Woman: "I always had the feeling I was falling off my chair.

What a relief to finally be back home."


She married an army major who went to work

for the royal family, for heaven's sake.

You know, the Duke of Edinburgh came

and stayed overnight in her home.

She was part of an establishment marriage.

And she wanted to be an establishment figure.

She wanted to do the right thing by her husband and children.

But at the same time,

there was what she called the Boy in the Box.

There was the the sort of masculine side

of Daphne du Maurier,

which she kept trying to put the lid on.

And the masculine part was, I think,

what she identified as the free,

the liberated,

the adventurous part of herself.

Narrator: In 1947, Daphne du Maurier is a world-renowned author.

Hitchcock's adaptation of "Rebecca"

is an international success.

De Rosnay: [ Speaking in French ]

Translator: Then one day, disaster.

Her American publisher, Nelson Doubleday,

calls her and tells her that, in fact, she has to come over

because there's a certain Mrs. Edwina MacDonald

who wrote a short story called "Blind Windows."

And supposedly this short story inspired

Daphne du Maurier to write "Rebecca."

Of course, she hadn't done anything of the sort,

but she had to then go to America

to answer this plagiarism charge.

Translator: She's quite upset because, first of all,

she doesn't know what she's going to say before the judges

because there is a trial.

She'll have to face the press, journalists

who will ask her all sorts of questions.

[ Horn blows ]



And so she arrived on this cruise ship.

In luxury, it must be said,

because her American publisher spoiled her.

She was truly an author who sold a lot,

so she was pampered.

And there on the boat,

there was this one and only Ellen Doubleday,

the wife of Nelson Doubleday,

who came to pick her up and bring her back.

And there Daphne du Maurier

falls madly in love with this woman.

Eric Avon gets out of his box.

The Boy in the Box bursts free.

In some ways, Ellen had some of the characteristics

of Rebecca de Winter.

She was incredibly attractive. She was a great hostess.

She socialized with all sorts of different people.

And Daphne immediately was fascinated by Ellen.

Narrator: For several days, troubled by the appearance

of her publisher's wife,

Daphne avoids the cruise ship lounges.

But Ellen's delicate attentions make her irresistible.


On their Long Island property,

Nelson and Ellen Doubleday receive her as a queen.

She is enchanted by the refined luxury

of the well-heated house.

Like Rebecca de Winter,

Ellen reigns over her domain and moves her world with ease.

Every day, a driver takes Daphne into Manhattan,

where the trial takes place.

In the huge Cadillac,

she remembers her passionate exchanges with Ellen.

Before the U.S. judges, the interrogations are torture.

How can she explain to them

that Rebecca was born out of her jealousy of Tommy's ex-fiancee

and that she is also part of her?

Guilty of her own infidelities,

real and imagined, Daphne is terrified.

If only they knew her life is but a web of lies.

She came back to Menabilly, to Manderley.

And she'd won the court case anyway,

it didn't matter,

but she -- she had been shaken,

shaken out, really, of the path that she was on.

[ Speaking in French ]

Translator: When she returned to London,

her husband came to pick her up.

She was a wreck and she collapsed.

She collapsed because she realized

to what extent Ellen Doubleday had a hold on her.

De Rosnay: [ Speaking in French ]

Reality and fantasy, you know, came together

and didn't mix and she had a breakdown.

While I'm absolutely convinced

is that she had a nervous breakdown,

which is not some light little sickness,

because for the first time she realized

that this whole fantasy world in which she lived

was getting out of hand again,

as indeed they worried that it had been before in the 1920s,

before she started living at Ferryside.

And she went back with all kinds of good intentions to try --

try and pull back on what was going on.

Unfortunately, she wrote a play called "September Tide."


Narrator: As always, writing is her outlet.

In two weeks, Daphne dreams up a play

that depicts a forbidden love

between a mother-in-law and her stepson.


De Rosnay: [ Speaking in French ]

Translator: When the actresses are chosen

to play the role of Stella,

all the great actresses of the moment fight to get this role

because it's quite a handsome role for an actress 40

or 50 years old.

It's the famous Gertrude Lawrence

who is chosen.

The actress with a Cockney accent,

the very beautiful actress

who was also one of the many mistresses of Gerald du Maurier,

Daphne's father.

[ Singing indistinctly ]


Willmore: Gertrude Lawrence was really the last one.

He was always being flattered by women,

and there's this sort of thing that they used

to talk about his "stable of women"

as if it was some sort of joke and just accepted.

And he talked to the girls about it, which seemed really odd.

And Muriel must have known and must have been very hurt.

[ Speaking in French ]

Translator: But what's amazing is that

when Gertie started playing Stella on stage,

Daphne felt like Gertie

was taking on Ellen's features on whom she had modeled Stella.

And so there was a kind of love transference.

Daphne felt attracted to Gertrude Lawrence.

Yes, and that's a strange relationship.

They were very close.

Gertrude was such a different person.

She was so full of fun and daring and, you know,

suddenly Daphne was sort of prepared to leave Menabilly

and go chasing off around the country with Gertrude

and the play and everything.

So it's a crazy time for Daphne, really.

[ Indistinct singing ]


Narrator: Despite the presence of Gertie,

Daphne is still obsessed with the beautiful American,

but Ellen keeps her distance

in order to prevent her friend from deluding herself.

Daphne's frustration would serve as the driving force

behind the writing of "My Cousin Rachel."

This novel elicits the enthusiasm of readers

and for once, critics recognize in it

the same power as "Rebecca,"

though perhaps even more believable.

De Rosnay: [ Speaking in French ]

Translator: It's true that what's so interesting

in "My Cousin Rachel,"

which is the story of a young man -- there again,

we are inside Daphne, who takes on her alter ego, Eric Avon.

This young man falls madly in love

with an older woman.


Remember once I told you

there was nothing else I needed but the warmth and comfort

of these four walls?

I remember.

I was wrong.

I know now that there's something else.

Are you... very sure of that?

More sure than of anything else on Earth.

Translator: She is the spitting image of Ellen Doubleday.

It's a book that shows a woman half angel, half demon.

We don't know really

if this famous Rachel/Ellen

is a poisoner or not.

But what we do know is that in writing this book,

Daphne du Maurier managed to get rid of

what she called this hook, this peg, literally a peg

on which she hung a combination of fantasy and reality.

That's what allowed her to write.

Maybe because that was also what gave her her intensities,

as if she had put in this book

everything she wanted to free herself of...

including Ellen's hold on her

and perhaps what she had experienced with Gertie.


Narrator: Daphne continues by writing a series of grim short stories.

"The Birds," the most disturbing,

would be adapted a few years later by Hitchcock

following his huge success, "Psycho."

Beautiful cage, fresh water,

no other birds to bother you,

none of that blinding sunlight.


Now, why would he do that?

[ Birds squawking ]

Most peculiar.

What on earth...?

[ Squawking continues ]

[ Door opens ]

[ Squawking intensifies ]

They're coming! They're coming!

[ Squawking continues ]

[ Screaming ]

Varnam: Daphne is really fascinated by animals.

Lots of the short stories look at the boundaries

between the human and the animal.

"The Blue Lenses" is one of her most terrifying stories

where the main character, Marda West,

has these blue lenses fitted to her eyes and all of a sudden

she can see more clearly than she could see before.

Her favorite nurse, who she really trusted,

has suddenly become a snake.

Her husband's become a vulture.

And of course, the twist in the tale

is that when the lenses are changed

and the supposed problem has been corrected,

when she then looks in the mirror,

she sees herself as a deer,

as some kind of sacrificial victim.

Narrator: At the end of the summer of '52,

Gertie is hospitalized,

Daphne has a premonition.

On September 6th, the news arrives at Menabilly.

At 54, Gertie was taken by cancer.

Cloistered in her room, Daphne listens to the radio

to the heart-wrenching testimonials of her Gertie.

She also learns that she was buried in her pink crinoline,

that Marlene Dietrich attended the ceremony,

and that to pay homage to the actress,

Broadway was plunged into darkness

for three whole minutes.

Daphne is crushed.

Tommy and the kids don't understand

how the death of the actress could affect her so.

10 days later, Daphne confides in Ellen.

Woman: "I couldn't talk to her as I could with you, of course.

But she was so warm and so generous.

If you see what I mean, then I cannot imagine that there

could be another person on Earth like her."



Narrator: For the first time, the long, rainy, solitary days

at Menabilly weigh heavy on Daphne.

She is 45.

Her writing becomes more laborious and she feels old.

Weekends with Tommy, who is also depressed,

are a dreadful bore.

To try to understand

why she cannot come out of her depression,

she gets interested in psychoanalysis

and reads Carl Jung.

She realizes then that her unconscious,

her number two personality,

frightening and uncontrollable,

is precisely the source of her inspiration.

Woman: "We are split like everybody.

Everyone has a dark side,

but which will prevail?

How will Tommy and I get out of this ordeal?

'Grow up,' I think."

Dudgeon: In "The Scapegoat,"

she really shows this better than in any more, obviously,

than in any other of her works.

John and Jean,

these are two parts of the same person.

And she believes that the novel is about trying

to put those two back together again,

to mend them, if you like,

which at that stage in her life

she desperately needed

but never quite achieved.

Narrator: Upon the publication of "The Scapegoat,"

MGM buys the rights.

The main roles are to be played

by Alec Guinness and Bette Davis.

But Daphne is disappointed by the scenario

and decries from the outset that the film will be a failure.

A few days later, as they prepared to celebrate

their 25th wedding anniversary, Tommy collapses.

Translator: She takes the train, she arrives in London,

she arrives in a clinic,

and there she finds her husband completely drained.


She enters the London apartment, the phone rings

and a woman says to her,

"Are you Lady Browning?

Your husband is in very bad shape.

I'm your husband's mistress, and all of this is your fault."

Narrator: Divorce is out of the question.

Daphne leaves Menabilly for several months

in order to care for her husband in London,

but you cannot accept being cheated on.

She, who felt so guilty for being unfaithful herself,

now feels terribly humiliated.

Once Tommy can return to Buckingham Palace

and Daphne to Menabilly,

she finds herself at wit's end.

After all that Daphne was doing to really set right her life... the late 1950s, when all this had happened,

she writes to a friend, and these are her words,

"the dark side has not yet been destroyed.

We must be patient.

I don't want to resurrect Rebecca."

Which really, at her wit's end,

it is Rebecca once again

that she is concerned not to resurrect.

And the reason she's concerned

is because she's terrified that Rebecca, as she put it,

was returning to her

and that she would turn back into Rebecca

and that her husband would kill her

as Maxim killed Rebecca.

[ Typewriter clacking ]



Narrator: Tommy's health is declining by the day.

They still make some trips to the sea

and reform a certain bond,

but in 1965, at the age of 69, Tommy dies.

For Daphne, it is shock.

Her grief is immense.

She's racked with remorse

and she blames herself for her selfishness

and for having left him alone in London

while in the grip of her romantic obsessions.

[ Speaking in French ]

Narrator: During this time of mourning,

the only thought that comforts her is her belief

that Tommy is waiting for her somewhere.

She writes another series of short stories --

among them, "Don't Look Now."

Woman: "I've always been fascinated by paranormal phenomena,

although I am not a medium myself.

I've never encountered ghosts and I do not want to communicate

with the beyond or anything like that,

but I'm convinced that extrasensory perception exists.

I like to call this faculty the Sixth Sense.

It is a way of seeing

and hearing between perception and intuition

that allows us to grasp

in an indefinable way what escapes us."

"Many of my stories have a paranormal aspect.

Notably, of course, 'Don't Look Now.'

The idea came to me during a stay in Venice.

In this labyrinth of often narrow canals,

there are alleys, bridges and other rather eerie passages

before arriving at San Marco,

and as I was heading there one evening,

I thought I saw a small child running along canal

and I found that sinister."

[ Footsteps approaching rapidly ]

[ Clattering in distance ]

[ Birds chirping ]

Narrator: Shortly after Tommy's death,

Daphne is forced to leave her beloved Menabilly.

She moves to Kilmarth, also on the Rashleigh estate.

When the BBC asks for an interview,

surprisingly, she agrees.

It is one of the rare appearances

of Daphne du Maurier on television.

When the reporter arrives at her home, he is nervous.

He knows this is a great privilege.

Now, that's a lovely portrait of Tommy done by Joe Kelly

when he was about 25 years old. [ Indistinct ]

Man: Which was his regiment,

Grenadiers. That's me at 15.

-Who did that? -[ Indistinct ]

Now, here's my bedroom.

Lovely view.

-Is that you're working desk? -That's my bill desk,

hence the litter.

-Oh, the chores. -The chores desk.

And here's my view.

Marvelous view.


This seems a large house for just one person.

Oh, no, it isn't really frightfully big, you know.

Well, I'll show you around afterwards.

65th year. Are you aware of any decline in the working powers?

64. I suppose once you begin to decline a bit.

Obviously what one writes today

isn't as fresh as it was when I was 21.

I mean, one go through different phases,

but I'm not aware of decline.

Aching bones in the head, you know.

Did you think there is such a thing

as a height of one's powers for a writer?

Does a writer reach a certain kind of high point

in their life?

Oh, I don't know.

I believe writing is a thing you can

go on doing right up to 80.

I mean, look at Agatha Christie. -For instance,

I mean, when you read "Rebecca,"

you were what, in your very early 30s.

Oh, yes. But I mean, that was just a phase, "Rebecca" was.

And that happens to have been the most popular.

It isn't, to my mind, the most mature by a long shot.

Now, Wilfred, here we are in the old kitchen,

which is now my archive room.

Oh, yes. These are all the manuscripts.

-All the great works -"Glass Blowers."

"Glass Blowers," "Gerald," "Jamaica Inn."

"Rebecca." -"Rebecca."

This is the actual manuscript of "Rebecca"?

Look at the faded old notes.

This was your original typescript.

-Yes. -There it is.

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again."

Look at the immature handwriting.

Yes. Because I was rather immature, you know?

I was a girl. And "Rebecca" scribbled on the top.

-It's quite something. -Well...

-Can we leave that there? -Yes, we can.

Narrator: When he she is told that the foundations of Kilmarth

date back to the 14th century,

she becomes enthralled with the previous occupants --

a young woman, Isolda, and a chemist

whose vials she finds in the cellar.

Over a few months, she writes "The House on the Strand."

Willmore: And actually that is one of the best books she ever wrote.

Being in Bookends here over the years,

you always think people say,

"Oh, my favorite was 'Rebecca,' you know."

But in actual fact, more people say "The House on the Strand"

is their favorite book than any other.

It's a masterpiece. It's brilliant.

Narrator: After 25 years without getting behind the wheel,

her need for independence encourages

her to obtain again her driver's license.

Daphne travels with her daughters

and discovers the joy of being a grandmother.

She is named Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

After "The House on the Strand," Daphne writes biographies

and a book about Cornwall with her son.

But though she may visit places steeped in history

and she may confine herself to a strict work schedule,

no mysterious characters would ever again disturb her thoughts.

Rebecca has disappeared.


In the springtime of 1989,

Daphne stops eating.

One afternoon,

she calls on her family one last time

and visits her dear country estate Menabilly.

When evening falls, she goes to bed

without deviating from her routine.

The following morning, she is found dead in bed.

At 81, Daphne du Maurier

was finally one with her imaginary world.

Woman: "Old evil, loose my chains and let me rest

where I am best, here in the muted shade of my own dust.

But if I must go wandering in time

and seek the source of my life force,

lend me your sable wings that as I fall beyond recall,

the sober stars can tumble in my wake for Jesus' sake."







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