Mrs. Danvers (Dame Judith
Anderson), "Rebecca" (1940) Alfred Hitchcock's gorgeously gothic, David O. Selznick production "Rebecca" is notable for
many reasons (performances by Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders; and it was the only Hitchcock film to
win Best Picture), ... more but it's Dame Judith Anderson who steals the show. After
Fontaine's Second Mrs. de Winter marries the wealthy Maxim de Winter (Olivier),
she moves to Manderlay, his large country estate in Cornwall, and not only
contends with her husband's moodiness over the death of his first wife, Rebecca,
but also the ominous, domineering housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers. The servant is
obsessed with the late Rebecca to the point of, well, sexual confusion --
there's a notorious scene in which Mrs. Danvers shows Rebecca's old room and
fixates on the dead woman's negligee so intensely that Mrs. de Winter flinches.
So, naturally, she immediately despises the new wife and seeks ways to make the
poor woman go crazy. So diabolical and persuasive is this woman that she coaxes
Mrs. de Winter to nearly commit suicide in a moment that, under Anderson's
malevolent yet hypnotic influence, truly feels like a summoning of evil.
(John Springer Collection/Corbis)