By Mike Flaherty
November 20, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST
Rebecca: Selznick/United Artists/Kobal Collection

Alfred Hitchcock’s first American movie, Rebecca, has long been a favorite of film scholars. How strange, then, to hear his pronouncement — on an audio track from a 1962 interview that’s one of the many extra features here — that ”it’s not a Hitchcock picture.” Thanks to the heavy hand of producer David O. Selznick, it was in fact a collaboration, and a contentious one at that. A lot of the head-butting concerned how faithful the movie should be to Daphne du Maurier’s novel, in which a waifish young woman (Joan Fontaine) marries the mysterious, Heathcliff-like squire Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier), and learns that she’s a substitute for his late wife, Rebecca. Of course, things are not what they first seem, and as the true story of the de Winters slowly unravels, the film turns from gothic romance to detective story. Similarly, ”Rebecca” is a hybrid of Hitchcockian tension and Selznickian sumptuousness — you’d be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful black-and-white film. So who does it belong to? Who cares?

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