Some years ago, I listened to the audiobook of ‘My Cousin Rachel’, and like her previous work, I was drawn into Daphne du Maurier’s world. As Olivia de Havilland celebrated her 104th birthday this month, I felt it appropriate to watch one of her films.
One of the things that drew me in straight away was seeing Richard Burton as Philip Ashley, which was his first Hollywood role. I’ve always liked Richard Burton and absolutely love his voice and he does well in this role. He plays a convincing angry, tormented, even obsessed character which shifts from revenge to love and back again. Olivia de Havilland portrays a friendly, charming widow, where on occasion, the audience sees another side to her, leaving one to question if she is all she appears to be.
Suspicious of his cousin, Philip enters Rachel’s bedroom, searching her drawers for evidence. Here he discovers seeds. Sadly, though, I think more could have been made leading up to this discovery. Perhaps the hints were too subtle, like when Rachel makes tea. Other than the mention of a tree in Italy in passing towards the end of the film, there is no indication of Rachel’s interest in botany or of laburnum and its poison.
I was impressed with both the film’s costumes and set design. The sets include a couple of scenes in Italy, but mainly those of Ashley House in Cornwall. The architecture within Ashley House, with its timber and stonework, give it a very Gothic atmosphere.
Overall, though, my takeaway from the entire film was Richard Burton’s performance. Perhaps it may also have to do with the fact that he is the main character and the story is told from his point of view. We see his anger and mistrust turn into an obsession so that at times he verges on madness.
This 1952 film version is a good adaptation of the novel, filled with atmosphere and suspense. I just think more could have been made of the possibility of poison to further heighten the suspicion towards Rachel for the viewer, as it had done for Philip Ashley.
Do you enjoy watching old movies? What have you been watching this month? Have world events inspired you to watch something lighter or has it made little difference to your viewing habits?