Daphne du Maurier
Writers I love To Read
Where to begin? I guess Rebecca comes to mind first. Why? For it’s famous first line:
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”
A hook if there ever was one, which catapults you into the next equally compelling paragraphs—three and a half pages of description. But what description.
“There was a padlock and chains upon the gate. I called in my dream to the lodge-keeper and got no answer.”
“No smoke came from the chimney and the little windows gaped forlorn.”
“Nature had come into her own again and little by little, in her stealthy insidious way, had encroached upon the drive with long tenacious fingers. The woods, always a menace in the past, had triumphed in the end.”
And that’s just the beginning. And it’s only one book. What about My Cousin Rachel, Frenchman’s Creek, Jamaica Inn, The House on the Strand to name a few.
Du Maurier also wrote plays, and nonfiction. I love to read books are about her life in Cornwall, one of my favorite places on earth. (Check out www.dumaurier.org for interesting reading about her life, her father, the actor and the cigarettes named after him, and her home in Cornwall.)
Many of her stories were adapted for film. And of the twentieth century gothic suspense authors, du Maurier, I think, was the luckiest with her adaptations. Due in large part to one man, Alfred Hitchcock.
Jamaican Inn, (1939)directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starred Maureen O’Hara and Charles Laughton.
Rebecca (1949) also directed by Hitchcock and starring Lawrence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, and Judith Anderson, later a PBS version (1997) starring Charles Dance and Dianna Rigg.
My Cousin Rachel (1952) directed by Henry Koster with Olivia di Havilland and Richard Burton
The Birds (1963) Hitchcock directing with Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedron and Suzanne Pleshette.
Don’t Look Now, (1973) directed by Nicholas Roeg and starring Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland.
There were others. These directors and cast were wonderful for the most part and it’s great to have books adapted, but as much is lost as is gained by the immediacy of film. You get the one first line in most productions of Rebecca, but after that the plot speeds along at the pace of . . . well filmmaking. I think sometimes a film overpowers the story as in the case of The Birds. The short story is gripping, but short and smaller, by its nature. But the novels, as wonderful as the films are, will always be first for me.
How do you feel about adaptations, and do you think they introduce viewers to authors or does their interest stop when they leave the theatre? Would you rather read, watch or do both?