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Saturday April 13th 2024

Rebecca | 1940

Alfred Hitchcock's first US film and, amazingly, the only one of his films to win Best Picture Oscar, was adapted from Daphne du Maurier's novel. It’s set in 'Monte Carlo' and 'Cornwall' but, as was standard practice in the Forties, made almost entirely in the studio, with a few exterior locations around California.

'Manderley', of course, never existed. It was based on an estate called Menabilly, on the east side of St Austell Bay, close to Fowey, Cornwall in southeast England. The family seat of the Rashleighs, a wealthy merchant family during the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, Menabilly had fallen into disrepair when author Daphne du Maurier leased it in 1943, and began its restoration. In 1969, she returned it to the Rashleigh family, and it remains a private home, although there are two cottages on the estate which can be rented as holiday lets.

The set for Hitchcock's Gothic mansion was built at the old Selznick Studios, on the site of the Gone With The Wind sets. The studio still stands, practically unchanged, but now called Culver Studios, at 9336 West Washington Boulevard, in Culver City.

The estate grounds were filmed in the Del Monte area of California, near Monterey, while beach exteriors used Catalina Island, off the coast of Los Angeles.

The rugged cliffs of ‘Monte Carlo’, where the ‘second Mrs de Winter’ (Joan Fontaine) first meets Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier), were filmed, using stand-ins, by a second unit at Point Lobos State Reserve, three miles south of Carmel, on the California coast.

The delicate ecology of the area was endangered when the crew entered padlocked areas, bringing imported vines and ivy into contact with the native cypress trees. With poetic justice, most ended up hospitalised with poison ivy.

After damage to the area by Hollywood productions, the Point Lobos League was formed and strict rules are now in force to protect the environment. The Point Lobos Foundation lists Moves made at Point Lobos.

You can visit the wildly beautiful state park, but the ground cover is still a mat of the very nasty weed. To remove it would upset the environmental balance, so warning notices are posted throughout.