My Cousin Rachel (1953)

98 mins | Drama | January 1953

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HISTORY

The film's title cards read "Twentieth Century-Fox presents Olivia de Havilland in Daphne Du Maurier's My Cousin Rachel ." Throughout the picture, voice-over narration by Richard Burton as "Philip Ashley" is heard intermittently. In Du Maurier's bestselling novel, which appeared as a serial in Ladies Home Journal (Nov 1951--Mar 1952), Philip Ashley narrates the story as he is about to be hanged for "Rachel's" murder. According to a 1 Aug 1951 DV article, Du Maurier's agent announced that the purchase price for a seven-year lease on screen rights to My Cousin Rachel would be $100,000, plus 5% of the world gross. The article reported that "all studios...nixed [the terms] as 'out of this world.'" When Twentieth Century-Fox acquired the rights in early Sep 1951, a Var article reported that the purchase price was a flat $80,000, plus another $20,000 if the studio decided to option the perpetual rights. Var noted that the studio's only competition for the rights came from independent producer David O. Selznick, because the "high price asked by [Du Maurier's agent] scared off other studios despite assurance by story editors that [the] book will be a bestseller and is surefire pic material."
       According to a Feb 1952 HR news item, after the book's publication in the United States, "at least two British production companies and one in this country...made overtures" to Twentieth Century-Fox to buy the screen rights. Contemporary sources note that George Cukor was originally set to direct the picture, and in May 1952 DV reported that Cukor withdrew from the project after failing to ... More Less

The film's title cards read "Twentieth Century-Fox presents Olivia de Havilland in Daphne Du Maurier's My Cousin Rachel ." Throughout the picture, voice-over narration by Richard Burton as "Philip Ashley" is heard intermittently. In Du Maurier's bestselling novel, which appeared as a serial in Ladies Home Journal (Nov 1951--Mar 1952), Philip Ashley narrates the story as he is about to be hanged for "Rachel's" murder. According to a 1 Aug 1951 DV article, Du Maurier's agent announced that the purchase price for a seven-year lease on screen rights to My Cousin Rachel would be $100,000, plus 5% of the world gross. The article reported that "all studios...nixed [the terms] as 'out of this world.'" When Twentieth Century-Fox acquired the rights in early Sep 1951, a Var article reported that the purchase price was a flat $80,000, plus another $20,000 if the studio decided to option the perpetual rights. Var noted that the studio's only competition for the rights came from independent producer David O. Selznick, because the "high price asked by [Du Maurier's agent] scared off other studios despite assurance by story editors that [the] book will be a bestseller and is surefire pic material."
       According to a Feb 1952 HR news item, after the book's publication in the United States, "at least two British production companies and one in this country...made overtures" to Twentieth Century-Fox to buy the screen rights. Contemporary sources note that George Cukor was originally set to direct the picture, and in May 1952 DV reported that Cukor withdrew from the project after failing to reach "agreement on [the] story's interpretation" with producer-screenwriter Nunnally Johnson. According to modern sources, Cukor, who wanted Vivien Leigh to star in the picture, was unhappy with Johnson's screenplay, as was Du Maurier. The author reportedly volunteered her own screen treatment of the story, but Johnson was not interested and Cukor left the production.
       Modern sources also report that Johnson sought to sign Greta Garbo for the lead, that Selznick pressed studio production chief Darryl F. Zanuck to cast Jennifer Jones as "Rachel" and that Carol Reed was considered to direct the picture. HR news items include Earl Spainard, Kathy March, Ed Mundy and Christy Olsen in the cast, but their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed. Nicholas Koster, who plays "Philip" as a boy, was the son of director Henry Koster. According to an AmCin article, background footage for the picture was shot on location in Cornwall, England.
       Richard Burton, who made his American screen debut in the picture, was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award, and received a Golden Globe as the Most Promising Newcomer of the year. Although the LAEx critic called Burton "terribly, terribly tweedy," he received mostly excellent reviews. The LADN reviewer stated "young Burton registers with an intense performance that stamps him as an actor of great potential." The production also received Academy Award nominations for Best Cinematography (B&W), Art Direction (B&W) and Costume Design (B&W). On 7 Sep 1953, Olivia de Havilland co-starred with Ron Randall in a Lux Radio Theatre presentation of the story. In 1982, the BBC produced a four-hour serial based on Du Maurier's novel, which was directed by Brian Farnham and starred Christopher Guard as "Philip" and Geraldine Chaplin as "Rachel." More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
1 Feb 53
pp. 58-9, 86-7, 89.
American Cinematographer
Jul 54
pp. 332-3, 365.
Box Office
27 Dec 1952.
---
Daily Variety
1 Aug 51
p. 10.
Daily Variety
28 May 1952.
---
Daily Variety
22 Dec 52
p. 3.
Film Daily
24 Dec 52
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Feb 52
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Mar 52
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Apr 52
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
28 May 52
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jul 52
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jul 52
p. 2, 6.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jul 52
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jul 52
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Aug 52
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Aug 52
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Aug 52
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Sep 52
p. 6, 10.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Sep 52
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Dec 52
p. 3.
International Photographer
Dec 52
pp. 8-9.
Los Angeles Daily News
26 Dec 1952.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
26 Dec 1952.
---
Los Angeles Times
26 Dec 1952.
---
Motion Picture Daily
24 Dec 1952.
---
Motion Picture Herald
24 Dec 1952.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
27 Dec 52
p. 1662.
New York Times
26 Dec 52
p. 20.
New Yorker
10 Jan 1953.
---
Time
5 Jan 1953.
---
Variety
12 Sep 51
p. 17.
Variety
24 Dec 52
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Dial dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Ward dir
Cost des
Ward
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Makeup
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Asst prod mgr
Scr supv
Unit casting dir
Tech adv
Gardener
Dial coach
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier (London, 1951).
SONGS
"Rock of Ages," music by Thomas Hastings, lyrics by Augustus Montague Toplady.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Daphne Du Maurier's My Cousin Rachel
Release Date:
January 1953
Premiere Information:
New York and Los Angeles openings: 25 December 1952
Production Date:
21 July--8 September 1952
addl seq began 22 September 1952
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century--Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
24 December 1952
Copyright Number:
LP2426
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
98
Length(in feet):
8,844
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16061
SYNOPSIS

In the mid-1800s, orphan Philip Ashley is reared by his cousin Ambrose in a mansion on the Cornish coast of England. Ambrose is devoted to Philip, but when the youth is twenty-three, Ambrose decides to visit Italy to revive his flagging health. Philip and neighbor Louise Kendall bid farewell to Ambrose, who does not return in the spring, as he had planned. Instead, Ambrose writes to Philip that he has met a distant cousin, Countess Rachel Sangalletti, a half-English, half-Italian widow. Philip is distressed when he receives additional letters describing Ambrose's marriage to Rachel and his subsequent illness. Finally, Ambrose writes that he does not trust Rachel, who he suspects is trying to kill him. Although Louise's father Nicholas informs Philip that a brain tumor killed Ambrose's father, Philip dismisses his supposition that a tumor is making Ambrose delusional. Philip travels to Italy, but by the time he arrives, Ambrose has died and Rachel has left. A servant's description of Ambrose's death and Rachel's friendship with an Italian lawyer, Guido Rainaldi, heightens Philip's suspicions, and he confronts Rainaldi. The lawyer assures Philip that Ambrose died from a brain tumor, and that the doctors had feared that the tumor would make him paranoid. Philip is still uneasy, even after Rainaldi reveals that Ambrose left his estate to him, to be kept in trust until his twenty-fifth birthday. Philip then visits Ambrose's grave and vows that whatever pain Rachel inflicted on him will be repaid in double. Later, after Philip returns home, Rachel comes to England with Ambrose's possessions. Kendall, who is the executor of Ambrose's will, asks Philip to ... +


In the mid-1800s, orphan Philip Ashley is reared by his cousin Ambrose in a mansion on the Cornish coast of England. Ambrose is devoted to Philip, but when the youth is twenty-three, Ambrose decides to visit Italy to revive his flagging health. Philip and neighbor Louise Kendall bid farewell to Ambrose, who does not return in the spring, as he had planned. Instead, Ambrose writes to Philip that he has met a distant cousin, Countess Rachel Sangalletti, a half-English, half-Italian widow. Philip is distressed when he receives additional letters describing Ambrose's marriage to Rachel and his subsequent illness. Finally, Ambrose writes that he does not trust Rachel, who he suspects is trying to kill him. Although Louise's father Nicholas informs Philip that a brain tumor killed Ambrose's father, Philip dismisses his supposition that a tumor is making Ambrose delusional. Philip travels to Italy, but by the time he arrives, Ambrose has died and Rachel has left. A servant's description of Ambrose's death and Rachel's friendship with an Italian lawyer, Guido Rainaldi, heightens Philip's suspicions, and he confronts Rainaldi. The lawyer assures Philip that Ambrose died from a brain tumor, and that the doctors had feared that the tumor would make him paranoid. Philip is still uneasy, even after Rainaldi reveals that Ambrose left his estate to him, to be kept in trust until his twenty-fifth birthday. Philip then visits Ambrose's grave and vows that whatever pain Rachel inflicted on him will be repaid in double. Later, after Philip returns home, Rachel comes to England with Ambrose's possessions. Kendall, who is the executor of Ambrose's will, asks Philip to look kindly upon Rachel, as she is now penniless. Philip offers to let Rachel stay at the Ashley mansion, although he rudely does not greet her until long after her arrival. The headstrong Philip is astonished by how young and lovely Rachel is, and by how much she knows about the Ashley family. After a few days, Philip has been won over by Rachel's graciousness and confesses his former hatred of her. Rachel forgives him and soon after, Philip tells Kendall that he is giving Rachel £5,000 a year. Kendall protests Philip's generosity, but Philip insists that as Ambrose's widow, she is entitled to it. Meanwhile, Rachel stays on at the mansion, and encourages Philip's infatuation with her. At Christmas, Philip gives Rachel a valuable family necklace, but Kendall insists that she return it. Philip, angered at being treated like a child, is even more upset when Kendall alleges that Rachel is overdrawing her bank account to send money to Italy. Philip, who has become obsessed with Rachel, refuses to hear anything bad about her, and tries to be pleasant to Rainaldi when he visits. Later, Rainaldi reveals to Philip that Ambrose had written a new will leaving everything to Rachel, but that he died before signing it. On the day before his twenty-fifth birthday, Philip asks Kendall to write a document transferring the Ashley estate to Rachel. Despite Kendall's misgivings, at midnight, Philip presents the document to Rachel along with the family jewels. Rachel thanks Philip passionately and implies that she will marry him, but the next night, when Philip announces their engagement, she denies it. Rachel rejects Philip's next proposal, and coldly states that her earlier passion was due to his gifts. Enraged, Philip begins to strangle Rachel but stops before doing her serious harm. Soon after, Philip talks with Louise, who reveals that Rachel interrogated Kendall about the remarriage clause in Philip's document, stating that she will forfeit the Ashley estate if she remarries. When Philip returns home, he learns that Rachel, afraid of his temper, has invited a minister's daughter, Mary Pascoe, to stay with her, and that they are planning a sunken garden near a chasm on the estate. Later, Philip becomes gravely ill with meningitis, and Rachel nurses him, giving him tisanes and other herbs. During his delirium, Philip imagines that he and Rachel are married, and when his fever breaks, he calls himself her husband. Philip's recovery progresses over several more weeks, until finally, he learns from a gardener that Rachel is returning to Italy. Rachel, who was meeting with Rainaldi in the nearby town of Plymouth, returns and when Philip confronts her, admits that she will leave soon. Rachel then reveals that they are not married, and the disappointed Philip notices that she has a recent letter from Rainaldi, postmarked in Plymouth, even though she had told him that the lawyer was in Italy. Determined to read the letter, Philip breaks into Rachel's room, but the packet he retrieves contains only poisonous seeds. Horrified, Philip becomes convinced that Rachel killed Ambrose and tried to poison him. On the day of Rachel's departure, Philip confides his suspicions to Louise, and while Rachel goes to inspect the sunken garden, they sneak into her room to find Rainaldi's letter. The letter indicates that Rachel might be innocent, however, and that she genuinely cares for Philip. Philip then realizes that in order to reach the garden, Rachel must cross a bridge that the builder had deemed unsafe. Philip runs to the site but arrives too late, for Rachel has fallen to the rocky ground below. After Philip rushes to her side, Rachel sadly asks him why he did it, then dies. Later, as he stares at the sea, Philip ponders his torment over Rachel's guilt or innocence. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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