Daphne Du Maurier’s best seller REBECCA became a natural for a film version and, indeed, producer David O. Selznick, barely finished making his monumental GONE WITH THE WIND, hired British director Alfred Hitchcock to do the job. Today, we can’t imagine anybody else but Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine in the leading roles but, in fact, Selznick negotiated with Ronald Colman to play Maxim De Winter before “settling” on Olivier when Colman decided against accepting the role. When the film became one of the biggest hits of 1940, Colman may very well have regretted his decision.
However, radio came to the rescue in early 1941 with a full hour adaptation of REBECCA with none other than Ronald Colman playing Maxim De Winter. The Joan Fontaine role (Du Maurier never gave this character a name) was played by Ida Lupino, an actress who was then tackling challenging roles on the screen. Judith Anderson (later Dame Judith Anderson) repeated her screen role of Mrs. Danvers. If you are a fan of this film (and who isn’t?), you’ll be fascinated by this radio version.
Just click the arrow below and within a few seconds you’ll be hearing the commanding voice of Cecil B. DeMille introducing REBECCA and its stars exactly as heard live on Monday, February 3, 1941, in a broadcast heard from coast to coast, and via shortwave around the world:
During the silent era, Colman played swashbucklers and was teamed with Vilma Banky in a series of romantic films. Sound films revealed his unique “velvet voice” and Colman effortlessly transitioned from the silent screen to the talkies:
Ronald Colman and Ida Lupino starred together onscreen in the 1939 film, THE LIGHT THAT FAILED, based on the story by Rudyard Kipling and directed by William Wellman. This excellent film’s continued absence from home video is a puzzling omission:
Stayed tuned through the end of this broadcast when legendary movie producer David O. Selznick is interviewed by Mr. DeMille. It is rare to hear Old Hollywood producers and directors speak for themselves.