My Cousin Rachel (1952)

My Cousin Rachel (1952)

“There, beside his grave, I made a vow: I swore that whatever it had cost Ambrose in pain and suffering, I would return it in full measure.”

When his wealthy cousin Ambrose (John Sutton) dies while abroad, Philip Ashley (Richard Burton) suspects Ambrose’s new wife, Rachel (Olivia de Havilland), of murder. When Rachel comes to visit, however, Philip finds himself swayed by her charms, and is no longer sure what to think.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Historical Drama
  • Inheritance
  • Mistaken or Hidden Identities
  • Olivia de Havilland Films
  • Revenge
  • Richard Burton Films
  • Romance
  • Widows

Richard Burton made his screen debut in this excellent adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier’s gothic romance. Burton is appropriately moody as the young protagonist who experiences both love and hatred for his beautiful cousin, while De Haviland once again shows her talent for playing a sweet yet potentially duplicitous woman (see also The Dark Mirror). In addition to fine performances and atmospheric sets, the screenplay is nicely paced, keeping us constantly guessing about Rachel’s motivations until the final climactic moments.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Richard Burton as the brooding, love-struck Philip
  • Olivia de Havilland as Rachel
  • Atmospheric sets and cinematography
  • Nunnally Johnson’s script — full of many intriguing mysteries and plot twists

Must See?
No, but it’s highly recommended for fans of gothic romances.


One thought on “My Cousin Rachel (1952)

  1. Agreed – not a must, but gothic romance fans will eat it up.

    Hadn’t seen this since I was a young’un; just watched it in sections at youtube.

    About a year or so ago, I read (and very much enjoyed) the book. I was in one of those “Well, I should at least read *one* book by this author…” moods, and this is the Du Maurier novel I chose. (I had just seen a bio-film about her. …Intriguing.)

    The film follows the book rather closely, and loses only some of the fullness of the texture. The leads are suited to their parts and the film does look great (for something studio-bound): suitably shadowy for tortured ‘love’ in the middle of nowhere. Time seems to fly by, so the tale is economically told. It’s probably a cozy flick for a rainy Sunday afternoon.

    Though the endings of both film and book are not all that different, I somehow recall the book carrying a bit more of a punch at the conclusion.

    Director Henry Koster also gave us ‘Harvey’, ‘The Robe’ and ‘The Virgin Queen’, among others. Overall, an unusual career in Hollywood, certainly. His is not a name that the average ff is likely to identify clearly. His backstory at IMDb, tho, should hold historical interest for ffs.

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