Daphne du Maurier wrote the first draft of her signature work in Alexandria where she lived with her husband, Frederick Browning. The protagonist, Rebecca de Winter, and the story's narrator reflect aspects of du Maurier’s personality.
Du Maurier's Family Background (04:50)
Du Maurier’s family name was famous by the time she was born in 1907. She grew up in Hampstead neighborhood, believing her family was descended from aristocrats. Her grandfather, George du Maurier, gained international acclaim for “Peter Ibbetson” and “Trilby.”
Du Maurier's Early Writing (03:49)
As a teenager, Du Maurier did not enjoy the company of strangers. She began writing poems and short stories, but they were rarely finished. She attended boarding school in France and became involved with her headmistress, Fernande Yvon. She wrote “The Doll.”
Life at Ferryside (03:15)
Du Maurier returned to England where women were gaining greater autonomy. Her father did not approve of her relationship with film director Carol Reed. Du Maurier moved to her family’s new home in Cornwall and fell in love with its idyllic setting.
Inspiration and Early Novels (02:57)
Du Maurier found the wreckage of the schooner "Jane Slade." Letters provided by a member of the Slade family inspired her to write. Among her early novels were “I’ll Never Be Young Again” and “The Progress of Julius.” She met Frederick “Boy” Browning and they fell in love.
Collaboration and Adaptation (03:24)
Du Maurier and Browning married and had three children. Du Maurier’s biography about her father was her first collaboration with publisher Victor Gollancz; Gollancz offered a hefty advance for “Rebecca.” The story was adapted for a hit motion picture.
A farmer who lodged Du Maurier and her family during wartime inspired “Frenchman’s Creek.” The author took refuge in Cornwall during the bombing of London; she leased a rundown estate. Du Maurier was aloof when it came to her children and domestic details.
Lady Browning (04:02)
Du Maurier was infatuated with Menabilly. She retreated to a cabin on the estate to write “The King’s General.” She remained in Cornwall when her family returned to London. Browning was knighted and worked for Princess Elizabeth, bringing Du Maurier into contact with the royal family.
Accusation of Plagiarism (03:18)
Writer Edwina MacDonald sued Du Maurier, accusing her of lifting elements of “Rebecca” from her short story, “Blind Windows.” Upon arriving in America for the trial, Du Maurier became smitten with her publisher’s wife, Ellen Doubleday.
"September Tide" (03:45)
Du Maurier won the lawsuit, but had a nervous breakdown. She wrote a play that depicts forbidden love between a mother-in-law and her stepson. The lead role was inspired by Doubleday and played by Gerald du Maurier’s mistress, Gertrude Lawrence in the film adaptation.
"My Cousin Rachel" (02:06)
Du Maurier remained obsessed with Doubleday, but the American kept her at arm’s length. Du Maurier’s frustration fueled the writing of her next novel, the story of a young man who falls in love with an older woman.
Gothic Stories (03:00)
Du Maurier wrote a series of grim stories, including "The Birds," which Hitchcock adapted into one of his most popular films. “The Blue Lenses” reflects the author’s obsession with animals. Lawrence's death in 1952 devastated Du Maurier.
Du Maurier's Depression (03:35)
Du Maurier turned to psychoanalysis and the works of Carl Jung for answers. She explored the concept of duality with her 1951 novel, “The Scapegoat,” which MGM turned into a movie. She learned her husband was having an affair.
“Don’t Look Now" (02:51)
Browning’s health steadily declined, and he died in 1965. Du Maurier felt guilty for leaving him alone while in the grip of her romantic infatuations. She channeled her grief into a series of short stories.
Du Maurier's Final Years (04:52)
Du Maurier moved to Kilmarth after her husband’s death. The house provided inspiration for “The House on the Strand.” She granted a rare interview to BBC during which she revealed her original manuscripts and downplayed the importance of “Rebecca.” She died in 1989.
Credits: Daphne du Maurier (00:49)
Credits: Daphne du Maurier
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