The suicide scene begins quite cheerfully. Max and his wife are holding a ball at Manderley for the first time since Rebecca died, and Mrs. Dewinter is trying to look as glamorous as possible for what is her chance to show off herself as the lovely young Bride of Maxim Dewinter. At the front door, Max is greeting Giles and Beatrice, friends of his. Beatrice asks “Where is the child? ” to which Max replies “Oh, she’s upstairs. ” The way they look upon Mrs. Dewinter is not with contempt, but as if she is a commodity of a wife who is organising the ball just to have a few hours of child-like fun.
Beatrice goes upstairs to see how Mrs. Dewinter is getting on with her costume, but is politely refused entry into the chambers of Mrs. Dewinter to add to effect and surprise when Mrs. Dewinter enters the great hall. The lady in waiting puts the final touches to the dress, and comments on how lovely it looks upon Mrs. Dewinter. Mrs. Dewinter leaves her chambers, and daintily runs down the hallway to see where Max is. For a brief moment, Mrs. Dewinter pauses by a picture in the family art gallery, but unbeknown to her, she is wearing an exact copy of a dress previously worn by Rebecca only a year before.
She does not know this because Mrs. Danvers told her that it was a portrait of one of Max’s Aunts, not of his late wife. This was a plan hatched by Mrs. Danvers to try and oust this new blood from her carefully organised and well run house. According to her, Mr. Dewinter was in no need of a new wife, for no-one could ever replace Rebecca, who was thought by everyone to have been worshipped and adored by Max. As Mrs. Dewinter approaches the stairs, she calms herself and puts on a very regal feel about herself.
As if playing a game like a child, she gingerly and daintily meanders down the grand staircase. Mrs. Dewinter has her shoulders uncovered, as if she had let her guard down and was dangerously vulnerable to attack, which was actually about to happen. As Mrs. Dewinter comes to the bottom of the staircase, Max is laughing and joking with his friends. Mrs. Dewinter taps Max on the shoulder, saying “Good evening, Mr. Dewinter. ” Max turns around with a broad smile on his face that soon turns into a face that looks frightened, like he’d seen a ghost.
Max gets extremely angry, and demands that she goes and gets changed immediately into anything but a dress that would remind him of Rebecca like that one. Rebecca runs up the staircase, sobbing, when her hat comes off just as she spies Mrs. Danvers haughtily heading towards the wing of the house that previously was lived in by Rebecca, but was off-limits to everyone else now. As the hat comes off, anger comes over Mrs. Dewinter, and she goes for Mrs. Danvers and in a distraught state asking her why she should do such a cruel and spiteful thing to her.
Mrs. Danvers then tells her exactly what she thinks of her once they reach the bedroom, telling her how Rebecca was such a strong woman, and how “She was beaten in the end. But it wasn’t a man, it wasn’t a woman, it was the sea. ” She tells Mrs. Dewinter how Max strode the corridors night after night at Manderley, he was that upset over his wife’s death. As far as Mrs. Danvers knew, that was the truth as she didn’t know the true story between Max and Rebecca, and what she interpreted as sorrow was guilt and personal conflict inside Max.
As the verbal barrage of abuse continues, Mrs. Dewinter collapses in tears onto the bed with such irony, because that was the bed where Rebecca laughed and looked at the beautiful sea views. “You are overwrought madam. I shall open a window,” declares Mrs. Danvers, and with a very smug look on her face opens the windows which were like prison bars to Mrs. Dewinter, offering her an escape from a life which she so obviously doesn’t want to carry on with. Mrs. Dewinter verges on the edge of the windowsill, with Mrs.
Danvers stood right behind her, reminding her how easy it would be to just fall into the foggy night and take the easy way out. As the suspensary music becomes louder, and Mrs. Danvers’ shadow seems to get bigger with the more Mrs. Dewinter crumbles, it really does look as if Mrs. Dewinter was about to jump. At the very minute it looked that she would end it all, large explosions come from the night sky; flares being fired from a ship that had ran aground, and would inadvertently find the body of Rebecca.
The woman who had spiritually haunted her successor as wife of Maxim seemed to have saved her at the last moment. The music cuts out with the explosions, and Mrs. Dewinter runs down to find Maxim, casting Mrs. Danvers aside, and ruining her big chance to keep Manderley exactly as she wanted it, as a tribute to the life of Rebecca. The black and white presentation of these two scenes made very effective cinematography, as it added to emotion and suspense. Alfred Hitchcock used shadows and props to aid the conveyance of emotion a lot in these two key scenes, and it worked very well indeed.