My Cousin Rachel (1952)


(director: Henry Koster; screenwriters: Nunnally Johnson/based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier; cinematographer: Joseph La Shelle; editor: Louis Loeffler; music: Franz Waxman; cast: Olivia de Havilland (Rachel Ashley), Richard Burton (Philip Ashley), Audrey Dalton (Louise Kendall), Ronald Squire (Nicholas ‘Nick’ Kendall), George Dolenz (Guido Rainaldi), John Sutton (Ambrose Ashley); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Nunnally Johnson; 20th Century-Fox; 1952)

Overwrought melodrama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Richard Burton’s screen debut. Veteran filmmaker Henry Koster (“The Story of Ruth”/”Flower Drum Song”/”My Man Godfrey”) directs this overwrought melodrama. It’s based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier. The screenplay is by Nunnally Johnson. It’s set in the 19th-century at a mansion on the clifftops of Cornwall.

When the wealthy cousin Ambrose (John Sutton), of Philip Ashley (Richard Burton), an orphan raised by Ambrose, dies on holiday in Italy, Philip suspects his new beautiful wife Rachel (Olivia de Havilland), a distant cousin who is half-English, half-Italian, someone hubby met on his tour of Italy, of killing him. During Rachel’s visit to Cornwall, the first time she meets the 23-year-old Philip, they fall in love. This despite Ambrose writing Philip that he suspects his wife is trying to kill him and blames his illness on her. But Philip’s neighbor, Nicholas Kendall (Ronald Squire), tells him that Ambrose died of a brain tumor which made him delusional. In the end Philip remains a love-torn brooding suspicious man, who is never sure if Rachel is innocent or guilty. These doubts and Philip’s obsession with her leads to tragedy.