Monday, December 16, 2013

Joan Fontaine (1917-2013)

I think to the crime fiction world Joan Fontaine, who died yesterday at the age of 96, is best known for the films Rebecca (1940) and Suspicion (1941), both directed by Alfred Hitchcock and based, respectively, novels by Daphne du Maurier and Anthony Berkeley Cox.

Great films both (though the alteration of the novel's ending in Suspicion is controversial), but I want to take this opportunity to take note of the 1947 Joan Fontaine film Ivy, a period murder melodrama adapted from The Story of Ivy (1927), by Marie Belloc Lowndes, an under-appreciated crime writer (she's almost solely known today for one work, the much-filmed Jack-the-Ripper tale The Lodger).

Sadly, Ivy is not available on DVD, but let this be my plea to see it released as such.  It's a splendid old Victorian crime story, with a wicked woman (Fontaine), adultery, arsenic and annihilation.

Also in the cast are Herbert Marshall, Richard Ney and Patric Knowles, but except for a brief scene-stealing cameo as a fortune teller from Una O'Connor it is Joan Fontaine's show all the way.  Watch it if you get the chance.

Incidentally, here's the Suspense radio version of The Story of Ivy, starring Ann Richards.


  1. The Story of Ivy is one of my favourite books and this movie has long been on my TBW list.

  2. Freaky! I was in San Diego when I learned of Fontaine's death and thought I'd pay her a tribute on my blog when I got home. Seriously, Curt I was going to write a post on Joan and specifically the movie version of the Belloc Lowndes novel. So you've trumped me just as I trumped you with John Hawk. R.I.P. to Joan ...and Peter O' Toole, too.
    BTW: Ivy is on YouTube, but broken up into several parts. That's not stopped me though. It's the only way I got to see THE RECKLESS MOMENTS several years ago.

  3. Great choice Curt (and, in absentia, John) - I don;t think she was a great actress necessarily but was gret in a half dozen or so movie - LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN might be my favourite.

  4. Snap! I was also planning to dig out my recording from TV of this film for a little tribute to Joan Fontaine. I'm obviously going to have to work a LOT faster.

  5. Well, it's a short entry so I'm sure there's plenty left for you folks to say! I saw the film nearly fifteen years ago and it was a great pleasure in part because I had never heard of it. It's those unexpected pleasures that often are the sweetest.

    One thing I liked about Fontaine in this is that she's not the sort of waif type she is in Suspicion and Rebecca. Would love to have seen Fontaine's Ivy pitted against Judith Anderson's Mrs. Danvers!