My Cousin Rachel, from 1952, is a suspenseful romantic drama starring Olivia deHavilland and Richard Burton. Based on the Daphne duMaurier novel of the same name, this story has elements in common with another of the author's works—Rebecca—namely, a large manor house, the English coast, and a mysterious death. This film, though, takes place during the early 1800's.
Phillip Ashley (Richard Burton), having lost his parents when he was but a few months old, has lived with his wealthy cousin/guardian, Ambrose, all his life. Though the two get along extremely well and are more like father and son than cousins, when Phillip reaches his twenties, Ambrose departs coastal England for the warmer temperatures of Italy. While there, he meets and marries his distant cousin Rachel (Olivia deHavilland), informing Phillip of the marriage through a letter.
Ambrose seems happy enough, but shortly after the first letter, another letter arrives, this one referring to Rachel as "his torment" and indicating that she is trying to kill him. Concerned, Phillip heads to Florence to see for himself what is going on. By the time he arrives, though, Ambrose has already died and been buried, and Rachel has left town. Although Phillip is informed that Ambrose had been suffering from a brain tumor which had resulted in delusional thoughts, he still believes Ambrose had, in fact, been in danger from his wife. After vowing to Ambrose's grave that he will repay his cousin Rachel, Phillip returns to England.
Not long afterwards, Rachel, who is younger and more beautiful than they expected her to be, makes a visit to the Ashley Estate. As Phillip and Rachel spend time together, Phillip comes to believe that there was absolutely no truth to Ambrose's letters...that they really were the result of a delusional mind...that Rachel had never done his cousin any harm. Completely in love with Rachel, Phillip refuses to believe stories which indicate she is not what she appears to be.
Since Ambrose's will made no allowance for a wife, but left everything to Phillip, could it be that Rachel is stringing him along? Perhaps she really did murder Ambrose and will, very soon, find a way to get her hands on the estate and murder Phillip as well. These are the questions that play out in this mildly suspenseful Gothic drama.
My Cousin Rachel is interesting and entertaining, and while not of the same caliber as Rebecca, it is, nevertheless, a very solid 3-star film. Olivia deHavilland gave a superb performance. She really had a broad range of ability, and I have enjoyed discovering that she was far more than simply sugary-sweet Melanie Hamilton. Richard Burton's performance was "so-so" to me. I never—not even for a moment—felt that his love for Rachel was real. He just seemed lukewarm to me, his passion forced; however, despite Burton's less-than-believable performance, I was interested enough in the outcome to keep on watching.
To my knowledge, this film is not out on DVD, but it is available in its entirety on YouTube (above).