I wish my name was Daphne du Maurier. Uh oh, sounding a little Mrs. Danvers there…Rebecca is the story of a young woman who meets and marries a vacationing, aristocratic widower. She accompanies him back to his estate to find out that his recently deceased wife looms large, especially in the heart and mind of his diabolical housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, played excellently by Judith Anderson. In this role she sort of created the mold for screen psychos of the obesessed, feminine variety. Hitchcock seems to have had a thing for trying to drive pretty blondes insane, and, in Rebecca, Mrs. Danvers acts on his behalf.
When I was in college studying Film Theory (I know, I know), we watched Rebecca through the lens of Queer Theory, (Iknow, I know) which meant Mrs. Danvers was a lesbian, in love with Rebecca, and driven insane by her marginal status in society. I find that politicized reading too pat. In terms of storytelling, it is much more interesting for Mrs. Danvers to want to be Rebecca–much more creepy, like Single White Female.
The narrator and new wife, who is never named in film or book, is played by Joan Fontaine. And the aristocratic husband is played by Lawrence Olivier.