On opening night in Cleveland 1998 or 1999, I was to play the Auctioneer. I hadn’t been the Auctioneer for a year and a half but figured it had worn a groove into my noggin. So when David Hansen, SM, asked if I needed some time on the stage to go over it I answered, “No, I’ve got it.” The dress rehearsal went fine so I was further convinced that I was the genius of the century. That night, I got close to the end of the Auctioneer’s monologue, “…perhaps we may frighten away the ghost of so many years ago with a little illumination, GENTLEMEN!” Well, I got out the word “perhaps” and went blank. I thought, “This can’t be happening. This is THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, a well-oiled machine. NO ONE forgets their lines in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA!” The entire cast slowly turned toward me. I had to think fast! So I thought, “Well, you can’t go wrong with the name of the play!” and I repeated “perhaps?” and followed it with “we may experience THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA!” It took a few moments for the crew to realize that this was all they were going to get before the chandelier should kaboom and we should continue on with the play. I would say that this was my most embarrassing moment to date had I not done the very same thing the next night, even though all day I had mumbled the monologue to myself over and over and over? UGH.
Stage Manager David Hansen handled it wonderfully. I went to him expecting a pink slip or, at the very least, a sour look. Instead, he said jovially, “Well, you won’t do that again will you.” I didn’t.
Rebecca Judd, to calm my nerves about it, approached me and told me about the time she made her debut as Mme. Giry and, instead of saying, “I have a message, Sirs, from the opera ghost. He insists that you keep box five open for his use, and he reminds you that his salary is due!” She said, “I have a message, Sirs, from the opera ghost. uh…box five…don’t sit there…don’t even think about it…and the Phantom? He needs to be paid!” I felt instantly better about the whole thing.
—  D.C. Anderson

You tried to take her place. You let him marry you. I’ve seen his face - his eyes. They’re the same as those first weeks after she died. I used to listen to him, walking up and down, up and down, all night long, night after night, thinking of her, suffering torture because he lost her!

This beautiful cover art belongs to an edition of the novel published in 1971, and I thought that @thisismrsdanvers, @glacenoire and @satedanfire, in particular, would like to see it. I was lucky enough to be given permission to choose some books from an elderly neighbour’s collection, now that she’s moved into a care home, and this one caught my eye.

I love the cover because it favours simplicity over opulence, and so is perhaps more in tune with the spirit of its narrator than some other editions. Squint a little and you can even tell yourself that’s Joan Fontaine walking away from Manderley!

Opening the book at a random place (page 163, fact fans), I found the second wife creeping towards Rebecca’s bedroom. Oh, one of the best parts of the story!

‘[L]ast time Mrs Danvers had come out of a door here, just behind me, and it seemed to me that the position of the room would make it the one I wanted, whose windows looked out upon the lawns to the sea. I turned the handle of the door and went inside.’

Bad move, Mrs de Winter II. Bad move.

Now, let’s all put on our most velvety voices in tribute to Judith Anderson’s tour de force performance as Mrs Danvers and whisper, ‘Listen to the sea… So soothing!’


Upcoming New Releases- Feminist Nonfiction

Tainted Witness: Why We Doubt What Women Say about Their Lives by Leigh Gilmore (January 17th)

Living a Feminist Life, by Sara Ahmed (February 3rd)

The Mother of All Questions: Further Reports from Feminist Revolutions, by Rebecca Solnit (March 14th)

We: A Manifesto for Women Everywhere, by Gillian Anderson and Jennifer Nadel (March 7th)

Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (March 7th)

Maggie provides the first shiver when she appears at the top of the stairs, rather like Judith Anderson in Rebecca, as Peter and his family arrive: transfigured in the half-light, dignified by age and a walking stick, she intones “Hello, boy” with the implication of one claiming rights of possession… She is far less strenuously made up than she was for Travels With My Aunt. She adopts a slight lisp for the older voice, but otherwise understates the whole process of elderly impersonation, leaving her eyes to do the talking. - Michael Coveney, on Maggie Smith as Wendy in Hook.