"Rebecca," the novel by Daphne du Maurier, for all its great popularity, limped badly and never really came completely to life…. But in the motion picture version all this is brushed aside by the understanding and literary style of a greater craftsman than Miss du Maurier.
Alfred Hitchcock has made of "Rebecca" one of those perfect things—one of those masterpieces that we remember, like his other perfect cinema entertainments "The Thirty-nine Steps" and "The Lady Vanishes." The novel is all there…. Hitchcock touches [the young girl] with a spark of genius and she moves in terror—flits before you a live, living person whom you pity and with whom you share some obscure dread. You become extremely susceptible to her fears. And Lord! but this Hitchcock has a sense of humor. There is no one making motion pictures today who can touch him for sly wit, fancy touch, or good rib-loosening laughter…. There is a delicate, instinctively alert intelligence in every scene….
Like the simple poems of A. E. Housman, this story gives you the feeling that you are face to face with a master, yet to analyze the why of it is hard. The simple direct statement tricks you into thinking it is done with ease—yet behind every statement is the great skill and cunning of its creator.
Thomas Burton, "Books into Pictures," in The Saturday Review of Literature (copyright © 1940 by Saturday Review; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Vol. XXII, No. 7, June 8, 1940, p. 21.