Fun facts about Daphne du Maurier, author of Rebecca
1. A number of classic films owe their existence to Daphne du Maurier. Quite a few of the novels and short stories of Daphne du Maurier (1907-89) have been turned into popular films – Alfred Hitchcock was especially a fan of her work and adapted Jamaica Inn, The Birds, and Rebecca for the big screen. The Nicolas Roeg film Don’t Look Now (which is now being remade) is also based on a Daphne du Maurier short story. The 1952 film My Cousin Rachel, starring Richard Burton, was also based on a novel by Daphne du Maurier.
2. Her grandfather was also a famous author. Daphne’s grandfather George du Maurier was an influential writer in his own right, as well as being a popular Victorian cartoonist. We owe several words and phrases, now in common use, to him, as we revealed in our ‘Five Reasons Everyone Should Know George du Maurier‘. George’s son Gerald du Maurier – the actor-manager who was Daphne’s father – was an important presence in Daphne’s life and both father and daughter were close. Gerald du Maurier was friends with the thriller writer Edgar Wallace, who appears to have encouraged the young Daphne to write romantic novels as a surefire way to achieve bestsellerdom. If so, the advice certainly worked.
3. Daphne du Maurier’s cousin was Peter Pan. Another notable relation was Peter Llewellyn Davies – and his siblings, who were the children of George du Maurier’s daughter Sylvia (or, to put it another way, Daphne’s aunt Sylvia). Peter and his brothers would inspire J. M. Barrie to create Peter Pan, as we reveal in our Five Fascinating Facts about Peter Pan.
4. She is alleged to have had affairs with several famous people. Romance and mystery are the bywords of much of du Maurier’s fiction – ‘romance’ both in the sense of romantic relationships and exotic escapism (films of her work were popular during WWII for this very reason). Consider, for instance, her alleged affairs with both men and women, including the director of The Third Man, Carol Reed, and the actress, Gertrude Lawrence.
There is often an air of mystery in Daphne du Maurier’s work. We never find out the second Mrs de Winter’s first name in Rebecca, or whether Rachel did actually kill her husband, Ambrose, in My Cousin Rachel. Du Maurier seems to have liked such open questions.
5. In 1969, Daphne du Maurier became a Dame of the British Empire. She had married Frederick Browning in 1932 and in 1946 had become Lady Browning; then, in 1969 (four years after he husband’s death) she became Dame Daphne du Maurier DBE. She died in Cornwall, the setting for many of her most famous novels and stories, in 1989. Her own house for many years, Menabilly, was located in Cornwall and was the inspiration for Manderley in her masterpiece, Rebecca – du Maurier even wrote a book about the house set during the English Civil War, The King’s General (1946). Unfortunately, in 1969 she had to give up Menabilly and, thereafter, wrote virtually no more fiction. But the novels she has left remain popular, both as books in their own right and as classics of the silver screen.