Laurence Olivier received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Maxim de Winter in Rebecca.
Laurence Olivier is an actor, who at his best, I am always amazed by his ability create very unique characterization, and his ability never to really seem to portray himself, but always his character. This quality is true of how work in Rebecca as it is in his best work. He finds a unique way to present Maxim de Winter that is entirely his own, without ever seeming to be acting to create these unique characters of Maxim de Winter.
Laurence Olivier early in the film creates an interesting and mysterious portrait of Maxim de Winter from his at first brief interactions with the young woman (Joan Fontaine). In these early moments he comes in and out, and Olivier simply is terrific, in doing just about everything he can do with the time that he has. He suggests a charming man, in a quiet fashion, but also suggests the perfect subtle haunted quality deep with Maxim which is incredibly fascinating.
Olivier romantic scenes with Joan Fontaine are quite interesting, because it is not an extremely warm or overly lovely relationship. Yet with the little time in which they are given I do believe both actors make the relationship work. They show an interesting dynamic between the two, that makes the romance understandable, and even still romantic in an internal fashion.
After they marry, Olivier comes in and out of the film as the new Mrs. de Winter deals this mysterious place. Olivier although he is not always on the screen, he still finds his ways into creating a fascinating character, that one does think of even when he is absent. Olivier when on screen though further displays something that is eating away at Maxim on the inside. It is something he covers up with anger and avoidance, and Olivier is brilliant creating the mystery behind the character without giving away what he really means.
When he finally does get to reveal the truth behind what haunts him, which is not what was to be expected. This is Olivier's showcase scene where he finally gets to show all of his hidden emotions completely upfront. It is simply a marvelous scene, which Olivier brilliantly indicated to through the rest of performance. It is a fascinating scene because of the rawness of Olivier performance in comparison to how his character had been before this scene. Olivier handles this pivotal scene perfectly showing every haunted and repressed emotion completely in a incredibly powerful scene.
After this scene Olivier once again does finally gain the focus of the film on him rather than on Fontaine as the rest of the film had been. Olivier once again shines as his character faces to lose all that he has due to the past with his deceased wife. Olivier is once again subtle and excellent in showing his hidden fear, pain, but as well as an outward strength to fight against his deceased wife's past, as well as her former lover. I really found his ending scene particularly fascinating where he finally shows a relief and a final loss of his haunted quality at last. Overall Olivier's performance is a strong, subtle, minimalistic performance, that is exceedingly effective.