Few stories have even a fraction of its addictive magic.
But the latest adaptation of Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier’s unsettling masterpiece, threatens to be damagingly eclipsed by the off-screen shenanigans of its star, Lily James, says the author’s elder daughter, Lady Montgomery.
Tessa Montgomery urges those watching the Netflix film, in which Downton Abbey star Lily plays the ingénue second wife of Maxim de Winter, with Kristin Scott Thomas as the disquieting Mrs Danvers, to immerse themselves in du Maurier’s story.
‘I think all of us should just take Rebecca for what it is and not let it be marred by who’s playing it,’ Lady Montgomery tells me.
Daphne du Maurier and her daughter Tessa Montgomery (left) — aged 17
It’s barely a fortnight since Lily was seen in Rome amorously embracing the married Dominic West, who has five children.
Refraining from naming whoever might be ‘marring’ Rebecca, Lady Montgomery says she is ‘absolutely looking forward to seeing it’ and adds: ‘I’m sure my mother would be very pleased.’
But Tessa thinks the fiercely private du Maurier would have been dismayed by accusations this week that her relationship with her father, West End star Sir Gerald du Maurier, teetered into physical intimacy, and talk of incest became ‘a recurrent theme’ in her final decades.
It’s barely a fortnight since Lily James (pictured in Rebecca) was seen in Rome amorously embracing the married Dominic West, who has five children
Armie Hammer, left, and Lily James in a scene from ‘Rebecca’, out now on Netflix
‘I’ve suffered this all my life —things that are not true or have been exaggerated,’ reflects Tessa, whose husband, Viscount Montgomery, died this year. ‘One just has to put it on one side and develop a thick skin.’
Du Maurier had two other children: Flavia, known as Flave, and Christian, known as Kits.
A family friend tells me the truth will only come out 99 years after the birth of her youngest — Kits, who is now 80. ‘More will be revealed when the embargo on Daphne’s private diaries is lifted,’ he explains, ‘in 2039.’
Dame Daphne de Maurier, who died in April 1989, seen near her home in Cornwall in 1971
Strictly Shirley loses ballas-t
Strictly head judge Shirley Ballas is known for her straight-talking, but her mother, Audrey, is even more blunt.
Shirley, who is just 5ft 2in, says: ‘I gained 20lb in lockdown and, when restrictions lifted, I visited my mum.
She took one look at me and said, “that has to go”.’
Ballas, 60, adds of her weight gain: ‘It was down to eating big portions and cakes from neighbours, enjoying life. I couldn’t get into a single pair of my jeans. By my first Strictly fitting I was back to size 8-10, thanks to grit, determination and intermittent fasting.’
The Earl of Haddington, whose eccentric father was known for treating the ailments of his fellow members of the House of Lords with rock crystal, has fallen under the spell of artist Constanza Dessain.
I hear the earl, George Baillie-Hamilton, 34, has got down on bended knee. ‘It’s wonderful that she said yes,’ he tells me.
‘We’ve been together for a year and a half but have known each other for ten years.’
Eton-educated George moved back to Scotland after his father died in 2016 and he inherited the magnificent Mellerstain House near Kelso in the Borders.
Singer Lily Allen attends the Screen Actors’ Guild Awards, January 19, 2020 Los Angeles
Sex education lessons from pop star Allen
There’s a buzz about pop star Lily Allen at the moment, and it’s nothing to do with her new husband, David Harbour, the U.S. star of Netflix smash hit, Stranger Things.
While some famous women put their names to handbags or perfumes, the Smile singer has co-designed a sex toy.
‘Women shouldn’t be ashamed of their sexuality, and we all deserve to own our pleasure,’ she says candidly.
Lily, 35, wed Harbour, 45, in a surprise ceremony at the Graceland Chapel in Las Vegas only last month, wearing a Sixties-inspired Dior dress.
He was dismayed by Sir David Attenborough’s Extinction TV film, now Prince George faces further distress.
His favourite safari park, 72-acre Bucklebury Farm Park, is up for sale. The park famously banned visitors from photographing the Royals rather than the animals.
Its owner, William Hartley Russell, who’s seeking £1.5 million, is a family friend, who was at Kate’s wedding, and sold his manor house to the Middletons.
Suki’s got a (steam) gun, but she’s no Villanelle
As cool assassin Villanelle in the BBC’s hit drama Killing Eve, Jodie Comer is known for her love of fashion as much as for her deadly ruthlessness.
But not everyone’s attempts to emulate her style prove quite as successful.
Actress Suki Waterhouse ended up slumped in the corner holding a clothes steamer yesterday
Actress Suki Waterhouse ended up slumped in the corner holding a clothes steamer yesterday after putting on a similar version of the £400 Molly Goddard tulle dress worn by Villanelle in the third series.
The plastic surgeon’s daughter, whose boyfriend is Hollywood heart-throb Robert Pattinson, played Jodie’s on-screen sister in historical drama The White Princess in 2017.
Suki says of her style: ‘I’ve always liked the play on girly and sweet, mixed with a sense of randomness.’
The £400 Molly Goddard tulle dress worn by Villanelle (pictured) in the third series
During this economic crisis, spare a thought for members of the Hurlingham Club, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s children have tennis lessons. The snooty ‘country’ club in Fulham, West London, is hiking subscription fees (already as much £1,510 per year) by one per cent. ‘We are outraged enough that the club is not offering refunds or discounts to 2020 fees despite being partially closed,’ one member tells me. ‘Now they have the audacity to increase subs for next year.’ The club says it has suffered a financial loss due to Covid-19 but will consider ‘temporary deferral of payment’ for ‘any member suffering real financial hardship’.
Pointless host Richard Osman says the world of TV made him seek help. ‘I’ve had therapy for years in a low-key, once-a-month type way,’ reveals Osman, who grew up on an Essex housing estate. ‘Only because I came from a working-class background and find myself in a middle-class background.’ His therapy involves ‘observing life, and seeing where over-confidence, nervousness and imposter syndrome gets us.’
Bev at 47 is still a real eye turner
Television presenter Beverley Turner, whose marriage to Olympic gold medallist rower James Cracknell ended last year, has found the secret to staying youthful.
Beverley, now dating eco-house developer James Pritchett, 14 years her junior, celebrated turning 47 near her home in Henley, Oxfordshire.
‘When I was 11, 47 was an old lady, maybe a teacher, grey hair, sensible shoes. Forty-seven is now a mum in a swimsuit in October, drinking fizz after a dip in the Thames. I’m finding happiness every day with my amazing other half.’
Television presenter Beverley Turner (pictured) has found the secret to staying youthful