Alfred Hitchcock's adaptation of Rebecca, the Daphne Du Maurier novel about a naive young woman who marries a wealthy widower and finds herself haunted by the spectre of his first wife's death, is often considered to be one of the best films in his oeuvre, and is a perfect example of his talent for the dark and chilling. Starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine in the leading roles, the film, like the book, is a tense and frightening comment upon the impact of trauma, as the film's protagonist finds herself victimised by a woman she has never even known.
Ideal material for a Broadway musical.
Optimistic producer Ben Sprecher has been attempting to launch a stage version of Rebecca since last year, and has already had to delay production twice due to lack of funding. The musical seems finally to be back on track as Sprecher claims that new financial commitments will allow rehearsals to start again next week. Sprecher has outlined the main challenges, saying that,
I have confidence in the artistry and cast, but I can't put into words how stressful it's been to put the money in place.
Getting millions of dollars in funding for any project is always difficult, but it seems that Sprecher may have found an original, if somewhat ill-advised, approach: if you can't find a financier, imagine one.
Patrick Healy of The New York Times did some investigating after being told by Sprecher that Rebecca's last shortfall, which forced rehearsals to be suspended in early September was due to the death of one of the film's major investors: a British multimillionaire who had pledged $4.5m to the musical. When The New York Times tried to get the name of the late investor, Sprecher refused to identify him, and so the newspaper began looking elsewhere for information.
Three other Broadway producers, as well as an executive involved with "Rebecca," said Mr. Sprecher told them that the investor was a multimillionaire named Paul Abrams who died last month in London of malaria; The New York Times could not independently confirm Mr. Abrams's existence.
Executives at the Shubert Organization, which has a six-figure investment in "Rebecca" and owns its intended Broadway theater, the Broadhurst, said on Friday they were being flexible with Mr. Sprecher because the death of an investor was beyond his control. Still, they said they could not confirm the investor's existence beyond assurances from Mr. Sprecher that the investor had been planning to put in $2 million and to raise an additional $2.5 million but then had died.
The Shubert Organization, despite not having any evidence of Abrams' existence or indeed of his tragic death beyond what they've been told by the producer, remain confident in the production and are still planning to use their Broadway theatre as the venue for the production. Despite the fact that Abrams is now evading questions about whether or not Paul Abrams was a figment of his imagination, cast member Nick Wyman is also unswayed in his faith.
Ben has been far more forthcoming than most producers are, keeping us in the loop about the status of the show, and I have no reason to doubt him when he says he has the financial commitments in place. I think the trump card in Ben's favor, too, is that the Shubert Organization is supporting him here. The Shubert leaders wouldn't let themselves be strung along; if they thought Ben was blowing smoke, they would not hold a prime theater for him.
From this, the evidence was starting to look a little shaky, with investors and talent alike pledging themselves to the film on the basis of the producer's word alone. But there remained the possibility that Paul Abrams really had existed, living a life of seclusion and anonymity as one of Britain's secret multimillionaires, and had tragically passed away (of malaria, an illness with a 0.4% mortality rate for UK travellers) just when his money was required to come into effect. With that in mind, The New York Times went back to Sprecher and asked him simply to confirm Abrams' existence.
Mr. Sprecher, when asked if Mr. Abrams was fictitious, said, "You'll have to go and get that information somewhere else."
According to the imaginary obit in an imaginary newspaper that I'm pretending to read, Mr Abrams is survived by his wife, three children, and his pet unicorn, Pokey. We send them our imaginary condolences.