Today is my sister-in-law Rebecca's birthday. As far as sisters-in-law go, I've been very lucky—both my brothers married well, Katie-Bar-The-Door's sisters are great people, and even her brothers married well—but I owe Rebecca, so today's blog entry is in her honor.
I was going to embed a copy of Mary Pickford's 1917 classic Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm for her, but it's in seven parts on YouTube which is kind of messy and in any event I'm not 100% sure it's a public domain copy.
So instead, here's a brief run-down of some of the great Rebeccas of history. Let me know if I missed your favorite:
Rebecca from the Bible—the wife of Isaac, mother of Jacob and Esau. No one knows for sure what the name "Rebecca" means or even its linguistic origins; the best guess is that it's derived from the ancient Hebrew word for "snare" but it could also be Aramaic and might mean something else entirely. Anyone who knows for sure is long dead.
Happy to clear that up for you.
Pocahontas—You've no doubt heard of Pocahontas, if only because Disney made a movie about her a few years ago. The daughter of a powerful Indian chief in Tidewater Virginia, she lent a helping hand to the early settlers at Jamestown, particularly John Smith, whom she saved from execution.
But did you know that she later married English settler John Rolfe and adopted the name Rebecca Rolfe? No, I didn't either, but Katie-Bar-The-Door did, one of the many facts that has stuck in that amazing brain of hers.
Rebecca Nurse—an elderly nurse accused of witchcraft and executed during the infamous Salem witch trials in 1692. Believe it or not, there was no credible evidence against her. But you know how it goes when people have made up their minds.
She figures prominently in Arthur Miller's play The Crucible, and Shirley MacLaine portrayed her in the 2002 CBS miniseries Salem Witch Trials. Considering she'd be dead by now anyway, maybe it wasn't such a bad way to go.
Rebecca Harding Davis—19th century writer and pioneer of literary Realism, she wrote about the plight of women. Well, so I hear. I confess I've never read her. But now I'm almost obligated to.
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm—The story of a girl who goes to live with two stern aunts in a small Maine village, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm was first a novel published in 1903 by Kate Douglas Wiggin, then later a star vehicle for movie actresses Mary Pickford (1917) and Shirley Temple (1938).
Rebecca—A classic novel by British writer Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca was also an Oscar-winning movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock (with lots of interference from producer David O. Selznick). Also featuring Laurence Olivier, George Sanders and Judith Anderson as the demented Mrs. Danvers, Rebecca made Joan Fontaine a star.
Ironically, the one person who never makes an appearance in either the book or the movie is Rebecca herself.
My tenth grade English teacher—This is what she wrote in my yearbook: "You could have made A's in my class if you'd wanted to."
"But I did make A's in your class," I told her, puzzled.
"You did?" she said. "Well, you didn't deserve to."
Looking back, I realize the Monkey was something of an acquired taste even then.
Rebecca De Mornay— An American actress, her performance as a hooker with a heart of gold, brass or possibly stone in the 1983 comedy Risky Business was an eye-opener for many a schoolboy. Hollywood has never quite figured out what to do with her—the combination of brains and beauty seems to scare directors, and maybe audiences, too—but she was excellent in The Trip To Bountiful and had a big hit with The Hand That Rocks The Cradle.
Rebecca Howe— Played by Kirstie Alley, Rebecca Howe was the fictional manager of the television bar Cheers, arriving at the beginning of season six to make life miserable for ex-Red Sox pitcher Sam Malone (Ted Danson). I admit, I never thought Cheers was as good after Shelley Long left, but Kirstie Alley was actually in more episodes, 149 to 124, and won an Emmy for her performance. So there you have it.
Bellotoot's daughter—she was born the day before I started my first job in Washington, D.C., a job I got, if you will recall, when Bellotoot and I spent forty minutes talking about the Marx Brothers. I arrived at the office, met the other bosses, none of whom were Marx Brothers fans, and immediately asked, "Where's the other guy?"
Read all about it here.
Rebecca Romijn—an actress of sorts, I think. Played Mystique in X-Men.
Rebecca Malope—born on a tobacco farm in South Africa, she ran away to Johannesburg with her sister, won a talent contest and is now known as South Africa's Queen of Gospel.
That's about it. There have been other Rebeccas—a singer, some beauty contestants, a lot of writers—but let's face it, none of them can hold a candle to my sister-in-law, and besides, the dog is agitating to go out, so enough of this.
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