She was born in London in 1907, the daughter of the actor-manager Gerald du Maurier, and granddaughter of the author George du Maurier. These gave a head start to her literary career, and her first novel, The Loving Spirit, was published in 1931.
Although married for many years to Lieutenant-General Sir Frederick "Boy" Browning and the mother of one son and two daughters, du Maurier undoubtedly had lesbian tendencies, and had intimate relationships with several women, including Gertrude Lawrence.
Her writing went from strength to strength. She is most noted for the novel Rebecca which has been filmed on several occasions. Besides Rebecca, several of her other novels were made into films, including Jamaica Inn (1936), Frenchman's Creek (1942), and My Cousin Rachel (1951). The Alfred Hitchcock film The Birds is based on a treatment of one of her short stories, as is the film Don't Look Now. She also wrote non-fiction. One of her most imaginative works, The Glass-Blowers, traces her French ancestry.
She was created a Dame of the British Empire, and died in 1989, at her home in Cornwall, in a region which had been the setting for many of her books. As per her desire, Ms. du Maurier's body was cremated and her ashes were scattered on the cliffs near her home.