The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
Directed byJoseph L. Mankiewicz
Screenplay byPhilip Dunne
Based onThe Ghost of Captain Gregg and Mrs. Muir
1945 novel
by R.A. Dick
Produced byFred Kohlmar
StarringGene Tierney
Rex Harrison
George Sanders
CinematographyCharles Lang
Edited byDorothy Spencer
Music byBernard Herrmann
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • June 26, 1947 (1947-06-26) (U.S.)
Running time
104 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is a 1947 American supernatural romantic fantasy film starring Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison. It was directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and is based on a 1945 novel written by Josephine Leslie under the pseudonym of R.A. Dick. In 1945, 20th Century Fox bought the film rights to the novel, published only in the United Kingdom at that time. It was shot entirely in California.

Plot

In Britain in the early 1900s,[a] recently widowed Mrs. Lucy Muir moves to the seaside village of Whitecliff despite the disapproval of her in-laws. She rents a house there named Gull Cottage, although it has a reputation for being haunted by the former owner, who committed suicide.

On the first night after moving in with her young daughter, Anna, and her loyal maid, Martha, Lucy is terrorized by apparitions, but she stands resolute and demands the ghost show himself. The ghost, a roguish sea captain named Daniel Gregg, manifests. He tells Lucy that his death four years ago was not a suicide, but the result of accidentally kicking the valve on a gas-fired room heater in his sleep. Daniel explains that he wants to turn Gull Cottage into a home for retired seamen, thus why he has been frightening away tenants. However, due to Lucy's headstrong attitude, as well as her appreciation of the house, Daniel reluctantly agrees to allow her to live in Gull Cottage and promises to make himself visible only to her.

Lucy's investment — her only source of income — has dried up, and her in-laws say she has no choice but to move back to London. However, Daniel has warmed up to her and asks her to stay. They decide to write a book, a dictation of his memories from his time at sea, from which she will profit. During the course of writing the book, they fall in love. Both realize it is a hopeless situation, and Daniel tells Lucy that she should find a living man to be with. In London, Lucy goes to meet a publisher and encounters Miles Fairley, a suave author who writes children's books under the pen name Uncle Neddy. The publisher agrees to publish Daniel's lurid and sensational recollections, titled Blood and Swash, providing Lucy with an advance which she uses to buy Gull Cottage.

Fairley follows her back to Whitecliff and they begin a whirlwind courtship. Though initially jealous of their relationship, Daniel decides to leave, as he considers himself an obstacle to Lucy's chance at happiness. While she is asleep, he places in her mind the suggestion that she alone wrote the book and his presence was merely a dream. He fades away after declaring his regret that he never had a life with her.

Fairley cancels a planned visit to Gull Cottage, saying he will be in London for a few days. Lucy visits London to sign a contract, and obtains Fairley's address in the city from the office clerk to pay a surprise visit. She discovers that Fairley is already married with two children, and Mrs. Fairley tells her she has caught him in extramarital affairs before. Heartbroken, Lucy returns to Whitecliff to spend the rest of her life as a recluse, with Martha looking after her.

Anna goes to university and returns with a Royal Navy lieutenant she plans to marry. Mrs. Fairley grows fed up with her husband's philandering, divorces him, and takes full custody of their children. Anna reveals to her mother that she too saw Daniel, whom she regarded as a childhood crush, meaning Daniel broke his promise to Lucy not to show himself. Anna argues that Daniel must be real since they both saw him, but Lucy reasons it is more logical to conclude that she transmitted her delusion to Anna through her stories than to believe in ghosts.

Many years later, Lucy is now ailing and under a doctor's care, and Anna's daughter (also named Lucy) is engaged to a plane captain. Anna believes that affection for captains runs in their family. Lucy rejects the glass of hot milk Martha has brought for her with a complaint that she is tired. After Martha leaves the room, Lucy dies. Daniel returns and approaches her, whispering that she will never be tired again. Taking his hands, her young spirit leaves her aged body and greets him with a loving smile. Unnoticed by Martha, the couple leave the house and walk arm-in-arm into an ethereal mist.

Cast

Production

Although Joseph Mankiewicz had an excellent reputation as a screenwriter, Philip Dunne says Mankiewicz's only contribution to this script was writing a couple of "excellent lines" for George Sanders' character. Sanders' casting came about when Richard Ney, the original actor playing the role, was fired for being inadequate in the part.[2] Bernard Herrmann, the composer of the film's music, regarded it as his finest score.[3]

Reception

The New York Times called The Ghost and Mrs. Muir "a pleasurable film, despite its failings," singling out Edna Best for "by far the best performannce [sic]". In the writer's opinion, Harrison "has such an ingratiating personality that this compensates in large measure for the lack of characterization in his role," but Tierney "is a pretty girl, but has no depth of feeling as an actress."[4]

Variety, on the other hand, praised the actors and the film unreservedly:

Gene Tierney gives, what undoubtedly is her best performance to date. It’s warmly human and the out-of-this-world romance pulls audience sympathy with an infectious tug that never slackens. In his role as the lusty, seafaring shade, Rex Harrison commands the strongest attention. Philip Dunne’s script lards the R. A. Dick novel with gusty humor and situations that belie the ghostly theme. Dialog makes full use of salty expressions to point up chuckles.[5]

The film holds a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 20 reviews, with an average critic rating of 8.23/10.[6]

Awards

Charles Lang received a 1947 Academy Award nomination for his black-and-white cinematography on the movie.

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

Adaptations to other media

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir was adapted as an hour-long radio play on the December 1, 1947 broadcast of Lux Radio Theater with Charles Boyer and Madeleine Carroll and was adapted on the August 16, 1951 Screen Director's Playhouse with Boyer and Jane Wyatt. A 90-minute adaptation by Barry Campbell of the novel was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 21 December 1974 with Bryan Pringle as Captain Gregg, Gemma Jones as Lucy Muir, and Philip Bond as Miles.[10]

From 1968 to 1970, a TV series titled The Ghost & Mrs. Muir, starring Hope Lange and Edward Mulhare, aired on NBC and then ABC. It had the same premise and main characters as the book and film, but it was a situation comedy, downplaying the romantic fantasy elements and focusing on broad humor. The time and setting were changed, with the action taking place in a contemporary American coastal town (although the ghost was portrayed as being from the Victorian era). For the series, Mrs. Muir's first name was changed from Lucy to Carolyn, and the children's names were changed from Cyril and Anna (in the original novel) to Jonathan and Candace.

In April 1994, Variety continued its reporting on Sean Connery's being slated to play the Captain in a version of the story for 20th Century Fox.[11] The project was reportedly still “in the pipeline” in 1997, but the remake never came about.[12]

On June 3, 2005, a musical based on the film and the book, written and directed by James J. Mellon, had its world premiere at the NoHo Arts Center in Los Angeles. Variety gave it a mixed review.[13]

Home media

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir was released on both VHS and Laserdisc by CBS/Fox Video in 1990. Fox Video released it on VHS in 1994 and DVD in 2003, in both cases as part of the 20th Century Fox Studio Classics collection. The DVD version includes new audio commentaries, the original theatrical trailer, and the A&E documentary Rex Harrison: The Man Who Would Be King as bonus content. The film was released on Blu-ray in 2013 by 20th Century Fox after being selected in Fox's Voice Your Choice promotion.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ An intertitle at the opening of the film says the setting is at the turn of the century, leaving it ambiguous whether it is late 1800s or early 1900s; later in the film Lucy Muir states "This is the 20th century", clarifying the time frame.

References

  1. ^ "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Archived from the original on 2014-10-25. Retrieved 2015-03-08.
  2. ^ Lee Server, Screenwriter: Words Become Pictures, 1987 p 108-109
  3. ^ David, Cooper (2005). Bernard Herrmann's The Ghost and Mrs Muir. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. pp. xvii. ISBN 0810856794.
  4. ^ "' The Ghost and Mrs. Muir,' With Rex Harrison, Gene Tierney and George Sanders, Opens of Radio City Music Hall". The New York Times. June 27, 1947. Archived from the original on September 18, 2017. Retrieved December 20, 2017.
  5. ^ "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir". Variety. 1947-01-01. Archived from the original on 2021-04-10. Retrieved 2020-03-03.
  6. ^ "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 5 June 2023.
  7. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions" (PDF). American Film Institute. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2011-03-13. Retrieved 2016-08-19.
  8. ^ "AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Nominees" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2011-07-06. Retrieved 2016-08-19.
  9. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10 Nominees" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2016-08-19.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  10. ^ "Broadcast - BBC Programme Index". genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2020-06-06. Retrieved 2021-07-03.
  11. ^ O'Steen, Kathleen (1994-04-20). "Connery set for 'Cause'". Variety. Archived from the original on 2020-03-03. Retrieved 2020-03-03.
  12. ^ Goldner, Diane (1997-05-05). "Agent 007 accepts mission to produce". Variety. Archived from the original on 2020-03-03. Retrieved 2020-03-03.
  13. ^ Hirschhorn, Joel (2005-06-06). "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir". Variety. Archived from the original on 2020-03-03. Retrieved 2020-03-03.

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