The Ghost Goes West (1935)

Article #819 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-12-2003
Posting Date: 11-9-2003
Directed by Rene Clair
Featuring Ronald Donat, Eugene Pallette, Jean Parker

When a Scottish nobleman dies hiding from members of another clan, his ghost is condemned to haunt the halls of his castle until he can find a descendant of the rival family to apologize for the insult.

Title check: Well, from the vantage point of Scotland, I would agree that Florida is indeed to the west, but the title tends to make me think of cowboys and indians, and there are none in this film. Technically correct.

This movie has an attractive and likeable cast, is directed by a master of light comedy, and has a number of great plot points and interesting ideas; I particularly like how it answered one question I had, and that was how you could get a ghost who was doomed to walk the halls of his ancestral home to move to a new location. However, once the movie finishes with its backstory (which is quite similar to the one in THE CANTERVILLE GHOST) and turns its action to the present, it becomes somewhat disappointing. Part of the problem is that Robert Donat’s two characters (he plays both the ghost and the current owner of the castle) are really not all that interesting; the owner of the castle tends to be somewhat shy and for the most part merely floats along with the action, while the ghost (who was a lot of fun in the backstory before he dies) seems rather glum and depressed for the most part, and I find it hard to get involved in their stories. So I end up waiting for the great character actor Eugene Pallette to brighten the proceedings, and he is far and away the most interesting character in the latter part of the story. The movie is only sporadically funny, and it seems to get most of its mileage with the racial stereotype that Scots are penny-pinching, though my favorite gag along this line has a servant answering a guest’s question as to what the difference is between grouse and duck. Not a bad movie, but it falls somewhat short of what it could have been.


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