The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)

Article #1633 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-3-2005
Posting Date: 1-31-2006
Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Featuring Gene Tierney, Rex Harrison, George Sanders

A widow decides to move into a cottage by the sea despite the fact that it is believed to be haunted by the sea captain who once lived there.

When I first saw this movie years ago, I went into it with fairly low expectations; first of all , it was one of my least favorite cinematic forms (the love story), and secondly, the main experience I had had with the title up to this point was with the late sixties TV series, a show which I haven’t seen in years but which struck me as exceedingly bland at the time. The movie is something else again, and much of the thanks goes to the fine performances from all concerned (especially Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison), the fine and assured direction of Joseph L. Mankiewicz, the superb score by Bernard Herrmann (I am all too lax in crediting the work of composers during this series of write-ups, but I couldn’t help but notice how well the music underlines the emotional tenor of the scenes in this one), and the story itself. One of the reasons I don’t usually like love stories is that the barriers set up between the lovers are all too often artificial and contrived; here, with the barrier between the lovers being that they actually live on separate planes of existence, the barriers are profound and can only be gotten around by the slow, steady march of time, and I like the fact that when the Captain decides to leave the life of the widow, the movie does not rush to the ending but understands how a deliberately paced study of the passing years is necessary to give the ending its maximum impact. I also like the fact that it is a drama rather than a comedy. Yes, it does contain some comic scenes and moments, but I’m glad it avoids some of the easy traps of a comedy; in particular, it avoids (with the exception of one appropriate scene) the Topper-style shtick of having someone talk to the ghost while in the presence of others and being thought crazy. It’s a tribute to the movie’s skill that the ending does bring tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat.


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