Movie Critique – The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: Almost like a autobiographical type of haunting love story that is charming, funny and entertaining as well. With a touching and romantic ending, this love story gives you happiness, poignancy and fills your heart completely.

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is a 1947 American romantic fantasy film starring Gene Tierney, Sir Rex Harrison and George Sanders. Based on a 1945 novel of the same name, written by Josephine Leslie under the pseudonym of R. A. Dick, the film was directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Despite it being a hit and now considered a classic, the film received only one Academy Award nomination, for the Black and White Cinematography to Charles Lang. 

The film is set in early 1900s in England. Young widow Mrs. Lucy Muir (portrayed by Gene Tierney) moves to a seaside village, Whitecliff, where she rents a place called Gull Cottage. However, she doesn’t expect the place to come with a ghost of it's own, Captain Daniel Gregg (portrayed by Sir Rex Harrison), former owner of the cottage. Initially both Mrs. Muir and the Ghost have animosity towards each other, then eventually forge a path of friendship to live in harmony. 

A young Natalie Wood is seen in the film as Anna Muir as a child, that was released the same her as her successful holiday classic Miracle on 34th street. Although Wood doesn’t have as many scenes in this film as she had in the classic. I finished watching her 1975 movie Peeper recently where she is a much grown up beautiful woman in lead cast.

Having never watched a Sir Rex Harrison film, it is clear to me why he got the nickname "Sexy Rexy". Even portraying as a ghost he doesn’t tone down his sexy charm in the character. His tall, dark, handsome looks with that swashbuckling persona does add to his charisma a lot.

A few years ago I had seen Gene Tierney in the 1944 American film noir Laura, a movie that actually got me hooked into all these old classics and film noir. It was a pleasure to see this later movie of hers where she is equally charming and fierce at the same time. 

As for George Sanders, portraying the role of the author Miles Fairley, is as charming, cynical and selfish, as he is in the 1945 American horror-drama film, The Picture of Dorian Gray, as Lord Henry Wotton. Perhaps he couldn’t shake of Wotton of him and inadvertently molded Fairley in that same cast.

There is distinct absence of the fanfare of trumpets in the opening logo of Twentieth Century Fox in the beginning of the movie. Instead the opening music was composed by Bernard Hermann, who incidentally considered one of his best works that he did for this film.

Mankiewicz family being pretty famous in film, TV and theater as far back as 1890s, it tickled me that this film was directed by great-grand uncle of Ben Mankiewicz, my favorite Turner Classic Movies (TCM) host.

 Almost like a autobiographical type of haunting love story that is charming, funny and entertaining as well. I call it autobiographical type only because we see various phases of Mrs. Muir's life pass through all along. With a touching and romantic ending, this love story gives you happiness, poignancy and fills your heart.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. The film was adapted to a 60 minute radio play in 1947 by Lux Radio Theater, with Charles Boyer and Madeleine Carroll in the lead cast. 

b. It was also adapted in 1951 by Screen Director's Playhouse, with Charles Boyer and Jane Wyatt in the lead cast.

c. In 1974 BBC Radio 4 did a 90-minute adaptation of the actual novel with Bryan Pringle, Gemma Jones and Philip Bond in lead cast.

d. A TV series aired on NBC and later on ABC between 1968 and 1970 with the same name as the movie, starring Hope Lange and Edward Mulhare in lead cast. This was more on the lines of a sitcom focusing on humor rather than romance. Series had a lot of changes making it fit to the time it was made rather than when the book was written.

e. The cottage Mrs. Muir lives in has a monkey puzzle tree, supposed to defy the efforts of monkeys to climb.

f. In one scene we see this shed on wheels to which a rope is tied. Lucy holds that rope while she is going into the sea, and when she comes back, she comes through the shed. Looks like the shed has some towels and changing clothes hanging. Is this a kind of changing room on wheels in olden times?

g. While looking at Rex's filmography, I noticed that he was in a 1979 Hindi Indian language film, Shalimar. On my list to watch again and this time post the review too. 

2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

a. Captain Gregg states very early in the film that he is a spirit with no physical body. However, we see him casting shadows on the walls; forming a sort of a block for Angelica Muir (Lucy's Mother-in-law) to pass through and she has to squeeze instead in that scene; his foot catching on the carpet in the end. That could be because the director didn’t use special photographic effects of Rex Harrison as Ghost, instead had him physically placed in the scene. Thus inadvertently casting shadows and other hurdles.

b. 40 minutes into the movie when Eva and Angelica Muir are insisting Lucy to return back to London, Captain Gregg moves the telescope in complete view of Eva Muir, Lucy's sister-in-law. Still Eva doesn’t make a sound or react to that movement. Shouldn’t she be surprised or shocked to see a telescope move on it's own?

c. Although both Lucy and Captain Gregg are in the same train compartment on the opposite ends, the sceneries from their windows is quite different. While Gregg's shows buildings and other trains passing by, Lucy's shows landscape of trees and fields. 

d. Mr. Scroggins (portrayed by David Thursby) carves the name of Anna Muir on a post by the shore when she is a young girl. Years later although the post is tilted and all but the letters are still fresh as a daisy.

e. Also the name is carved on the side of the post that is facing the house rather than sea. So how will anyone from ship can see it through their spyglasses?


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