The Ghost and Mr. Chicken
|The Ghost and Mr. Chicken|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Alan Rafkin|
|Produced by||Edward J. Montagne, Jr.|
|Written by||Jim Fritzell
|Music by||Vic Mizzy|
|Editing by||Sam E. Waxman|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Running time||90 minutes|
The Ghost and Mr. Chicken is a 1966 American comedy-drama film starring Don Knotts as Luther Heggs, a newspaper typesetter who spends a night in a haunted house, which is located in the fictitious community of Rachel, Kansas. The working title was Running Scared.
Luther Heggs is a typesetter at the newspaper in Rachel, Kansas, but aspires to be a reporter. One night, observing what he believes to be a murder outside of an old, supposedly haunted house, Heggs rushes to the police station with his scoop. Unfortunately, as he relates the details of his story to the Chief of Police, the murder "victim" walks into the room. The next morning, Heggs walks downstairs to the dining room at the Natalie Miller boarding house and overhears Ollie Weaver (Homeier), a full-time reporter at the newspaper, mocking his mistakes of the night before; Ollie is also dating Heggs' love interest, Alma Parker (Joan Staley). According to a legend noted in the film, the Simmons mansion was a "murder house" 20 years earlier, when Mr. Simmons murdered his wife, then jumped from the organ loft to his death. Legend says that you can hear the ghost of Mr. Simmons playing the organ at night.
To increase newspaper sales, Luther is assigned to spend the night in the house on the 20th anniversary of the murders. At midnight, Heggs sees the old organ begin to play by itself, as well as other ghostly happenings, as well as accidentally discovering a secret staircase to the organ tower behind a bookshelf. His story gets the town abuzz and Nicholas Simmons (Philip Ober), nephew of the deceased couple, sues Heggs for libel.
In the courtroom, Heggs is made out to be a fool, but the judge orders the courtroom to the Simmons house at midnight to allow Heggs to prove his story. Nothing happens, and everyone leaves except for Heggs and Alma, who lingers behind in secret, hoping to find evidence to restore Heggs' reputation. Luther notices the old organ playing again, Heggs discovers his friend Mr. Kelsey (Liam Redmond), the newspaper's janitor, producing the creepy tune from an additional keyboard located under the pipes. Kelsey, the former gardener for the Simmons family, confesses to being the party responsible for the mysterious happenings Heggs witnessed; an overzealous security guard kept him from entering the house that night and helping Heggs confirm his story. Upon hearing a scream, they both descend the secret staircase to find Nicholas Simmons holding Alma captive; Kelsey confronts Simmons for killing his aunt and uncle for their fortune and using Kelsey's pruning shears behind to implicate him. Simmons' planned demolition of the house is an effort to destroy the hidden staircase that would ruin his alibi. Luther knocks Simmons out with a body slam, and the case is closed. At the end of the film, Heggs marries Alma and as the church organ's wedding music is interrupted by the spooky organ music of the Simmon's mansion. The wedding crowd turn to see the organ's keys moving by themselves.
- Don Knotts as Luther Heggs
- Joan Staley as Alma Parker (Luther's love interest)
- Liam Redmond as Kelsey
- Sandra Gould as Loretta Pine
- Dick Sargent as George Beckett
- Skip Homeier as Ollie Weaver
- Philip Ober as Nicholas Simmons
- Lurene Tuttle as Mrs. Natalie Miller
- Harry Hickox as Police Chief Art Fuller
- Charles Lane as Lawyer Whitlow
- Nydia Westman as Mrs. Cobb
- Reta Shaw as Mrs. Halcyon Maxwell
- James Millhollin as Mr. Milo Maxwell
- Robert Cornthwaite as Springer
- Cliff Norton as Charlie, the Bailiff
- Jim Boles as Billy Ray Fox
- Ceil Cabot as Bit/clubwoman
- Ellen Corby as Neva Treymane, the Schoolteacher
- Everett Greenbaum (uncredited voice) as Man saying "Attaboy, Luther"
- Burt Mustin (uncredited) as Mr. Deligondo
- Hal Smith (uncredited) as Calver Weems
- Hope Summers (uncredited) as Susanna Blush
Andy Griffith, Knotts' costar on "The Andy Griffith Show", suggested expanding on an episode from the television show involving a deserted house (the old Rimshaw house in the episode "Haunted House" aired Oct. 1963) in which Barney, Gomer, and Andy retrieve a baseball of Opie and his friend from the house. Another Andy Griffith Show connection is a small role played by Hal Smith, who had a recurring role on the show.
The Simmons Mansion stands on Colonial Street on the Universal Studios lot in California and was built for the 1946 film So Goes My Love. It appeared as the Dowd house in the 1950 film Harvey, and served as the home of Gabrielle Solis in Desperate Housewives.
Al Checco, Knotts' Army-days comedy partner, had an uncredited appearance in the film.
Universal contract star Joan Staley was known by Alan Rafkin from their work together in Broadside. Normally a blond, she had to wear a dark wig because the producers felt she was "too sexy" as a blonde and the part called for a brunette. She wore the same wig previously worn by Claudia Cardinale in Blindfold.
Knotts was best known at the time of the film's production for his Emmy Award-winning five seasons on the sitcom The Andy Griffith Show as small town deputy sheriff Barney Fife. Knotts left the television show at the end of the 1964-65 season in order to pursue a film career with The Shakiest Gun in the West and The Apple Dumpling Gang being two of the many films that followed his departure from the series. The Ghost and Mr. Chicken was directed by Alan Rafkin with a screenplay by Jim Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum; all three men had been associated with the success of The Andy Griffith Show. Several players from the television show also appear in the film including Lurene Tuttle, Burt Mustin, Hal Smith, and Hope Summers. Viewers will also recognize several actors and actresses who had appeared or were then appearing on other sitcoms of the time.
The Ghost and Mr. Chicken was released on VHS on April 30, 1996. Universal released the film on DVD September 2, 2003 and again January 9, 2007 plus the Universal Studios 100th Anniversary release on DVD and Blu-ray Disc October 9, 2012.
On July 12, 2005, Percepto released the soundtrack on Compact Disc. Composer Vic Mizzy used the old tune Mr. Ghost Goes to Town as his main theme. Mizzy's haunted house organ theme also appeared in the 1967 film Games.
- Gaseous Globe
- Main Title
- Luther Has a Scoop
- Laugh's on Luther
- Bashful One
- Kelsey's Tale
- Twenty Years Ago
- Super S'Luther
- Clock Watchers
- Oh, Chute
- Rickety Tik Phono
- Creepy Jeepers
- Haunted Organ
- Hero to the
- Hero's Picnic
- Picnic Table
- Speech Is Over
- Alma Matters
- Back to the Mansion
- Plucky Chicken
- Wedding & Finale
- When in Southern California, Visit Universal City Studios (promotional)
-  The Studio Tour.com - Colonial Street
- p.62 Lisanti, Tom Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema: Interviews with 20 Actresses from Biker, Beach, and Elvis Movies McFarland, 2001