The Uninvited (1944 film)
|Directed by||Lewis Allen|
|Produced by||Charles Brackett|
Cornelia Otis Skinner
|Music by||Victor Young|
|Cinematography||Charles B. Lang|
|Editing by||Doane Harrison|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Release dates||February 10, 1944|
|Running time||99 min.|
Charles Lang was nominated for a 1945 Academy Award for Best Black and White Cinematography.
In 1937, London music critic and composer Roderick "Rick" Fitzgerald (Ray Milland) and his sister Pamela (Ruth Hussey) fall in love with Windward House, an abandoned seaside house, during a holiday on England's rocky coast. They purchase it for an unusually low price from Commander Beech (Donald Crisp).
Rick and Pamela meet Beech’s 20-year-old granddaughter, Stella Meredith (Gail Russell), who lives with her grandfather in the nearby town of Biddlecombe. Stella is deeply upset by the sale because of her attachment to the house, despite it being where her mother died. The commander has forbidden Stella to enter the house. However, she gains access to Windward House through Rick, who has become infatuated with her.
The Fitzgeralds' initial enchantment with the house diminishes when they unlock an artist's studio where they feel an inexplicable chill. Then, just before dawn, Rick hears the eerie sobs of an unseen woman, a phenomenon that Pamela investigated whilst awaiting her brother's return with their Irish housekeeper, Lizzie Flynn (Barbara Everest). The superstitious Lizzie notices a peculiar draft on the stairs. Rick and Pamela must face the obvious: Windward House is haunted.
When Stella comes to Windward for dinner, she senses a spirit. Rather than fearing it, she associates the calming presence with her mother. Also, the strong scent of mimosa is that of her mother's favorite perfume. Suddenly she dashes out towards the very cliff from which her mother Mary fell to her death seventeen years earlier. Rick catches her just before she reaches the edge. Stella professes to have no recollection of the near-fatal incident.
The Fitzgeralds and the town physician, Dr. Scott (Alan Napier), investigate. They learn that Stella's father, a painter, had had an affair with his model, a Spanish gypsy named Carmel. Stella's mother, Mary Meredith, from all accounts a beautiful and virtuous woman, found out and took Carmel to Paris, leaving her there. Subsequently Carmel returned to England, stole the infant Stella from Windward, and, during a confrontation, flung Mary Meredith off the cliff to her death. Shortly afterward, Carmel became ill and died.
Rick tries to dissuade Stella from her dangerous attraction to Windward by staging a séance to convey the "message" that her mother wants her to stay away. However, the ghost takes over, communicating that it is guarding Stella. Stella becomes possessed by the spirit and begins muttering in Spanish.
Distressed by Stella's renewed involvement with Windward, Beech sends Stella to a sanitorium run by Miss Holloway (Cornelia Otis Skinner), Mary's friend and confidante. The Fitzgeralds visit and question Holloway, unaware that Stella is confined there. Holloway explains that after Mary's death, she took care of Carmel, who had contracted pneumonia and eventually died of it. Looking through the records of the previous village physician, Dr. Scott discovers that Holloway may have hastened Carmel's death. The doctor is then called away to care for an ailing Beech, who tells him that Stella is at the sanitorium. Rick, Pam, and Scott telephone Miss Holloway to inform her that they are on their way.
Holloway deceives Stella, saying that the Fitzgeralds have invited her to live with them. Stella happily takes the train home. A deranged Holloway tells the would-be rescuers that Stella is on her way to Windward House. There Stella finds only her grandfather in the studio. He begs Stella with his last strength to get out, but she remains at his side. When a ghost manifests, the commander succumbs to a heart attack.
Stella welcomes the ghost, believing it to be her mother, but the apparition frightens her, and she flees towards the cliff. Rick and Dr. Scott get there just in time to pull Stella from the crumbling cliff to safety. Back inside, the group is drawn again to the physician's journal, which the friendly spirit has turned to a certain page. They discover that Carmel gave birth to a child (apparently in Paris, where Stella herself was born). The truth becomes clear: Carmel is Stella's mother. Stella's realization of her true parentage frees Carmel's spirit to leave Windward.
Something evil, though, has remained. After sending everyone away, Rick confronts the spirit of Mary Meredith, telling her that they are no longer afraid of her and that she has no power over them anymore. Defeated, Mary's spirit departs.
- Ray Milland as Roderick Fitzgerald
- Ruth Hussey as Pamela Fitzgerald
- Donald Crisp as Commander Beech
- Cornelia Otis Skinner as Miss Holloway. The character is often cited as a lesbian caricature. For a detailed study, see Patricia White’s book Uninvited: Classical Hollywood Cinema and Lesbian Representability (Indiana University Press, 1999; ISBN 0-253-21345-2).
- Dorothy Stickney as Miss Bird
- Barbara Everest as Lizzie Flynn
- Alan Napier as Dr. Scott
- Gail Russell as Stella Meredith
The Uninvited was among the very first Hollywood feature films to portray a haunting as an authentic supernatural event. Previously, ghosts had often been played for comedy (The Ghost Goes West, 1936; Topper, 1937), were revealed to be practical jokes (Blondie Has Servant Trouble, 1940) or as a subterfuge to obscure an illegal activity (The Cat and the Canary, 1939; Abbott and Costello’s Hold That Ghost, 1941). The filmmakers initially did not intend to show any ghosts in the film, but Paramount’s unease resulted in the insertion of several ghost shots in post-production.
Victor Young’s lush, romantic score produced a popular hit, "Stella by Starlight", based on the film’s main theme. "Stella by Starlight" has been recorded numerous times as an instrumental by such artists as jazz greats Miles Davis, Stan Getz and Dexter Gordon, and as a vocal (with lyrics by Ned Washington) by singers Dick Haymes, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald and many others.
Director Martin Scorsese placed The Uninvited on his list of the 11 scariest horror films of all time. Guillermo Del Toro also lists the film as one of the horror films to have scared and affected him. It currently holds 82% on Rotten tomatoes based on 17 reviews with an average rating of 7.3/10.
Adaptations to other media
The Uninvited was dramatized as a radio play on the August 28, 1944, broadcast of The Screen Guild Theater, with Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey and Betty Field. It was also presented on the November 18, 1949, broadcast of Screen Director's Playhouse, with Ray Milland, Alma Laughton and Mary Shipp.
An official DVD release of The Uninvited—long available only on VHS from MCA Universal Home Video—by Exposure Cinema (a British company which specialises in limited collector's editions of overlooked Hollywood films) was announced for May 2012, although this has been rescheduled for September 2012. The edition will apparently include a restored print and extensive booklet.
On July 15, 2013, the Criterion Collection announced a DVD and Blu-ray Disc release date for The Uninvited of October 22, 2013, which will have New 2K digital film restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray Disc edition, new visual essay by filmmaker Michael Almereyda, and a booklet featuring an essay by critic Farran Smith Nehme.
- Hal Erickson’s Allmovie, via The New York Times 
- Rolling Stone
- Scorsese, Martin (October 28, 2009). "11 Scariest Horror Movies of All Time". The Daily Beast. Retrieved November 15, 2009.
- Gilsdorf, Ethan. "Guillermo Del Toro: The Interview, Part II". The Daily Beast. wired.com. Retrieved July 10, 2013.
- "The Uninvited Chills Its Way onto DVD in May". Cine Outsider. 17 January 2012. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
- The Uninvited at the Internet Movie Database
- The Uninvited at allmovie
- The Uninvited at Rotten Tomatoes
- 1944 preview trailer for The Uninvited on YouTube, accessed 15 January 2011
- The New York Times review of February 21, 1944