The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

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The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
The-Ghost-and-Mrs-Muir-Posters.jpg
Directed byJoseph L. Mankiewicz
Produced byFred Kohlmar
Written byPhilip Dunne
Based onThe Ghost of Captain Gregg and Mrs. Muir
1945 novel
by R. A. Dick
StarringGene Tierney
Rex Harrison
George Sanders
Music byBernard Herrmann
CinematographyCharles Lang
Edited byDorothy Spencer
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • June 26, 1947 (1947-06-26) (U.S.)
Running time
104 min.
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) is a romantic-fantasy film starring Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison. It was directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and is based on a 1945 novel written by Josephine Leslie under the pseudonym of R. A. Dick. In 1945, 20th Century Fox bought the film rights to the novel, which had been published only in the United Kingdom at that time. It was shot entirely in California.

Plot[edit]

In the early 1900s, young widow Lucy Muir moves to the seaside English village of Whitecliff despite the disapproval of her mother-in-law and domineering sister-in-law. She rents Gull Cottage despite its reputation of being haunted by the spirit of a seaman who committed suicide there, and moves in with her young daughter, Anna, and her maid, Martha.

On the first night she is visited by the apparition of the former owner, a roguish but harmless sea captain named Daniel Gregg. He tells her that his death four years ago was not a suicide but was the product of accidentally kicking open the valve on a gas-fired room heater while asleep. He explains that he had wanted to turn Gull Cottage into a home for retired seamen and does not appreciate her being there, nor previous renters he has chased away. He didn't leave a will - including his plans for the house - because he hadn't anticipated dying so soon. Due to Lucy's appreciation of the house, Daniel reluctantly agrees to allow her to live in Gull Cottage and promises to make himself known only to her.

It is not long before Muir's mother-in-law and her sister arrive with the news that Lucy's investment income has dried up, and they insist that Lucy move back to London with them. After his ghostly eviction of the two women, Captain Gregg comes up with an idea to save the house: he will dictate his memoirs to Lucy, she will have them published and keep the royalties. During the course of writing the book they fall in love. Both realise it is a hopeless situation, and Daniel tells her she should find a living man to marry.

In London, Lucy becomes attracted to suave Miles Fairley, a writer of children's stories under the pen name of "Uncle Neddy". He connives an interview for her with his publisher. Despite a rocky beginning to the interview, the publisher is taken with the manuscript and agrees to publish the Captain's book. The Captain's racy recollections, published under the title Blood and Swash, become a bestseller, allowing Lucy to buy Gull Cottage.

Fairley follows her back to Whitecliff and begins a whirlwind courtship. Captain Gregg, initially disgusted by their relationship, decides to cease being an obstacle to her happiness. While Lucy sleeps, Captain Gregg places the suggestion in her mind that she alone wrote the book and that he was just a dream. He suggests to her, "You must make your own life amongst the living and, whether you meet fair winds or foul, find your own way to harbour in the end." Afterwards, Gregg fades away.

When Fairley sends a note cancelling a planned visit to Gull Cottage - saying he will be up in London for a few days - Lucy screws up the note she is writing to her publisher putting off her own London visit, to sign the book contract. After signing the contract, she obtains Fairley's London address from the office clerk and pays a surprise visit. There Lucy discovers that Miles is not only already married with two children, but also that this sort of thing has happened before with other women. She leaves, heartbroken, and returns to Whitecliff to spend the rest of her life as a recluse with Martha to look after her.

Anna, now grown, returns with her fiancé, a Royal Navy lieutenant. In the course of a conversation with her mother, Anna reveals that she too had seen Gregg's ghost; it was her childhood companion. She also knew about her mother's relationship with Miles Fairley. Lucy reveals that Fate has not been kind to Fairley; he has become fat, bald and a heavy drinker, and his wife and children have finally left him.

Many years later, now ailing and under a doctor's care, Lucy complains to Martha that her arm hurts and she wants to rest in her bedroom chair. On the wall again is the portrait Gregg painted of himself, long back from the sitting room where Lucy had asked Martha to hang it - that was until Miles Fairley's portrait of her was hung there too. Lucy refuses to drink the glass of hot milk Martha has brought for her, there is an exchange of words, and Martha leaves. A moment later she picks up the glass to drink the hot milk, but it falls to the floor and she dies. Captain Gregg appears before her and beckons for her to join him. He tells her she will never be tired again. Her young spirit takes his hands and leaves her aged body. They stare lovingly at each other for a moment before walking arm in arm down the stairs - passing Martha going up with a cup of tea for herself. Lucy puts out a hand - as if to touch Martha's arm - before the front door opens by itself, and she and Gregg walk out of the house into an ethereal mist.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Although Joseph Mankiewicz had an excellent reputation as a screenwriter, Philip Dunne says Mankiewicz's only contribution to this script was writing a couple of "excellent lines" for George Sanders' character. Sanders' casting came about when the original actor playing the role, Richard Ney,had been fired for being inadequate in the part.[2]

Reception[edit]

The New York Times reviewer called The Ghost and Mrs. Muir "a pleasurable film, despite its failings," singling out Edna Best for "by far the best performannce [sic]". In the writer's opinion, Harrison "has such an ingratiating personality that this compensates in large measure for the lack of characterization in his role", but Tierney "is a pretty girl, but has no depth of feeling as an actress."[3]

Awards and honors[edit]

Charles Lang received a 1947 Academy Award nomination for his cinematography on the movie.

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

Adaptations to other media[edit]

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir was adapted as an hour-long radio play on the December 1, 1947 broadcast of Lux Radio Theater with Charles Boyer and Madeleine Carroll, and was also adapted on the August 16, 1951 Screen Director's Playhouse with Boyer and Jane Wyatt.

From 1968 to 1970, a TV series titled The Ghost & Mrs. Muir, starring Hope Lange and Edward Mulhare, aired on NBC and then ABC. It had the same premise and main characters as the book and film, but it was a situation comedy, downplaying the romantic fantasy elements and focusing on broad humor. The time and setting were changed, with the action taking place in a contemporary American coastal town (though the ghost was portrayed as being from the Victorian era). For the series, Mrs. Muir's first name was changed from Lucy to Carolyn and the children's names were changed from "Cyril" and "Anna" (in the original novel) to "Jonathan" and "Candace".

DVD and Blu Ray releases[edit]

The film was released on Blu Ray in 2013 by 20th Century-Fox after being selected in Fox's Voice Your Choice promotion. It was previously released on DVD as part of the 20th Century Fox Studio Classics collection.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved 2015-03-08.
  2. ^ Lee Server, Screenwriter: Words Become Pictures, 1987 p 108-109
  3. ^ "' The Ghost and Mrs. Muir,' With Rex Harrison, Gene Tierney and George Sanders, Opens of Radio City Music Hall". The New York Times. June 27, 1947.
  4. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-08-19.
  5. ^ "AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-19.
  6. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10 Nominees" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2016-08-19.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)

External links[edit]

Streaming audio