Friday, 15 November 2013

THE GHOST AND MRS MUIR (1947) WEB SITE


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  • Production Credits

  • Director - Joseph L. Mankiewicz
  • Screenplay - Philip Dunne
  • Source Material (from novel) - R. A. Dick
  • Producer - Fred Kohlmar
  • Director of Photography - Charles B. Lang
  • Editor - Dorothy Spencer
  • Music - Bernard Herrmann
  • Art Direction - Richard Day
  • Director - Joseph L. Mankiewicz
  • Composer (Music Score) - Bernard Herrmann

Cats Credits

Awards

Nomination
  • Best Black and White Cinematography - Charles B. Lang - 1947 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

  •  
After her husband dies, Lucy Muir (Gene Tierney) decides to move away from London to a small seaside resort. She has to persuade the real estate agent, Mr. Coombe (Robert Coote), to show her the home that sounds most attractive to her--Gull Cottage. At first she can't figure out why he's so reluctant to pursue the home with her, but while she's looking at the "cottage", she experiences an apparent haunting. Both she and Mr. Coombe go running out of the house. To Mr. Coombe's surprise, Lucy decides to rent the Gull Cottage anyway.
Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz' The Ghost and Mrs. Muir combines a number of genres in an unusual way, gently poking fun at the conventions of each as they arrive in turn. The film begins as if it will be a somewhat traditional 1940s horror story. The setting is reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940) and Lewis Allen's The Uninvited (1944). Mrs. Muir's first visit to the home has classic understated "eerie" moments, with Mrs. Muir dressed in a creepy, Gothic black veil, coat and dress (ostensibly, she's still in mourning).
Shortly after, the film quickly moves into more comic territory. A more straightforward dramatic section follows, then romance, back to drama, and finally it ends as a fantasy film. That might sound like a bit of a mess, but Mankiewicz easily unifies the proceedings so that the genre tour is really only apparent on analysis. In a book about the film by Frieda Grafe, published by the British Film Institute, Mankiewicz is quoted as saying that he considered the film to be "hack work", and that his intention was primarily to show the studio that he was capable of delivering efficient craftsmanship. While a quick glance at my rating confirms that I wouldn't denigrate the film as "hack work", the genre parade is interesting in light of Mankiewicz' stated intent.
A central theme throughout The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, directly hinted at a number of times by dialogue about progressivist attitudes in the twentieth century, is that of gender roles. The theme is most overtly realized when Mrs. Muir pens a salty seafaring book and takes it to a publisher. She is dismissed at first with an assumption that she must be presenting shallow, sappy "women's literature", but is quickly published once Mr. Sproule (Whitford Kane) realizes the novelty of the book. Of course, he assumes that she must have been shopping it for her husband, or some other gentleman friend.
The theme is worked throughout the film in countless more subtextual ways, also, and leads to an interesting interpretation of the bulk of the film--is Captain Daniel Gregg (Rex Harrison) real? Or is he a figment of Lucy and her daughter's imaginations? There is a strong suggestion that he was just imaginary, sparked in Lucy's mind by his portrait, the house, and the maritime décor still present. Literally, the film suggests at one point that Lucy and her daughter are fooling themselves into believing he was imaginary, but it could be read as a double cross (or a double negation)--we are fooled into believing that they're just fooling themselves, and the reality is that Captain Gregg is a catalyst for allowing the gender role changes exhibited by Lucy and her daughter, who even basically asks her boyfriend to marry her, rather than the other way around.
At any rate, real or not, Captain Gregg is an enjoyable character in an enjoyable, lightly comic film that pleasantly mixes a variety of genres. Fans of the film should be aware that it was based on a novel by R.A. Dick, and spawned a television sitcom with the same title that first aired in the U.S. in 1968 and ran for 50 episodes.



 



 

 


 

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