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The Uninvited
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Synopsis for
The Uninvited (1944) More at IMDbPro »

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Roderick Fitzgerald and his sister Pamela are enjoying the last day of their holiday on the Devonshire coast in the spring of 1937. Walking on the beach with their dog Bobby, they climb a cliff and wind up in the garden of a large uninhabited house. When Bobby spies a squirrel and chases it into the house through an open window, Roderick and Pam follow, intending to save the squirrel from their dog. But the squirrel more than holds its own and escapes up the chimney after nipping Rick's hand.

Once the crisis is past Pam notices how lovely the inside of the house is and decides to explore. It reminds them both of their childhood home, and they become enamored of it immediately. Pam becomes excited at the prospect of actually buying the house, and has an answer for each argument that Rick comes up with including the fact that Rick, who writes reviews of music for a newspaper, would be able to compose his own music. They decide to see about the possibility of buying the house, after Pam exclaims that "Important decisions must be made quickly."

Discovering from a woman in the nearby village that the house, called Windward, is for sale, they go to call on the owner, Commander Beach. The Commander is not at home, but his granddaughter, Stella Meredith, welcomes them in to wait for him. But Stella's demeanor changes from warm and friendly to almost hostile when she discovers their purpose in visiting. While she tries to send them away her grandfather arrives home. Stella pleads with him to not sell the house, but he dismisses her and sits down to discuss the transaction.

The Commander assures Rick and Pam that the house is sound, and that a lot of money was spent on it twenty years before when he gave it to his daughter Mary as a wedding gift. Rick and Pamela make an offer of 1200 pounds, which is considerably below the house's actual value. To their surprise, the Commander accepts their offer, saying that 1200 pounds in the bank for Stella would ease his mind. The commander asks whether they would be bothered by disturbances of which tenants had complained in the past. Pam and Roderick dismiss the hints at a dark past and the sale is made.

Brother and sister go back to their new house to take a closer look, including a room that was locked and they were unable to explore before. The room is a painter's studio, and Pam exclaims it to be the one ugly room in the house. Rick thinks it would make a perfect room for his own studio. As they talk, the pair become less and less enthusiastic, and even begin to think they have made a mistake in buying the house. The howling of their dog below breaks their reverie, and they wonder why he refuses to climb the stairs to the floor above.

Admiring a large window, they spot Stella outside on the lawn. Although Roderick seems to have no sympathy for her, Pam does, and tells Rick that Stella feels shut out of her own home now.

Pam is set to stay on at the inn, but before heading back from Biddlecomb to London to make arrangements, including getting their furniture out of storage, and collecting Lizzie, their childhood housekeeper, Roderick visits the local tobacconist and buys some postcards of Windward, which leads him to explain that he is the new owner. The shop owner bemoans the fact that the previous tenants started ugly rumors, no doubt to get out of their lease and the debts they owed in the village. He also recounts how the Commander's daughter had died after a fall from the cliff by the house.

Returning to his car, he meets Stella, who apologies for her rudeness the previous day. She mentions that her mother told her not to feel that way. Rick is puzzled, since he now knows that Stella's mother is dead, but Stella explains that she was referring to a portrait of her mother painted by her father. They discuss how unfair it is for her grandfather to hate the house just because his daughter died there. Rick decides to kidnap Stella for the afternoon, cancelling her plans for a library visit to get a new Dickens novel and some wool-matching in favor of a sail on a rented sailboat.

Roderick's boasting of never getting seasick comes back to haunt him when he does just that. Stella gives him her handkerchief to wipe his brow and he recognizes the scent of mimosa. Stella tells him it was her mother's scent, and she has made a bottle of it sent to her by her absent father last for many years.

Taking off for London, Roderick asks Stella to be sure and drop in on Pamela while he is away. She declines a ride home, and exclaims that she is happy that he and Pam will be living in the house.

Weeks later Roderick arrives back after dark with Lizzie. Pam is annoyed since she wanted them to see everything while it was still daylight. Rick begins to call for Bobby, and Pam explains that the dog has wandered off. Pamela has done wonders with the house and Lizzie and Roderick are impressed. Rick asks Pam how Stella likes the changes, but Pam says she hasn't seen Stella at all, despite having invited her. Her grandfather rebuffed the invitations, and Roderick is confused since he was sure Stella would become friends with Pamela while he was away.

Getting ready to turn in, Lizzie's cat Whiskey refuses to go up the staircase. Later Pam goes into her brother's room, seeming to want to discuss something. But his enthusiasm over the house changes her mind and she wishes him a good night's sleep and goes to her own room.

Hours later Rick is awakened by the sound of a woman sobbing. Thinking it is Pam he goes out onto the landing, where she joins him. Pam explains that the cries have come before and she has searched for their source without success. She knows the sounds will die away at dawn, which they do. They both go back to bed, and Rick comes up with some unlikely explanations for the sounds as he returns to bed.

The next day Rick visits Commander Beach to get information about the disturbances. Asking about the history of the house, he learns that the Commander's ancestors did not experience anything out of the ordinary. While talking Stella comes in, but her grandfather refuses to allow her to converse with Rick, and she leaves for church. Rick's thinking out loud touches on the fact that the noises started since Mary Meredith's death, which upsets the Commander greatly. Rick apologizes for implying his daughter haunts the house. As he is leaving the Commander insists that Stella will not set foot in the house, which leads Rick to realize the Commander actually does think the house is haunted.

Stella meets Rick outside and arranges a visit to the house, unknown to her grandfather. After church she informs the Commander that she intends to befriend the Fitzgeralds no matter what. The Commander then telephones Miss Holloway, a woman who was Mary's closest friend and who now runs a retreat. He arranges to go to Miss Holloway's to discuss his fears about the house and Stella.

Stella spends the evening at Windward and is taken with the way the house looks, and especially with her old nursery where she lived her first three years. She remembers a warm, loving feeling when someone would bring her a nightlight, and fear when someone else would remove it. Rick then shows her the studio where her father painted her mothers portrait, or more often, portraits of a Spanish model named Carmel. Stella asks Rick to play something on the piano and he plays a tune she's never heard before. When he stops to correct a note on his sheet music Stella realizes he wrote the music, and then he tells her its title is "To Stella, By Starlight."

As he continues to play, the tune becomes sadder and sadder, and the candles dim by themselves. Then Stella's mood darkens and she rushes out of the room, and the front door, heading straight for the cliff edge where Mary died. Rick follows, catching her just in time; she says she had no feeling of danger at all. Pam comes out to bring them in to dinner and before they get back inside they hear Lizzie screaming. Lizzie tells Rick that she saw a crawling mist at the studio door, which was forming into the figure of a woman. Stella overhears her and while Pam and Rick attend to Lizzie, Stella returns to the studio, where Rick finds her unconscious. They send for Dr. Scott and put Stella to bed in the nursery. She explains that the studio tuned cold while she was in it and she became afraid, then fainted.

Dr. Scott spends the rest of the night and they all sit up watching until dawn. Scott recounts all the stories revolving around the haunting and the history of Mary, Meredith and Carmel and the open scandal in the village. There was also a hint that Mary had been murdered by Carmel. Later they sense the aroma of mimosa, and see a small light in the nursery. Rushing in to check on Stella they find her at the window, at peace. Stella says she knows her mother is the presence in the house, and for the first time felt true love.

Rick and Pam allow the doctor to take Stella home and tell her that she cannot return to the house. After Stella leaves Pam thinks that maybe the ghost is gone since it has now found Stella again. They check out this theory by going into the studio, but find the room as clammy and rotten as ever. Soon after, they hear the moaning again. Rick tells Pam that she was right about not having "a ghost" anymore because now he thinks they have two of them.

Rick goes to visit Stella, and tells her she mustn't visit Windward ever again. He proposes that she go away with him, never to return. She begs him to take her to the house. He wants to tear it down and forget about the past. She promises she will find a way to return to the house and he promises to prevent it.

Rick goes to Scott's where he finds Pam. Rick says Stella is being torn apart by the conflict. Pam suggests a sance at Windward, and Rick jumps at the idea, only he wants to rig the answers to set Stella's mind at rest by pretending the spirit of her mother wants her to stay away from Windward.

That night the sance is held using an upturned wine glass and anagram letters. Stella tries to contact her mother and when she asks if she should stay away from Windward the glass goes to "No," much to the consternation of Rick and Scott who had been trying to push it towards the "Yes" card. Then a message is spelled out and Stella goes into a trance during which she begins to speak in Spanish. The room then is flooded with the scent of mimosa, followed by the dreaded cold. As the door bell rings and is ignored, a spectral shape begins to appear and a window is smashed by the Commander who has come to rescue his granddaughter.

Scott drives Stella and her grandfather home, and is dismissed as the family doctor. After Scott leaves, Miss Holloway enters, and the sleeping Stella is carried to a waiting car for the drive back to Miss Holloway's retreat.

The morning after the sance Lizzy is cleaning up the broken window glass and takes issue with the makings of the sance. Rick promises not to do something similar again and says they intend now to go looking for facts behind the haunting, but laments that all the principal players are dead. Lizzie corrects him, saying that the trained nurse, Miss Holloway is still alive (a fact she discovered while gossiping at her temporary housing with a local family, where she moved after seeing the ghost.)

Unaware that Stella is there, Rick and Pam go to see Miss Holloway at her place, the Mary Meredith Retreat. Miss Holloway recounts the history of her time at Windward, stressing how evil Carmel was and how when Mary tried to get rid of her, she refused to give up Mary's husband and returned. Miss Holloway tells them that Mary died trying to prevent Carmel from throwing the baby Stella off the cliff. The next day Carmel came back to Windward with pneumonia and Miss Holloway nursed her until her death.

After Rick and Pam leave, Miss Holloway goes to see Stella, who is a virtual prisoner at the retreat. She questions Stella about her experience at Windward and her dash toward the cliff.

Before returning home the Fitzgeralds stop by to see Dr. Scott, and he pulls out an old journal from his predecessor. The journal hints that Miss Holloway had allowed Carmel to die through negligence. Scott is called to the Commander's house, to attend the old man who had an episode.

Pam and Rick take the journal home to look for more clues, and the room suddenly becomes full of the mimosa scent. The book's pages turn by themselves, unseen. Scott comes to Windward and tells them that Stella is at Miss Holloway's. They decide to return to the retreat immediately since the thought of Stella being under Miss Holloway's influence is abhorrent. They telephone Miss Holloway and tell her they are coming back. Miss Holloway takes the opportunity to send Stella back home, but tells her she must go immediately to Windward.

When Pam and Rick and Scott arrive at the retreat they discover that Stella has been sent back to Windward, and Miss Holloway descends into full blown madness.

Stella arrives at a darkened Windward and goes inside. Following the sound of her name being called she goes up into the studio, where she finds her grandfather collapsed in a chair. Hed been notified by someone at Miss Holloway's and walked over to warn Stella. Soon the mist reappears and forms itself into a woman. Commander Beach dies at the sight and Stella is driven once again to the cliff, where she is rescued again just in time by Rick.

Dr. Scott finds the Commander dead, and Stella says it was her mother that did it. The room is again flooded with mimosa and the journals pages fly open, this time seen by all. An entry in the journal tells of Carmel having a child and how Mary had rejected motherhood. The news means that Stella is actually Carmel's child, and Stella is happy at the news. Distant laughter is heard and it appears that Carmel has what she was waiting for and leaves Windward. Just then the ghost of Mary materializes on the staircase. Rick confronts it and defies the spirit with the truth. He flings a candelabrum at the specter, which dissipates.

Flush with their victory over Mary they notice that Whiskey is going up the staircase. Rick says he thinks Bobby will come back, but Scott indicates that he and Pam have other plans for him. Stella remarks that Rick is still trembling and Rick, nodding towards the staircase, responds that "she might have been my mother-in-law."

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