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Blithe Spirit (1956)

TV Movie  -   -  Comedy | Fantasy  -  14 January 1956 (USA)
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Title: Blithe Spirit (TV Movie 1956)

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Nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy. See more awards »
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14 January 1956 (USA)  »

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Clifton Webb, famous later for film roles in "Laura" and "The Razor's Edge" created the role of Charles on Broadway. See more »

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Live Television Gem!
1 February 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This was an episode of "Ford Star Jubilee", done in the days of live television. I was lucky enough to view an archival video of this and was thrilled by it. Noel Coward himself stars and directs this adaptation of his celebrated play. The cast is superb. Mildred Natwick steals the whole show as Madame Arcati, the role she played in the Broadway version. She is wonderfully funny, and brings a reality to what is often played as cartoonish. Claudette Colbert brings a light comedic touch to the role of Ruth. Her interpretation of the character is much more sympathetic than some I have seen. Lauren Bacall uses her smoky voice to great advantage as the ghostly Elvira. She moves so beautifully as she slinks and floats around, creating havoc in the household. A very young Marion Ross does fine comedic work(and a Cockney accent) in the role of the maid. Coward has shortened the play for this TV version in a way that actually helps it. A few scenes are dropped, and this makes the whole thing play with a very quick tempo, with few lulls.

In his diaries, Coward details the difficulty in getting this production on, mostly due to his clashes with costar Colbert. (She insisted on being photographed only from her left side, among other details). None of the travails are in evidence in the performance. Only Coward himself seems a little stiff at times, but in his published diary, he explains that he was numb with Novocain during the broadcast, due to trouble with his leg. Despite the age of the kinescope I saw, the entire show was still magical, right down to the effective, if simple, special effects.


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