Charles (Sir Rex Harrison) and his second wife, Ruth (Constance Cummings), are haunted by the spirit of his first wife, Elvira (Kay Hammond). Medium Madame Arcati (Dame Margaret Rutherford) tries to help things out by contacting the ghost.
Just after World War I, the Gibbons family moves to a nice house in the suburbs. An ordinary sort of life is led by the family through the years with average number of triumphs and disasters until the outbreak of World War II.
The Passionate Friends were in love when young, but separated, and she married an older man. Then Mary Justin (Ann Todd) meets Steven Stratton (Trevor Howard) again and they have one last ... See full summary »
Henry Hobson (Charles Laughton) is a successful bootmaker, a widower and a tyrannical father of three daughters. The girls each want to leave their father by getting married, but Henry refuses because marriage traditions require him to pay out settlements.
Brenda de Banzie
To get background for a new book, author Charles Condomine (Sir Rex Harrison) and his second wife Ruth (Constance Cummings) light-heartedly arrange for local mystic Madame Arcati (Dame Margaret Rutherford) to give a séance. The unfortunate result is that Charles' first wife Elvira (Kay Hammond) returns from beyond the grave to make his life something of a misery. Ruth too gets increasingly irritated with her supernatural rival, but Madame Arcati is at her wit's end as to how to sort things out.Written by
Director Sir David Lean and Cinematographer Ronald Neame decided not to use double exposure to create Elvira's ghostly appearances. Instead, Lean created an enormous set that allowed Kay Hammond to move freely in each shot. Hammond wore fluorescent green clothes, make-up, and a wig, with bright red lipstick and fingernail polish. Each time she moved, a special light would be directed on her, allowing her figure to glow even in dimly-lit scenes, and giving her an otherworldly appearance. See more »
When Ruth leaves Charles and Elvira to go to bed, the camera pulls back into the drawing room, the door closes, and in the gloss paintwork the ghostly reflection of the crew can be seen. See more »
words on a Victorian sampler:
"When we are young / We read and believe / The most fantastic things. / When we are older / We learn with regret / That these things cannot be"
We are quite, quite wrong!
See more »
The voice at the end of the credits page that utters, "We are quite, quite WRONG!" is Noël Coward's See more »
David Lean's sleight of hand of a Coward's chirpy play
A pristine restoration of David Lean's fantasy comedy based on Noël Coward's successful play, BLITHE SPIRIT is Lean's third feature film and pairs Rex Harrison and Constance Cummings as a middle-class couple Charles and Ruth, both have been married before, out of his whim, Charles invites a kooky medium Madame Arcati (Rutherford) to their rural house to arrange a séance, which he naively thinks is good for inspiration since he is a novelist and Ruth, takes the whole arrangement ever so light-heartedly, only participates out of sheer curiosity, but after the supernormal session, it turns out Madame Arcati is not a fraud at all, Elvira (Hammond), Charles' deceased first wife, has been invoked from the other side and materialises, but only to Charles, who is pleasantly surprised and they start to banter with each other, which vastly irritates Ruth.
Seeking help from Madame Arcati of no avail, Ruth realises she must fight Elvira for Charles, and a subsequent outlandish accident, secretly plotted by Elvira, puts her in the same circumstance as Elvira, while Madame Arcati's final attempt to exorcise the dead from the living world fails, her crystal ball indicates a cue that there is another human being under the same roof is actually capable of accomplish that task.
The story does sound idiotic and Coward's original play has no ambition to be a wacky science fiction other than a farcical fairytale (the film begins convivially with the "once upon a time" introduction), a frivolous (but also cartoon-ishly lethal) tug-of-war between two women divided by two worlds, with poles apart temperaments (Elvira is mischievously petulant while Ruth is uncompromisingly virtuous), thus, the acting is fairly engrossing, the four main characters all cop an attitude with their respectively distinct personalities, the repartees among Harrison, Cummings and Hammond are as rapid as any theatrical live performance, whereas Dame Margaret Rutherford's eccentric actualisation of Madame Arcati is an uplifting phenomenon, such a force of nature and she defies any ridicule of her calling.
However, more essentially, it is Lean's cutting-edge job in fabricating a human-ghost co-existent magic presence becomes a major reason why this little piece of gem sustains its life-force, under the stunning Technicolor palette, this restored version is truly a boon for a first-time viewer, if you are into some carefree diversion of spectres, death and necromancy.
4 of 6 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this