AMAD: The Ghost & Mrs. Muir (1947)
My dear, since Eve took the apple no woman has ever been taken entirely unawares.
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
First of all, Happy 5 month anniversary to AMAD! It feels at once like it couldn’t possibly already be 5 months of this column and like how could it only be 5 months?
And we have a great film to discuss on our quintaversary, 1947’s romantic fantasy drama THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR starring one of cinema’s most beautiful leading ladies Gene Tierney as the titular Mrs. Muir, a widower who moves into a lovely seaside home haunted by the previous owner, a sea captain named Daniel Gregg, played by Dr. Doolitte (Rex Harrison).
Tierney play Lucy Muir as a very strong woman with a cyclone of emotion whirling just below the surface. She is determined to get out of the shadow of her dead husband’s family and has built up a substantial layer of thick skin, a natural defense that might make her appear headstrong and cold to some.
When she sees the empty house, she somehow knows this is her place, despite the nervous real estate guy trying to dissuade her. The place comes fully furnished, so when Mrs. Muir steps inside she can immediately tell, in a way, that the previous owner is still a part of the house.
Tierney moves in with her maid and young daughter, played by Natalie Wood… yeah, THAT Natalie Wood, fresh off her star-making role in the original MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET and good 8 years before she solidified her place in film history in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE.
Mrs. Muir is immediately confronted by the ghost of the sea captain, but in subtle ways. The lights are out and he keeps blowing out her candle, leaving her in the dark. He’s essentially trying to annoy her out of the house.
But unlike the previous likely buyers, Mrs. Muir won’t put up with this shit and demands he show himself. That he does, appearing out of the shadows and being rather upfront with the lady. His wishes are for the house to be donated as a home for retired seamen, not to be reinhabited by a bunch of women.
This conversation, in the kitchen, is when I really started to fall in love with this movie. The chemistry between Harrison and Tierney is perfect and the clash of personality makes for great entertainment. He’s a little pissed, quite vulgar (for the time, when consarnit and blasted weren’t acceptable for use in conversation), but once the surface emotions calm a bit we find he’s a caring soul.
In that respect, he and Mrs. Muir have a lot in common, they just are opposites of each other. She bottles her emotions up inside, keeping a calm, poised exterior and he’s the opposite, wearing his emotions on his sleeve. But when all that is brushed aside and all we’re left with are the real people they’re pretty perfect for each other.
Too bad he’s dead.
The two end up striking up a deal that as long as she leaves the house to the old seamen when she dies, she and her family can live there… and she also has to keep his old bedroom, which is kinda creepy. They even have a scene where she undresses, covering up his portrait and thinking she’s alone… only to have his disembodied voice tell her that she should never let anyone tell her she doesn’t have a wonderful figure.
I know they did a TV series of this in the ‘60s, but I’m shocked that this hasn’t been remade. The original is a period movie, too, set in the 1900s, not the ‘40s, which gives it a kind of timeless quality to it and Harrison and Tierney are very natural in their roles, not theatrical like some of the actors of their time period. The whole thing is easily watchable even under contemporary expectations.
I’m greatly surprised no one has approached Russell Crowe about being the ghostly seaman and someone like Jolie or maybe even as young as Natalie Portman to be the young widow.
It’s such a sweet love story, innocent through and through, but almost tragic because their love is impossible. She’s living and her desires have to stay in that world.
In some respects, this is a Peter Pan story as well and Mrs. Muir gets to a point where she doesn’t need Captain Gregg anymore and can move on.
This comes in the form of a love interest, another writer named Miles Fairley (Geroge Sanders) who helps her publish Gregg’s biography. But there’s something insanely creepy about the guy that I wasn’t sure was intentional until well into the movie.
When he first meets Tierney, he pretty much stalks her. He’s charming about it, but he’s always leaning in too close and every time they share a scene together I just found myself uncomfortable.
Even though you can view this movie in many ways as a tragedy, the ending will send you away smiling and thinking that no matter how much hardship and pain Tierney has endured, she came out on top and got everything she ever wanted.
If you rewatch the movie or watch it for the first time, keep an eye out on the camerawork. Joseph L. Mankiewicz (director of previous AMAD Sleuth as well as a couple upcoming titles) is a big reason why the film feels as contemporary as it does. The actors do their job to keep the movie from feeling too theatrical and Mankiewicz keeps the camera moving and really using it to tell the film’s story visually throughout. Look especially at the moment when Gregg first appears as Mrs. Muir is napping, how it sweeps the room, pulling into an over-the-shoulder of Rex Harrison looking down on Gene Tierney.
Final Thoughts: THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR is a beautifully executed story that will work for anybody who considers themselves romantics. Gene Tierney was rarely any more beautiful than she is here and I think a lot of that has to do with the vulnerability of her character, which was probably being informed by her true life, which was a very sad and tragic story. If you want to find out more about her life check out her Wiki Page. The film is a definite recommend, though and I think in many ways it’d make a great double feature with CASABLANCA in terms of a perfect romance that has no possible way of ever working.
Here’s what we have lined up for the next week:
Monday, November 3rd: THE FLYING TIGERS (1942)
Tuesday, November 4th: EXECUTIVE ACTION (1973)
Wednesday, November 5th: THE BUSY BODY (1967)
Thursday, November 6th: IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD (1963)
Friday, November 7th: LIBELED LADY (1936)
Saturday, November 8th: UP THE RIVER (1930)
Sunday, November 9th: DOCTOR BULL (1933)
Yep, as you can see we have a few John Ford comedies on the list. Looking forward to hitting those, but I’m also really looking forward to hitting that run of Robert Ryan movies. I love me some Robert Ryan. See you folks tomorrow for John Wayne war goodness (hopefully).
June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony
September 8th: Lisa & The Devil
September 9th: Baron Blood
September 10th: A Shot In The Dark
September 11th: The Pink Panther
September 12th: The Return of the Pink Panther
September 13th: The Pink Panther Strikes Again
September 14th: Revenge of the Pink Panther
September 15th: Trail of the Pink Panther
September 16th: The Real Glory
September 17th: The Winning of Barbara Worth
September 18th: The Cowboy and the Lady
September 19th: Dakota
September 20th: Red River
September 21st: Terminal Station
September 22nd: The Search
September 23rd: Act of Violence
September 24th: Houdini
September 25th: Money From Home
September 26th: Papa’s Delicate Condition
September 27th: Dillinger
September 28th: Battle of the Bulge
September 29th: Daisy Kenyon
September 30th: Laura
October 1st: The Dunwich Horror
October 2nd: Experiment In Terror
October 3rd: The Devil’s Rain
October 4th: Race With The Devil
October 5th: Salo, Or The 120 Days of Sodom
October 6th: Bad Dreams
October 7th: The House Where Evil Dwells
October 8th: Memories of Murder
October 9th: The Hunger
October 10th: I Saw What You Did
October 11th: I Spit On Your Grave
October 12th: Naked You Die
October 13th: The Wraith
October 14th: Silent Night, Bloody Night
October 15th: I Bury The Living
October 16th: The Beast Must Die
October 17th: Hellgate
October 18th: He Knows You’re Alone
October 19th: The Thing From Another World
October 20th: The Fall of the House of Usher
October 21st: Audrey Rose
October 22nd: Who Slew Auntie Roo?
October 23rd: Wait Until Dark
October 24th: Dead & Buried
October 25th: A Bucket of Blood
October 26th: The Bloodstained Shadow
October 27th: I, Madman
October 28th: Return to Horror High
October 29th: Die, Monster, Die
October 30th: Epidemic
October 31st: Student Bodies
November 1st: Black Widow
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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Nov. 3, 2008, 4:51 a.m. CST
by Brandon Gable
Congrats on 5 months, Quint! Another excellent review for an excellent movie. Looking forward to more of the same, keep it up!
Nov. 3, 2008, 5:19 a.m. CST
Nov. 3, 2008, 5:46 a.m. CST
and Bernard Herrman's score is the best ever written for a film.
Nov. 3, 2008, 5:46 a.m. CST
but I'm still amazed at the amount of classic films you haven't seen.
Nov. 3, 2008, 6:57 a.m. CST
on wikipedia, especially the rubella bit..
Nov. 3, 2008, 9:02 a.m. CST
Here's to five more. I don't understand how you are able to do it, but I'm glad you do. I will be sure to blame you when the shitty remake of this film comes out. And seeing that you missed Mad World (!?!) and Meatballs makes me weep for your deprived childhood!
Nov. 3, 2008, 9:05 a.m. CST
and realized it was NOT "Up the Academy" and I got-a so sad!
Nov. 3, 2008, 9:29 a.m. CST
As for a remake, they'd really need to get all the right people (writer, director, actors, composer, etc) on board to make it as good as the original. Unfortunately, Hollywood doesn't exactly have a great track record with remakes.
Nov. 3, 2008, 10:23 a.m. CST
by Adelai Niska
Rex Harrison in his unique voice repeated describing his love of seamen. That's all I rememeber, having seen it once about 2 years ago.
Nov. 3, 2008, 10:47 a.m. CST
Shame on me. But I remember Edward Mulhare being pretty New England sea captainish, Hope Lange Milf-tastic, and Charles Nelson Reilly his usual self.
Nov. 3, 2008, 11:17 a.m. CST
Plays as a gender-reversal version of this film.
Nov. 3, 2008, 11:32 a.m. CST
did a video based on this movie. Really nice too. I love this film so much. Harrison was perfect, everything was perfect. I cry like a little girl at the end everytime. It's a bittersweet story. And I hope they never remake it. It's perfect the way it is. Why taint it? Knowing how things are in Hollywood right now they'd probably have Sacha Cohen play the Capt. (gag)
Nov. 3, 2008, 11:46 a.m. CST
I've been a sucker for this film from the first time I saw it when I was only a teenager. Harrison and Tierney are magical together. I love the ambience created by the cinematography, directing and score. A beautiful film in every way.
Nov. 3, 2008, 12:51 p.m. CST
by Ninja Nerd
I've never been a fan of Rex Harrison, probably because I thought "Dr. Doolittle" was kinda weird and creepy. But this film with Gene Tierney is simply marvelous. I watch this every time it comes on cable. And I'm sorry, but "Just Like Heaven" is not even close to being in the same league as this one.
Nov. 3, 2008, 1:09 p.m. CST
Especially at the ending. But a HAPPY tear-jerker and NOT just a "chick flick." It really is a great classic of film. If you haven't seen it yet, rent it or download it.
Nov. 3, 2008, 5:01 p.m. CST
I never understood the nostalgic adoration for a lot of the 1940's actresses..except for Gene Tierney. She was absolutely stunning...a genuine goddess come down to earth to make us mere mortals salivate. And for the ultimate Tierney experience, you need, need to see "Leave Her To Heaven"...a gorgeous Technicolor film-noir (even if that sounds like a contradiction in terms.) It was the "Fatal Attraction" of its day...Tierny played an alluring possessive psycho who wreaks all kinds of misery and death around her poor husband (Cornel Wilde). For pure, creepy broad-daylight madness, you've got to savor the "lake" scene where Tierney attempts to bond with Wilde's beloved, crippled teenage brother (played by Darryl Hickman, brother Dwayne("Dobie Gillis"). If you love "Muir" and you haven't seen this yet...get it and watch it NOW.
Nov. 3, 2008, 5:06 p.m. CST
That's a huge part of what makes this film the classic it is. You will never hear a more lush, achingly heartbreaking score that what Herrmann accomplished for this film. On CD, the late Elmer Bernstein conducted a superb full re-recording of it. The absolute best.
I love this movie. Keep up the good work Quint!
Nov. 3, 2008, 5:45 p.m. CST
by Spacker Dave
I can't take them anymore.
Nov. 3, 2008, 5:59 p.m. CST
Regarding Hermann's score... my brother walked in while I was watching this and, out of sight of the TV and just heard Hermann's score (the love theme) and asked, "Are you watching Star Wars?" Heh. Sorry for ignoring him in the review. I should have made mention.
Nov. 3, 2008, 7:24 p.m. CST
Hollywood doesn't make poetic films like this anymore. The TV series was more in the "Bewitched" mold, but stood well on its own.
Nov. 3, 2008, 9:06 p.m. CST
Gene Tierney was drop-dead gorgeous, Harrison was a man's man, and they are great together. And ditto on Herrmann's score - it could easily have won the Oscar, it it had been nominated. Wonderful movie - thanks, Quint.
No fooling, this is my favorite movie ever.<p>Quint, how can you praise the film's visuals without mentioning the cinematographer, Charles Lang? Nobody shot ghost stories better, from DEATH TAKES a HOLIDAY to THE UNINVITED.<p>And throw a bone to Bernard Herrmann's enthralling musical score, too.
Nov. 8, 2008, 11:59 a.m. CST
Okay, I'll read the thread before posting next time. it's just that this movie gets me all het up.<p>Regarding remakes, Sean Connery spent about ten years trying to get a project off the ground. Imagine him with, say, Michelle Pfeiffer around the time of RUSSIA HOUSE... "What we've missed! What we've both missed!"
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