Dracula with music by Philip Glass and the Kronos Quartet at Arlene Schnitzer Center, Portland, OR

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)

I've always liked the scenario of a living person in love with a ghost. I think the idea could go in a million different directions and probably has. GHOST (1990) is probably the biggest hit of the human/ghost love story but THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR (1947) is a worthy entry as well.

As I kid I faintly remember seeing THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR on television. Only it was the 1968 television show and except for the goofy laughter of one of the show's co-stars, actor Charles Nelson Reilly, that's all I really recall.

The 1947 black and white film THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR does not try to be a horror film and really has very little to frighten the audience with. Recently widowed Lucy Muir (Gene Tierney) shocks her in-laws by deciding to leave London with her young daughter Anna (played by a young Natalie Wood) and move to the English coast. With the help of a local real estate agent (Robert Coote) she picks a seaside cottage overlooking the ocean that was owned by Captain Daniel Gregg (Rex Harrison), a seafaring man who supposedly committed suicide. Only Gregg has not entirely vacated the house and in fact, haunts his former home which appeals very much to the plucky Mrs. Muir.

Director Joseph Mankiewicz does a nice job of setting up the ghostly Captain Gregg and Gregg's first appearance to Mrs. Muir is an astonishingly clever and simple supernatural entrance.  The chemistry between Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison is the film's strongest element. Tierney is best known for her role as Laura in the film noir classic LAURA (1944) and several other film noir films in the 1940's but her portrayal of the strong willed Mrs. Muir perfectly counters Harrison's blustery but likable Captain Gregg. It's fun to watch Harrison try to scare Tierney and her daughter out of the house and how at first, he's frustrated with their presence but eventually comes to have feelings for her.

When Mrs. Muir has to find a way to earn a living to afford the cottage, she and Gregg come up with the idea of writing his memoirs as a captain at sea. She takes the manuscript to a publisher and as the book becomes a success, we want to see the relationship between the two blossom.

But the film hits a snag for me when a fellow children's book author Miles Fairley (George Sanders) enters the picture as a would-be suitor. George Sanders is a fine actor but he intrudes all over my wanting to see our couple bicker and banter their way toward love.

Eventually, Lucy and Captain Gregg reunite but by the time they do, the picture is over, leaving me wanting more of this intriguing odd couple. Maybe that's why they came up with the television show of the same name. So that Mrs. Muir and Captain Gregg actually did spend more time together.

Locations always play an interesting character in film and viewers will enjoy recognizing the Monterey Peninsula, Carmel, and the famous Seventeen mile drive in northern California fill in as the English seaside.

THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR is a nice love story that could have been a great love story if the two protagonists could have spent a little more time together on screen.  The ending will satisfy some romantics but Captain Gregg and Mrs. Muir need to be united for much longer in this CrazyFilmGuy's opinion.

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