Films I Love, Page To Screen, Romance

The Ghost And Mrs. Muir (1947)

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The Captain advises Lucy. Screenshot by me.

This is one of my favourite romantic films. I always watch this if I’m in need of cheering up. This is a film that touches my heart like no other ever has. I love it because the characters are likeable, loneliness is cured, friendship and love are found, and there is the right mix between fantasy and reality to make it believable. 

I also love how the film shows Mrs.Muir and the Captain helping each other to change. He helps her become outgoing and strong. She helps him become gentler and more sociable. The plot of the film is a sort of Beauty and The Beast story. I’m partial to stories of opposites attracting and personalities being changed for the better. This is one of my favourite such stories.

The film is based upon the 1945 novel written by R. A Dick. The film is directed by Joseph Mankiewicz. The film is set on the British coast (actually filmed in California) at the turn of the 20th century. Gene Tierney is at her most beautiful and regal here as the young widow, Mrs. Lucy Muir. Rex Harrison is intense and gruff as the ghostly Captain Gregg, the former owner of the haunted cottage that Mrs. Muir moves into.

There is an ambiguity here I think, about whether or not the Captain is actually a real manifestation, or if he is merely part of Mrs. Muir’s overactive imagination. When she moves in to her new home there is a portrait of the Captain hanging in a room, and  when she sees it she becomes intrigued by this sailor in the portrait. She begins to think of him and then he appears to her.

Ghost and Mrs. Muir

Now the Captain could well be nothing more than a part of her imagination, and yet he could also be a physical representation of her beginning to start breaking free of her past restrictions. With the Captain around, Mrs. Muir becomes much more open, adventurous, and she has some much needed fun.

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A happy and confident Mrs. Muir. Screenshot by me.

She is no longer living a sheltered and pampered life. If you believe that then it’s also possible that she writes the book later in the film due to being inspired by her surroundings and the history of her new home. However, I think that you can also view it that the Captain is indeed a real ghost. Mrs. Muir’s daughter sees him too, as do the relations of Mrs. Muir’s dead husband(in a memorable scene the Captain evicts them from the premises). There is also the fact that hauntings were reported to be happening at the cottage long before Mrs. Muir ever arrived there, and the ending pretty much(for me at least)proves his existence.

Mrs Lucy Muir (Gene Tierney)is a widow. She and her daughter (Natalie Wood)move to their new home Gull Cottage on the British coast. The pair are joined by their loyal maid and friend, Martha(Edna Best). One night, Lucy is startled to meet the ghost of the former owner of her new home. This man is the rough and gruff Captain Gregg (Rex Harrison). The two do not get along at all at first. He soon warms to her presence though and allows her to stay. He won’t disturb her with haunting tricks (moving furniture etc). 

As they spend more time together, the Captain falls in love with Lucy, all the while knowing full well that nothing can ever come of their growing feelings and desire. She comes to care for him a great deal too. The pair settle for a close friendship and she agrees to write his memoirs about life as a sailor.

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Miles is one smooth operator. Screenshot by me.

They finish the book, and she takes it to a publisher. Whilst on a trip to the publishers, Lucy meets the charming (and obvious cad)Miles Fairley(George Sanders, at his most charming and oily), he (supposedly) falls in love with her.

The Captain can see straight through Miles’s charming façade. He knows full well that he is no good, but will Lucy ever see the truth about this elegant living man in her life? 

Rex and Gene make a beautiful screen couple. I think that they perfectly convey the shared heartache and desires of their characters. I love how their shared scenes become more tender and moving as the film goes on, and as their characters feelings for one another increase.

Rex Harrison is an actor who I’ve never really been that much of a fan of, but I really do like him here. Rex makes the Captain harsh and gruff, and yet he also shows us that his outward appearance is nothing more than an act, he is really a gentle, tender, and very decent man underneath.

Gene Tierney delivers one of her very best performances here, as the rich young woman finally getting her first chance to do the things she wants to do. She starts off as a restrained woman who doesn’t express much. Through her friendship with the Captain she becomes more outgoing and open. Gene does a marvellous job of showing us that change in her character. She makes Mrs. Muir strong, determined, gentle and excitable.

George Sanders is all smooth charm and elegance as Miles. This is one of his best cad roles in my opinion. He makes us all fall for Miles just as much as Mrs. Muir does when she meets him. 

Bernard Herrmann’s beautiful score for this is one of his very best, it’s atmospheric and for me always conjures up images of the sea. It’s a moving and passionate score, and goes so well with the images on screen.

The photography by Charles Lang is gorgeous. He was Oscar nominated for his work here. I particularly love his photography in the kitchen scene, it’s so dark and scary, and then when the candle is lit the room becomes very atmospheric casting shadows on the walls. 

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Just kiss already! Screenshot by me.

My all time favourite scene in this is the dream scene; in this scene we see the Captain realise that he must make quite a sacrifice to ensure Lucy’s future happiness. It is a heartbreaking moment.

I also really love the scene on the train where the Captain yells at an old man who wants to share Lucy’s compartment, and because the Captain is invisible to anyone except Lucy, the old man thinks she has yelled insults at him and his reaction to her is priceless.

Superb performances from the entire cast. This is a must watch for fans of classic era romance. Make sure you have some tissues with you though as it’s guaranteed to make you shed a few tears. There was a TV series of this made in the 1960’s. I’ve been lucky enough to find the episodes on YouTube, if you haven’t seen it and like the film, then do check it out. Hope Lange plays Mrs. Muir and Edward Mulhare plays Captain Gregg. I enjoyed this very much, it’s more of a comedy than a romantic drama, but there are many lovely scenes between the Captain and Mrs. Muir to enjoy too.

Nothing can top this film version for me though. The gorgeous score, the excellent performances, the poignant romance, and the interesting premise make this a timeless classic. It is a film I return to again and again. It never fails to make me laugh and cry. It provides the perfect viewing for times when I am ill or sad.

What do you think of the film?

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Till Death Us Do Part Blogathon: Dragonwyck (1946)

Til death us do part blogathon

Theresa, over at cinemavensessaysfromthecouch, is hosting this blogathon all about murders that occur in a marriage. Be sure to visit her site to read all the entries. I can’t wait to read them all myself.

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Vincent Price as Nicholas. Screenshot by me.

I’m writing about the 1946 film Dragonwyck. The film is directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and it is based on the 1944 novel of the same name which was written by Anya Seton. Where do I begin with this one? 

Well, I have to say upfront how much I love this film. I like how it is a mixture of genres, romance, melodrama, suspense and horror are all mingled together to great effect; there’s even a subplot about the ghost of a Van Ryn ancestor who haunts the house! Truly this film has something in it for everyone.

I think Price gives one of the best performances of his entire career in this, and it annoys me that his performance here is rarely mentioned when his best film performances get discussed.

I think that it is such an atmospheric film and I think that the set design for the house interiors is absolutely stunning. This gothic film reminds me somewhat of the story of Jane Eyre. A young woman falls in love with an older man, who she (and we)feel sorry for and believe to be desperate for a different life. There the similarities to Bronte’s tale ends though, as Dragonwyck begins to transform into a dark mixture of murder, drug addiction and madness.

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Gene Tierney as Miranda. Screenshot by me.

I also think that the murder plot (and attempted murder)we see in this film, shows similarities to Hitchcock’s Dial M For Murder.

The murder plot here is practically perfect; it’s downright scary just how close the killer comes to getting away with their crime(like the one planned by Milland’s character in the Hitchcock classic), the first murder goes unsuspected, it is only when another is attempted later that a doctor becomes suspicious and the first is uncovered.

The film is set in America, in the 1840’s. Miranda Wells (Gene Tierney) is a young, sheltered woman who is raised in a God fearing, farming family in Connecticut. Miranda longs for adventure and to be able to see more of the world, than just the small part of America she was raised in. Miranda’s mother (the ever terrific Anne Revere)receives a letter from Nicholas Van Ryn (Vincent Price)a distant and wealthy relative.

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Vivienne Osborne as Johanna. Screenshot by me.

Nicholas invites one of the Wells daughters to live at his house called Dragonwyck and act as companion for his daughter. Miranda accepts the invitation and she and her father, Ephraim (Walter Huston)travel to the city to meet Nicholas. Her father disapproves of him, but Nicholas soon charms him and he permits his daughter to go and work for Nicholas.

Soon Miranda finds herself falling in love with Nicholas and the beautiful house known as Dragonwyck. Nicholas returns her feelings and likes her honesty and outspoken nature. Her presence seems to lift him out of himself and become less distant. She seems to be the medicine he needs to be happy. Nothing can come of their love though, as he is married to the self centred (although as we later learn obviously deeply unhappy and unwanted)Johanna (Vivienne Osborne).

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Nicholas and Miranda enjoy a dance. Screenshot by me.

When Johanna suddenly falls ill and then dies, it would seem that nothing can stand in the way of Nicholas and Miranda’s future happiness. Only the sight of a rare and deadly orchid plant in Johanna’s bedroom seems out of place, and its presence plays on the mind of the attending doctor, Turner(Glenn Langan).

Being unable to prove foul play, but nevertheless highly suspicious the doctor (from a distance)keeps an eye out for the new Mrs. Van Ryn. Later when Miranda also falls dangerously ill, his suspicions prove to be founded in truth. But just who is the murderer? I won’t go into detail about that so as not to spoil the film for anyone who has yet to see it.

This is a dark and atmospheric tale of love, desire, murder and unhappiness. The film looks stunning visually, and the set design and costumes are sumptuous and impressive. One of my favourite films from the 1940’s and a great choice to watch if you’re looking for a spooky tale of murder. Murder is terrifying as it is, but to discover a murder is being planned by someone close to you is another thing entirely and this film captures that.

My favourite scenes are the following. Miranda going to attic and discovering the truth about Nicholas (some powerful acting by Price in that scene). The ball sequence, particularly where Nicholas dances with Miranda and basically says who cares what his neighbours and friends say. Ephraim and Nicholas meeting in the hotel. The doctor telling Miranda he will look after her now. Miranda’s first meeting with Johanna and the house staff.

Price is excellent as the reserved Nicholas. He makes you believe that this man has a terrible life and longs to break free of his dull society. His transformation towards the end of the film is quite a shock and he makes it so convincing and dark.

Gene Tierney is superb as the young woman falling in love for the first time in her life. I also like how she makes Miranda not care one bit for convention and that she always speaks her mind. Miranda is very much her own person.

Vivienne Osborne has the tough job of playing both an annoying and sympathetic character and she does this very well. She manages to make us both pity and dislike Johanna.

Spring Byington provides solid support as the almost otherworldly housekeeper of Dragonwyck. There’s also an appearance by a young Jessica Tandy as the maid who helps Miranda.

Anne Revere and Walter Huston are excellent as Miranda’s parents. Anne does a good job of playing a woman who wants her daughter to be happy and have adventures, but doesn’t want to go against the husband she loves when he says Miranda can’t do certain things. Walter perfectly captures the gruff but loving dad act perfectly.

If you haven’t seen this one yet, then I highly recommend it to you. I’d love to get your thoughts on this one. Please leave your comments below.

Click the link below on the 24th to see all the live posts. https://cinemavensessaysfromthecouch.wordpress.com/2017/07/24/till-death-us-do-part-2/