Ghost and Mrs. Muir, The (1947)

“I’m here because you believe I’m here. Keep on believing, and I’ll always be real to you.”

Ghost and Mrs. Muir Poster

Synopsis:
A headstrong widow (Gene Tierney) develops an unusual relationship with the ghost (Rex Harrison) haunting her new seaside house.

Genres:

Review:
Made during a decade replete with supernatural fantasies — including Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941), A Guy Named Joe (1943), The Canterville Ghost (1944), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), A Matter of Life and Death / Stairway to Heaven (1946) and Portrait of Jennie (1948), among many othersThe Ghost and Mrs. Muir remains one of the best of the bunch. Gene Tierney gives a mature and heartfelt performance in the title role as a widow and single mother determined to survive on her own; her romance with Harrison emerges naturally and gradually, alongside their respectful “working relationship”. Indeed, Philip Dunne’s nuanced screenplay — based on a novel by R.A. Dick — effectively weaves feminist issues into period romance, deftly incorporating a love triangle (George Sanders is nicely cast as a dubiously motivated author attracted to Tierney) and a number of plot twists along the way. Perhaps most satisfying is the fact that we’re led to wonder whether Tierney’s belief in Harrison’s presence — is he “real”, or a figment of her imagination? — might simply be a function of her loneliness and desire for “true love” at last; I’ll buy that as a compelling premise for a ghost story any day. Haunting cinematography, fine period sets, and Bernard Herrmann’s lovely score all contribute to making Mrs. Muir a surprisingly enjoyable minor classic.

Note: Nearly all reviews give away major spoilers, so if you haven’t seen it yet, be forewarned.

P.S. Watch for Natalie Wood in a small role as Lucy’s young daughter, Anna.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Gene Tierney as Lucy Muir
    Ghost Mrs. Muir Tierney
  • Rex Harrison as Captain Daniel
    Ghost Mrs. Muir Harrison
  • Charles Lang’s cinematography
    Ghost Mrs. Muir Cinematography
  • Fine period detail and sets
    Ghost Mrs. Muir Locations
  • Philip Dunne’s romantic screenplay
    Ghost Mrs. Muir Chemistry
  • Bernard Herrman’s score

Must See?
Yes, as a most unusual and satisfying supernatural romance.

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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One Response to “Ghost and Mrs. Muir, The (1947)”

  1. Not a must.

    This is one which, as a kid, I saw on tv a number of times (and, of course, it was the basis for the popular tv show, which I did watch regularly).

    It’s a marked commercial effort on the part of director Joseph Mankiewicz and, as such, has the feel of one of his least personal films. It seems a respectable studio product made to make money. It’s acted well (even if Harrison is a bit much at times), it looks great and Herrmann’s score is quite good.

    It’s a well-put-together piece of entertainment, something you could maybe curl up nicely with on a rainy Sunday afternoon. In short, harmless fluff which I don’t find wildly memorable.

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