The Ghost and Mrs Muir (1947)
‘And memories. I have those, you know. Even if it was a dream’
The Ghost and Mrs Muir is about a newly widowed woman named Lucy Muir (Gene Tierney) who moves with her daughter Anna to a seaside cottage that was previously owned by a sea captain named Captain Daniel Gregg (Rex Harrison), who haunts the house. It also stars Natalie Wood as the young Anna Muir, Robert Coote and George Sanders.
Until recently, I had last watched the film when I was a lot younger so I only remembered bits of it (mostly the Rex Harrison scenes and the ending). Likewise, the film provoked my ongoing interest in old, usually classic movies. I also happened to notice, that Rex Harrison’s character stands in the background to give a ghostly prescence, almost to show a sense of belonging that he lived in the house before her, and it’s on a metaphorical scale of either watching over her or guarding his house even though the character had died. He was also originally introduced by a cackling laugh and his shadow to emphasise his presence. He brought a great deal of charisma and charm to his character. Perhaps the light focused only on his eyes in the painting when she opens the door in an early scene shows a sense that she is being watched.
I think that there is a sense of beauty in old movies, perhaps a lost art. I particularly liked the shots of the tide coming in on a stormy day, and the medium close ups of the main characters faces to show expression. I also like how there is next to no successful romantic plot line as Mrs Muir’s suitor Miles ‘Uncle Neddy’ Fairley only led her on only for his wife to reveal to her that he is in fact married with a few children. What I gathered is that it isn’t the first time that he had an affair. There is a huge contrast between Captain Gregg and Miles Fairley. Captain Gregg is foul mouthed but also rather charming (in a good way) and Miles Fairley is a charming yet rather manipulative (excuse my swearing) bastard as he knew how to charm Mrs Muir but not in a good way, but she eventually learns the error of her ways.
This film gives me a great deal of nostalgia from when I watched it when I was younger. Of course, times have changed since the film was originally released so some of the dialogue hasn’t aged very well but the film is still bittersweet all the same. I also think that Rex Harrison is an incredibly theatrical actor and his voice is very distinguished. At one point, he was one of my favourite actors, and I’ve also seen him in other films such as My Fair Lady. As for Gene Tierney, I had previously seen her in Dragonwyck so I thought she was a brilliant actress for her time. I personally find that this is one of the best ghost movies around. Nearly all of the other ones are too sappy or awful or cheesy.
It’s only now that the ending to the film has moved me to tears on a personal level as my sisters refer to the ending to help me manage with the fact that my widowed grandmother is dying. I think it’s the fact that Rex Harrison’s character says ‘You’ll never be tired again. Come now,’ then Mrs Muir stands up and she’s young again. That’s what hit me emotionally.
Overall, a visually beautiful and classic old film with beautiful music that makes the movie seem timeless, even for modern, impressionable audiences.