The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (Joseph L. Mankiewicz / U.S., 1947):

The cottage by the edge of the sea is really on the border of the beyond, just the realm for the "blooming revolution" of a woman's self-actualization. The young widow (Gene Tierney) leaves fin de siècle London to survey it and finds a bedroom swirling with unearthly laughter: "Haunted. How perfectly fascinating!" So it goes in Joseph L. Mankiewicz's drolly romantic reworking of Allen's The Uninvited, the lights dim around the napping maiden and the camera swivels to reveal the spectral presence in the same room, the late captain (Rex Harrison) clad in black wool and bearded like a sexy Neptune. A fine reversal of Laura has the mystical male introduced as a phosphorescent visage on an oil canvas, Tierney is now the one trying to reconcile fantasy and reality, the bridge is a mariner's salty memoirs transcribed by a dainty landlubber. (Ghostwriting is the tacit joke, Zinnemann's Julia receives the noble pen of "feminine literature.") The captain swears and quotes Keats with equal flair yet can hardly compete with the corporeality of her new suitor (George Sanders), a children's author who loathes the little beasts. "Whether you meet fair winds or foul, find your own way to harbor in the end." The candle in the staircase and the telescope on the balcony, the four-letter word pecked on the typewriter and the lady's handkerchief seized and sniffed at the train station—uncommon gradations and harmonies curated by Mankiewicz with the support of one of Bernard Herrmann's most sublime scores. A whiff of Brontë and a note of Ophüls comprise the phantom affair forgotten and remembered, which moved the young Godard to cite Moravia in his very first article. "That sounds all mixed up, doesn't it?" The "blasted lantern slide" of relationships modulates into a most gentle amour fou for the finale, the simple miracle of lovers at long last able to touch. With Edna Best, Vanessa Brown, Anna Lee, Robert Coote, and Natalie Wood. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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