The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) is a romantic-fantasy film starring Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison. It was directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and is based on a 1945 novel written by Josephine Leslie under the pseudonym of R. A. Dick. In 1945, 20th Century Fox bought the film rights to the novel, which had been published only in the United Kingdom at that time. It was shot entirely in California.
In the early 1900s, young widow Lucy Muir moves to the seaside English village of Whitecliff despite the fierce disapproval of her caterwauling mother-in-law and domineering sister-in-law. She rents a house known as Gull Cottage despite its reputation of being haunted by the spirit of a seaman who had committed suicide there, and takes up residence with her young daughter Anna and her maid Martha.
On the first night, she is visited by the ghostly apparition of the former owner, a roguish but harmless sea captain named Daniel Gregg, who tells her that his death four years ago was not a suicide, as popularly supposed, but was the product of accidentally kicking open the valve on a gas-fired room heater while asleep; in addition, a strong wind blew a window open and he went to shut it. He further explains that he had wanted to turn Gull Cottage into a home for retired seamen in generations to come and did not appreciate her being there, nor previous renters he had chased away. Of course, he never left a will mentioning what he wanted to do with the house, because he didn't anticipate dying so soon. After learning of Lucy's appreciation of the house, Daniel reluctantly agrees to allow her to live in Gull Cottage and promises to make himself known only to her. (Anna is too young for ghosts.) Despite a few differences and disagreements with Captain Gregg, Mrs. Muir and her household settle comfortably into Gull Cottage.
However, it is not long before Mrs. Muir's in-laws arrive with the news that Lucy's investment income has dried up, and they insist that Lucy move back to London with them. After his ghostly eviction of the in-laws, Captain Gregg comes up with an idea to save the house: he will dictate his memoirs to her and she will have them published, with the royalties going to her. During the course of writing the book, they find themselves falling in love, but as both realise it is a hopeless situation, Daniel tells her she should find a real (live) man.
When she visits the publisher in London, Lucy becomes attracted to suave Miles Fairley, a writer of children's stories under the pen name of "Uncle Neddy," who helps her obtain an interview. Despite a rocky beginning, the publisher agrees to publish the Captain's book. The Captain's racy recollections, published under the title Blood and Swash, become a bestseller, allowing Lucy to buy the house.
Fairley follows her back to Whitecliff and begins a whirlwind courtship. Captain Gregg, initially disgusted by their relationship, decides finally to cease being an obstacle to her happiness. While Lucy sleeps, Captain Gregg places the suggestion in her mind that she alone wrote the book and that he was just a dream. He suggests to her "You must make your own life amongst the living and, whether you meet fair winds or foul, find your own way to harbour in the end." His task accomplished, Captain Gregg fades away.
Shortly thereafter, while again visiting her publisher in London, Lucy decides to pay a surprise visit to Fairley's home. There she discovers to her horror that Miles is not only already married with two children, but also that this sort of thing has happened before with other women. Lucy leaves, heartbroken, and returns to Whitecliff to spend the rest of her life as a recluse in Gull Cottage, with Martha to look after her.
About ten years later, Anna returns with her fiancé, a Royal Navy lieutenant. In the course of a conversation with her mother, Anna reveals that Captain Gregg's ghost was her childhood companion during the same year Lucy and the Captain were acquainted. She also knew about her mother's relationship with Miles Fairley all the time, rekindling faint memories in her mother of the Captain. It is also revealed that Fate has not been kind to Fairley; he has become fat, bald and a heavy drinker, and his wife and children have finally left him.
Lucy spends a long peaceful life at the cottage, still tended to by Martha. One foggy night, now ailing and under a doctor's care, Lucy gestures to her left arm and complains to Martha that it hurts and she is tired and just wants to rest in her bedroom chair. Martha leaves and Lucy dies a moment later. Captain Gregg appears before her seconds afterwards, reaches out to her, and beckons for her to join him where she will never be tired again. Her young spirit takes his hands and stands free of her aged body. The two stare lovingly at each other for a moment before walking arm in arm down the stairs, and out of the front door into an ethereal mist.
The New York Times reviewer called The Ghost and Mrs. Muir "a pleasurable film, despite its failings," singling out Edna Best for "by far the best performannce [sic]". In the writer's opinion, Harrison "has such an ingratiating personality that this compensates in large measure for the lack of characterization in his role", but Tierney "is a pretty girl, but has no depth of feeling as an actress."
Charles Lang received a 1947 Academy Award nomination for his cinematography on the movie.
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir was adapted as an hour-long radio play on the December 1, 1947 broadcast of Lux Radio Theater with Charles Boyer and Madeleine Carroll, and was also adapted on the August 16, 1951 Screen Director's Playhouse with Boyer and Jane Wyatt.
From 1968 to 1970, a TV series titled The Ghost & Mrs. Muir, starring Hope Lange and Edward Mulhare, aired on NBC and then ABC. It had the same premise and main characters as the book and film, but it was a situation comedy, downplaying the romantic fantasy elements and focusing on broad humor. The time and setting were changed, with the action taking place in a contemporary American coastal town (though the ghost was portrayed as being from the Victorian era). For the series, Mrs. Muir's first name was changed from Lucy to Carolyn and the children's names were changed from "Cyril" and "Anna" (in the original novel) to "Jonathan" and "Candace".
The film was released on Blu Ray in 2013 by 20th Century-Fox after being selected in Fox's Voice Your Choice promotion. It was previously released on DVD as part of the 20th Century Fox Studio Classics collection.
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