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United Kingdom 1945
Directed by
David Lean
96 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

Blithe Spirit

Presumably Noel Coward’s play worked on stage in its day, when it was very successful, but as a film it is either too silly or not silly enough to be effective. It was the third collaboration between David Lean and Coward (they had already collaborated in In Which We Serve, 1942 and This Happy Breed, 1944 and their final joint venture would be Brief Encounter, released later in 1945), the latter not being pleased with the outcome.  

Rex Harrison plays a well-to-do author, Charles Condomine,who invites a local medium, Madame Arcati (Margaret Rutherford) to his well-appointed Ashford home in order to study her for a forthcoming murder mystery. In the process of her antics she summons up the ghost of his dead wife, Elvira (Kay Hammond) who cannot abide his new wife, Ruth (Constance Cummings). Elvira conspires to kill Charles so that they can be together in the next world but accidentally knocks off Ruth instead.

 Although the scneario gives Coward the opportunity to vent his talent for acid dialogue it is a fairly tedious affair -  a kind of precursor to I Dream Of Jeanie as these three standing around swapping barbed ripostes, the “hag-ridden” Condomine eventually getting so sick of his bickering wives that he gets Madame Arcati back so that she can send them packing and he can enjoy bachelordom. Although Rutherford, who played the role in the West End production, is the best thing about the film (my favourite of her characters is Letitia Prism in The Importance Of Being Earnest, 1952) these days the film will largely appeal to hardcore Anglophiles and Coward fans.




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