Horror Review: Blithe Spirit (1945)
Ok, so Blithe Spirit from 1945 certainly isn’t horror. But it does center around the theme of the afterlife, and it’s filled with seances, spirit communication and a charmingly mischievous haunting.
Blithe Spirit was directed by David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia, The Bridge on the River Kwai and Doctor Zhivago). He also helped to adapt it for the screen along with Ronald Neame and Anthony Havelock-Allan.
It stars Rex Harrison, Constance Cummings and Kay Hammond. Blithe Spirit is a romantic comedy. When the spirit of his first wife starts appearing to Harrison’s character after a seance, all hell breaks loose with his current wife. Similar to most films from this time, the charm lies in the quick wit and clever comedy. Characters exchange fast lines and loaded jabs. So loaded in fact that this line delivered by Harrison was removed from the U.S. release by censors: "If you're trying to compile an inventory of my sex life, I feel it only fair to warn you that you've omitted several episodes. I shall consult my diary and give you a complete list after lunch."
Kay Hammond, who plays the ghostly first wife, was dressed in specialty clothing and makeup, and a specific light was pointed at her as she moved through the set, giving her an ethereal (yet totally opaque) look. Hammond was reprising her role in the film version; she had played the spirit of the first wife in the original West End play.
The story was originally a play written by Noel Coward during the second world war. In fact, it was an incredibly popular and long running play in London’s West End. It actually held a record until 1957 for the longest running play on the West End.
To me, this is a perfect Sunday morning film. It’s light hearted and incredibly charming. Classically shot and produced for the era, strong acting, delightful dialogue. We may not fall in love with any specific characters, as they are all flawed and border on caricatures, but we really don’t need to in order to appreciate the story.
If you are one of the Lunatics who are squeamish about horror, I’d suggest Blithe Spirit as a worthwhile film to explore.
There also seems to be a version from 2020, so perhaps a review on that will be coming soon.