The Ghost and Mrs Muir
The Ghost and Mrs Muir tells the story of a young widow (Gene Tierney) who rents an old house by the sea that is haunted by the ghost of a sea captain (Rex Harrison). Despite all the trappings of a gothic tale, the film is in fact an ironic comedy, in which the ghost and the widow play out their relationship as a battle of wits.
The film was not a huge success when first released in America in 1947, though it achieved an afterlife as a TV series in the 1960s. But in Europe the film soon acquired a reputation as an exemplary product of the Hollywood system. Joseph Mankiewicz, its director, was a firm advocate of the idea of the auteur, by which he meant that the director must also be the author of the script. For Mankiewicz, cinema was above all dialogue.
But as Frieda Grafe shows in her attentive and evocative account, there are many voices speaking in The Ghost and Mrs Muir. She traces the influence of Darryl Zanuck, the forceful head of 20th Century-Fox, the screenwriter Philip Dunne, R.A. Dick, the author of the novel on which the film was based, Bernard Herrmann, who composed its wonderful music, and the particular slant given to the film by the casting of Tierney and Harrison.
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