Long ago, on the seacoast of England, in a small village called Whitecliff-on-the Sea, lived a woman who fell in love with a man. While this story may seem simple in and of itself, it hides more from the eye than one can imagine. The stage is being set for a most unusual love story. It is one that is not of the flesh and blood variety, but more a variation on a theme. It envelopes the personas of a human being and a ghost and the evolution of a love that will test the boundaries of time and space.
Lucy Muir (Gene Tierney), a young widow with a small child, Anna (Natalie Wood), decides to break free from the restraints of her in-laws in turn of the century London. To make her entrance into the world, she has decided to live her life in a house by the sea -- Gull Cottage. Her streak of independence will wear itself well, for she will discover that she shares her home with not only her daughter and servant, Martha (Edna Best), but also with the ghost of the former owner, Captain Daniel Gregg (Rex Harrison). Gregg, while used to female companionship of a 'loving' nature, is fully unprepared for the pretext of a full time, home bodied relationship with the female of the species, especially when said female has attached herself to his space and has no intentions of vacating said premises. He is a rough and tough seaman, whose vernacular is pitted with the swagger of a sailor's life, but who had the misfortune to knock over 'the blasted heater' and cause his death from carbon monoxide poisoning that has been ruled a suicide, when nothing could have been further from the truth. It's a bone of frustration that Gregg does not wear well.
When Lucia (whom Gregg has renamed because it sounds like one 'fit for an Amazon or a queen'), stands front and centre before the revelations that her income is to suddenly be swept out from under her, she scrambles to come to grips with the possibility that she will have to go back to her dreaded in-laws, Angelica and Eva (Isabel Elsom and Victoria Horne). Captain Gregg comes to the rescue with a proposal to help Lucia to write a book about a 'man's life at sea', his life, and with the proceeds she will be able to purchase Gull Cottage.
Into this mixture comes a children's book author, Miles Farley (George Sanders), perennial ladies man, and with him, a cold, stormy wind that will blow the course of a relationship onto the rocks. Will Lucia set her sights on him and his Beau Brummel ways or see her way through to remaining with Gregg?
Gene Tierney's haunting beauty and on screen chemistry with Rex Harrison makes this simple story of an unusual love work with precision and care. Their scenes together are wonderful to see, as they seem to read each other like books and know the exact moves that the other will make with clarity. George Sanders works his magic, with that oiled voice that betrays the cad he is and always will be as Farley. One can be guaranteed that his presence in a film will be an exciting and laden filled vessel of timing and seduction.
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir possesses exquisite black and white photography by Charles Lang, and it sets a spooky mood for the proceedings, but in such a way as to make us unafraid of what we are about to see. Rather, we welcome each scene as an old friend.
The score by the venerable Bernard Herrmann is another plus that is unforgettable in its magnitude of presenting time, place and mood. Is there anything that this man was not capable of doing musically? The theme of this film permanently etches itself onto the brain. The entire score literally screams Bernard Herrmann. The screenplay by Phillip Dunne, based on the novel by R. A. Dick is beautifully rendered, and a most improbable storyline is given credence.
This film is a combination of moods and emotions. It's a drama, a comedy, fantasy, a love story, a ghost story, but most of all it's about people and how the ways of life render them at times silly and beyond belief and yet, in the end, wrap up all the loose ends and tie them neatly into a bow. It is intoxicating and we imbibe with complete and absolute abandon at the workings as they are laid before us.
What is most remarkable of all is the fact that for a love story, Lucia and Gregg never touch, never kiss and never truly reveal their love for each other until the very end, and if that is not a testament to the institution of love than nothing could ever be! Through their actions and mannerisms, we are as voyeurs watching a mating dance that has years to go before it culminates in a climax of incredible and everlasting endurance. It is a movie that spans the generations of movie viewers and brings them all together to see what real love is all about.
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is that commodity, that only makes itself known on rare occasions, for after fifty years since it first saw the light of day on the silver screen, it still manages to hold us entranced and fixated on a time when casts knew how to really act and when they had faces that radiated a glow of seductive illusions that somehow seemed all the more real to those of us in the audience. It has captured our hearts forever.
If a truly romantic film is what you crave, or if you gentlemen would like to show the woman in your life your sensitive side, this is the one to get! She will love you for it.