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Blithe Spirit – 1945 – English

Blithe Spirit – 1945 – EnglishComedyFantastic


Blithe Spirit – 1945 – English

Film directed in 1945 by David Lean, and starring Rex Harrison, Constance Cummings, Kay Hammond, Margaret Rutherford, Hugh Wakefield, Joyce Carey…

Blithe Spirit - 1945 - English


Synopsis: To get background for a new book, author Charles Condomine (Sir Rex Harrison) and his second wife Ruth (Constance Cummings) light-heartedly arrange for local mystic Madame Arcati (Dame Margaret Rutherford) to give a séance. The unfortunate result is that Charles’ first wife Elvira (Kay Hammond) returns from beyond the grave to make his life something of a misery. Ruth too gets increasingly irritated with her supernatural rival, but Madame Arcati is at her wit’s end as to how to sort things out.


Review: Blithe Spirit, David Lean’s third film after the success of the war-themed In Which We Serve and This Happy Breed, is a terrific film adaptation of Noel Coward’s famous ‘comedy farce in three acts’ play. Summoning talent such as Rex Harrison, Margaret Rutherford, Kay Hammond and Constance Cummings, Lean delivers a wonderful, engaging and intelligent comedy.

Coward’s witty, urbane dialogue is beautifully maintained by Lean and the real strength of the film is the script. Harrison delivers a note-perfect performance as the husband whose wedded bliss (or is it?) with his second wife is turned upside down as the ghost of Elvira, the original bride, returns. The plot is so so outlandish that it really shouldn’t work, but thanks to Coward’s talents and Lean’s competency as a director it surely does.

Cummings and Hammond both turn in very good performances as the opposing brides. Hammond is a hoot as Elvira (“Nuts to Ruth!’), the scheming yet charming felled-by-pneumonia first wife. Yet the film’s standout performance comes from the delightful Margaret Rutherford as eccentric old fortune-teller (or fraud?) Madame Arcati.

Ronald Neame provides terrific Technicolour photography, the visuals really complementing the almost-screwball comedy set-up. The film is most memorable, however, for the way Lean takes Coward’s work filled with piercing insights about English marriage and society, and turns it into something wholly cinematic and fresh.

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