The Ghost and Mrs Muir: Of Salty Sea Captains and Haunted Houses

The next movie we'll be watching is The Ghost and Mrs Muir, a 1947 romantic ghost story starring Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison.

Not creepy at all.

Mrs Muir is a widow who has had just about enough of living with her late husband's mother and old maid of a sister.  So she moves with her young daughter and rustic maid to a house by the seaside.  A house, as luck would have it, which is haunted by an ornery sea captain.

While all of the previous tenants left after only one night, Mrs Muir is intrigued by the idea of a ghost.  After a brief period of Captain Gregg slamming things around, yelling, making the lights flicker, and generally throwing a temper tantrum, the ghost and Mrs Muir tentatively come to an agreement.  And Mrs Muir finds an unlikely ally in her quest for independence.

Captain Gregg dictates a memoir to her, so that she can get a book published and keep the house.  After a while, an unconventional friendship develops between the two, and it becomes obvious that they kind of sort of have feelings for one another.

But when Mrs Muir goes to a London publishing house, she meets a man named Miles Fairley, who begins to court her something fierce.  She has to make the choice between a real live man that she maybe doesn't love 100%, and the ghost of a man she loves but can never have.  Decisions, decisions.  She eventually chooses Fairley, and Gregg moves on despite his feelings for her.  As he leaves, he whispers to her while she's sleeping to convince her that their relationship was just a dream.  This is apparently a power that ghosts have.

Unfortunately, Fairley is kind of a grade A douchebag with a secret wife and children living in London.  Which she finds out when she goes up to his house in London to surprise him, only to find Mrs Fairley.

So that's clearly over.

Mrs Muir lives out the rest of her life in that house, and one day when she's very old she falls asleep by the fire, to be reunited with the captain at last.  They walk together into the mist, which is a touching image, even if I'm like do not go gentle into that good night!  Show some emotion!  You should not be so immediately OK with the fact that you just saw your own dead body!  FEEL SOMETHING!

And I guess that one thing is really the entire problem I have with this film.  It feels strangely dispassionate and unemotional.  This is a great story, but for it to really work, I think there needed to be deeper emotional content.  The relationships feel very shallow to me, and I wanted more out of it.  I get that the Captain and Mrs Muir love each other, but I want more than the few interactions that I got from them.  I don't understand why the maid and the daughter were so against Fairley.  I mean, they were right about him being a toolbox, but I don't feel like I was shown any strong evidence that he was that bad up until the point when she gets his address and I immediately knew there was going to be a woman there.  They should have played up his bad side a little bit more before that point in the film.

Despite this, the film is pretty well made.  I enjoyed the beginning best, when there was actually some haunting going on in that house.  It was very spooky and atmospheric, and I loved it.  Rex Harrison, as usual, does a great job with his role as the grumpy but ultimately goodhearted sea captain.  The scene when he leaves is top notch.

I'm normally a pretty strong advocate against doing remakes of classics, but this is one of the very few films where as soon as I started watching it, I thought, "Wow, I would love for this to be remade."  I guess just because I like the story, but there are many things that I think could be improved upon.

Does that movie count as a remake?  I hope not.

Thanks for reading, and come back next time!

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Anonymous said...

One of my all time favorite old movies!! So glad it made the list! Love your review, too. :)

Luke said...

More reviews soon?

Audrey on a Mission said...

Hey Luke, just posted a new one! Hoping to get back to a Monday-Wednesday-Friday posting schedule. :)

Anonymous said...

Check out this movie, SOULMATE, by Axelle Carolyn.

It's touring festivals and it's strongly inspired by THE GHOST AND MRS MUIR, even if the tone is very different.

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