on 4 July 2004
This is a film I've loved since I was a child. It only came out on DVD last year, but the film was made in 1945. It must be about 20 years since I last watched it and, I'm pleased to say that it has aged well and I enjoyed it just as much today as I did on all the previous occasions that I watched it. As you would expect in a script created by Noel Coward, it's very clever and very witty. Margaret Rutherford is one of my favourite comic actresses and she's on form in this film, playing a dotty old medium, Madam Arcati, who conjures up the spirit of her client's first wife - and is then quite at a loss to know how to get rid of her. Rex Harrison plays the client: author, Charles Condomine, who arranged for Madam Arcati to have a séance at his home. He's hoping that she's a fraud and he wants to study her methods for the book he's writing. Coward could have written this part for Rex Harrison who plays the part with cool, sharp, intelligent wit. His wives - the first Mrs Condomine, Elvira, played by Kay Hammond and the current Mrs Condomine, Ruth, played by Constance Cummings are both excellent: the naughty, mischievous Elvira taking every opportunity to annoy and upset poor Ruth and get Charles into trouble; the indignant Ruth, in turns angry and exasperated. There's a playful and good natured feel to the film. Elvira's more teasing than spiteful; Ruth is never pushed too far and Charles quite enjoys having both his wives with him - if only they could get on nicely together.
I think it's probably fair to call this film a 'classic' of its kind. I'm so pleased to have found it available on DVD. It's just the thing to cheer up a wet Sunday afternoon. I recommend it.
on 8 November 2004
This is British filmmaking at it's best. No matter that this was made in 1945, it still entertains today.
The movie is based on a play by Noel Coward and centres around an author (Rex Harrison) who, with his second wife (Constance Cummings)invites a medium to perform a seance in his home. His intention is to perform research for a novel he is writing but the medium, brilliantly played by Margaret Rutherford, unwittingly raises the spirit of his deceased first wife,Elvira.
From then on, the unfortunate man is caught between his warring wives. The battle is all played out with humour, as is the hapless authors efforts to get the medium to get rid of Elvira.
This is a movie that is well worth watching and funny for any age group.
on 16 November 2013
I saw this I don't like to think how many years ago, but put it this way, we rented a 16mm projector, and there was a tense wait while my father changed reels. I really am that old. (Must be said, it was already a classic, not a new release.)
So I bought it on DVD thinking ah, this will be sweet and nostalgic and turn me back into a little girl for an hour or two. Actually, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I like Noel Coward's plays, I love Margaret Rutherford (who is remarkably young and spry), the special effects were surprisingly good and it is eccentric English humour very nicely portrayed indeed, I recommend it as a delightful oddity.
Undoubtedly Dame Margaret Rutherford's greatest movie - looking surprisingly young, slim and energetic, and with a waistline of someone half her age! Here she plays the somewhat 'cranky' and eccentric Madame Arcati in Noel Coward's hilarious comedy. Also stars a plummy-voiced Kay Hammond whose voice can get a little irritating after awhile. The marvellous Joyce Carey who was blessed with perennial youth plays the hapless Mrs. Bradman, who is always putting her foot in it! Constance Cummings and Rex Harrison play the unfortunate married couple who are haunted by the ghost of a previous dead spouse - Harrison playing very much himself here, and with an uncannily resemblance to the character 'Higgins' that he was to play some twenty years later in 'My Fair Lady'; conceited and nauseatingly arrogant...
One of the best scenes in this classic that stands out far from the rest with some great dialogue, is when Mrs. Condomine pays a visit to Madame Arcati, demanding she be rid of her husband's previous wife's ghost. This turns into a fiery exchange of some great home truths for both characters! An interesting point is the drama of this - craftily slipped in the middle of an otherwise complete 'comic' movie. Very cleverly done!
This film has some marvellous special effects for its day, in particular, Rutherford's extremely long finger, and the clever shot of Constance Cummings running upstairs, and seemingly passing straight through Kay Hammond's ghostly apparition! All done in glorious Technicolor!
A gem not to be missed!
on 18 April 2006
If nothing else, the film gets the ending right. On stage, BLITHE SPIRIT ends with Charles Condomine's two wives having a catfight beyond the grave while he sweeps out in all of his masculine superiority. In the film version, the ladies will have none of that--mind you, he tries to make such an exit, but it's followed promptly by a fatal car crash that lands him right back in the muck--which is where he belongs, since the whole mess is his fault . . .
Secondly, the character of Condomine's second wife, Ruth, has been softened a bit, not only in Constance Cummings' brisk but likeable performance, but in Coward's script--the stage version made Ruth a hysterical scold and the butt of one too many nasty jokes--here she is a nice normal woman caught in an increasingly weird and annoying situation, and everything she does, both before and after death, makes a fair amount of sense.
Finally, there is Margaret Rutherford's performance as the medium Madame Arcati, whom Charles hires to conduct a seance in hopes of publicly debunking her, only to get lots of trouble as his just desserts. Far too many actresses think the role is an exucse of drape themselves in turbans and such and camp it up to an annoying degree. Coward wrote her, and Rutherford plays her, as a nice, relatively normal sort of person--a bit of an overgrown Girl Guide, perhaps, but hardly a self-concious eccentric. This makes her more eccentric moments, such as her rather scratchy releationship with her spirit guide, a little girl, all the funnier.
As Condomine, Rex Harrison makes a splendid fool of himself for almost two hours, and you need not feel any guilt about enjoying his various trials and humiliations, because you know the man brought them all on himself--the opening scenes of the film reveal a smart, charming fellow, but also one who is thoroughly full of himself and bruising for a comeuppance. He gets it and then some.
A comeuppance named Elvira, who probably favored tight silks and chiffon even before her demise, which no doubt left all around her both saddened and a little relieved. Kay Hammond gives the character just the right sort of ripe, mischievous edge that lets you understand how such a person could be both delightful and infuriating pretty much in the space of the same breath, and how even the reappearance of her insubstantial ghost could cause ripples of trouble in her husband's new marriage.
This was the third film that David Lean worked on with Noel Coward, and the first that didn't touch in some way on the war; a vast improvement, in my opinion. IN WHICH WE SERVE, if done honestly, was the story of an egomaniac willing to sacrafice ships and crews to make his name in the Royal Navy. THIS HAPPY BREED was flawed by his complete lack of connection with his working-class roots. BLITHE SPIRIT takes place in that charming fantasy-land of drawing-room comedy where the only worry was where the next drink and the next one-liner were coming from, and they always turned up. Lean and his cinematographer, Ronald Neame, did a wonderful job of taming that beast known as three-strip Technicolor, with the result that this is one of the subtlest color films of this period other than MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS. And although the film barely moves outside of Condomine's, well, drawing room, there is no sense of cramp or of canned theater; like Alfred Hitchcock on DIAL "M" FOR MURDER, Lean finds all sorts of interesting things to do with his camera, even in a fairly-small room. THAT is the sign of a great director, not rebuilding most of Moscow on a backlot in Madrid . . .
on 16 February 2015
Sadly Noel Coward is seen as something of a joke by today's audiences but this delightful and hysterically funny farce shows just why he was the most famous playright and wit of his day. Rex Harrison is Rex Harrison but his acting in this is perfectly light touch and never goes into the realm of mockery. Margaret Rutherford was born to play Madame Arcati, the delightfully daft medium.
Try if you can to find the restored version from The David Lean Foundation, it is as good if not better than the orginal. The colours are sparkly and true and the directing from David Lean is surprisingly sprite given that he had never directed comedy before. If you have never seen any of Coward's work before, take a look at this and you'l discover why the profession referred to him as, "the Master".
on 3 February 2015
Wonderful film of a very light-hearted play, exquisitely and stylishly performed.
It is of its time - cosy upper middle-class, nice house, doctor who calls round - but taken for what it is, it is enjoyable.
The restoration is excellent sound and picture; make sure you buy the one with the gold header!