The Ghost and Mrs. Muir – 1947
Director – Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Starring – Gene Tierney, Rex Harrison, and George Sanders
I may be run out-of-town on a rail for saying this, but The Ghost and Mrs. Muir was a pretty stupid movie. Posturing and posing as a lighthearted romantic comedy about a young woman contending with the spirit of a salty old sea-captain, instead, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is the story of a lonely woman wasting her life and the lives of those around her (her daughter and maid) because she had a etherial fling with a crotchety old ghost for less than a year. Not only is it implausible (even within the mythology of the world that is set up in the film), but it also annoyed me to the point of anger.
Firstly, the story. Gene Tierney plays Lucy Muir, who at the beginning of the film is a freshly widowed woman. Her first order of business is taking her daughter, their maid, and parting ways with her prying, manipulative in-laws. Their anger at her leaving them, and forsaking the memory of her late husband is brushed casually aside. She gives as her reasoning the fact that there was little, if any, real love in the marriage, and without another word, they’re off.
The sort of wacky, lighthearted comedy kicks in for a little while, as she goes through the trial and error of buying a home, discovering that it’s haunted, and acclimating herself to her etherial housemate. It is from this point that the romance part of the romantic comedy kicks back in, as Rex Harrison’s Captain Gregg and Lucy begin to like, and eventually grow very fond of one another. When the money that her dead husband left her dries up, Captain Gregg has her write out the story of his life, and sell it as her own. It’s during the selling of this book, that Mrs. Muir meets a charming, living, man who sweeps her off of her feet. Captain Gregg reacts at first by acting out, and eventually by giving up (telling her while she is sleeping that it was all a dream, and that she’ll think of it as a dream upon waking), and fading away.
***SPOILERS*** (Although the whole movie is a bit of a spoiler)
Well as it turns out, the suave, dashing man turns out to be an absolute cad, go figure, and Lucy soon finds out that he is married with children. Not only that, but his wife doesn’t seem at all surprised by her showing up, and says that it has happened before. After that, Lucy spends the rest of her life alone, growing old along with her trusty (read: stupid) maid, until she dies and is greeted as a ghost by the spirit of Captain Gregg.
As far as movies of this era go, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one so mired in the antiquated notion that women are these weak willed pets that need constant tending to, and taking care of. The idea that this woman would spend her entire life doing nothing for herself, be it for income, chores, for income, or in her interpersonal relationships is ludicrous. When the money that her husband left her runs out, does she get a job? Does she sell the big expensive, fucking house that she bought willy-nilly? No, she claims that she’ll “find a way”, until a fucking ghost helps her. The only friendships she has are the ghost that is trapped in her house, the maid that does everything for her, and the man who trips over himself to court her. It is as insulting and demeaning to women as it possibly could be. Now I understand that in the 40’s women generally stayed at home, and took care of the children. They, very often, didn’t go to school, and never had to work (unless they were poor or of another color), but as a guy raised by a strong female role model, who herself was raised by a smart, capable, female role model as well as a respectful, intelligent man, I hated this movie.
It doesn’t even really matter about the other qualities of the film, although it was competently shot, the sound and music were okay, and I don’t recall any of the actors accidentally messing up a line. Based solely on the merit of what this film has to say, not only to women, both young and old, but to me, I definitely does NOT deserve to be on the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list.
One final point, just to illustrate how poor this movie is, I would rather watch Katherine Hepburn, and Diane Keaton reading the phone book, to me personally, in my house, while I was tied to a chair, with bamboo slivers under my fingernails (well, maybe not the bamboo). Watch one of these instead…”Lost In Translation”, “Singin’ In The Rain”, or “Garden State”
“There’s a dead sea captain in it” – Ashley