Blithe Spirit (1945)

  • Directed by David Lean.
  • Written by Noel Coward.
  • I love the color quality & text design of the opening credits. Solid.
  • Text following opening credits (with storybook-ish illustrations surrounding it):

“When we are young

We read and believe

The most Fantastic Things.

When we grow older and wiser

We learn, with perhaps a little regret,

That these things can never be.”

  • Then it fades to black, and a voice says “We are quite, quite wrong!”

And the movie begins.

  • Charles (Rex Harrison) & Ruth (Constance Cummings) Condomine are a happily married couple who are throwing a dinner party for some sort of psychic medium (a Madame Arcati, played by Margaret Rutherford), because Charles is a writer & thinks it will be beneficial research.
  • I already love Rutherford in this role – she is goofy & quirky & yet wholly sincere. It’s perfect.
  • Madame Arcati doesn’t like eating red meat before communications with the dead – but unfortunately, that’s what Ruth’s planned for dinner.
  • Madame Arcati’s “control” is a 7-year-old girl called Daphne, who died “February 6th, 1884!”
  • Bit o’ Wisdom:

To clear your mind, you should try to focus on a nondescript color.

Hm. Interesting.

  • After the Arcati-conducted exercise, a great thing happens! Charles unintentionally manages to conjure his dead first wife Elvira (Kay Hammond) – first as a voice that only he can hear, and next as a greenish-painted person that only he can see.

(The light-mint-green-painted person seems like a poor choice, costume-wise. I’d rather her just appear as a normal person – no one needs the distinction between her & everyone else – everyone knows she’s dead – so she might as well look like everyone else. The mint-green tint looks goofy.)

  • Ruth does not believe that Elvira is present & gets real mad at Charles for suggesting that she is.
  • Ruth stays pissed a long time about the whole thing & picks multiple fights with Charles over it. So Charles has Elvira do things like carry vases of flowers across the room, close the curtains, lift a chair, etc. – while Ruth is present, to make her believe.
  • Rutherford stays glorious as Madame Arcati. I love her mannerisms.
  • Hahaha! Do you want to know how Elvira died? She had contracted pneumonia, and began “laughing helplessly” at a BBC musical program…and had a heart attack & died.
  • Oh, by the way – Elvira’s costume looks much like what someone would come up with as a Halloween costume if they were dressing as the Statue of Liberty (sans crown & tablet, though, of course).
  • Also – turns out that after the flower-vase-carrying episode, Ruth did finally start to believe Charles’s claims.
  • Ruth’s next step is to go to Madame Arcati & plead for help.
  • “The time has come for me to admit to you frankly, Mrs. Condomine, that I haven’t the faintest idea of how to get rid of her.” — M. Arcati
  • So! Ruth determines/guesses that the only reason Elvira is back is to kill Charles, so they can spend happily ever after in Dead Land together.
  • Unfortunately, while she (Ruth) is sharing this theory with Charles, Elvira is outside, tampering with the brakes on the car she thinks Charles is about to drive.
  • Not knowing this, Ruth heads out to drive somewhere in that car (foiled, Elvira!), and involuntarily crashes it off a bridge & dies. Womp, womp.
  • So now Elvira and Ruth are poltergeists – only Charles can’t see Ruth – only Elvira can.
  • Ha! Madame Arcati thinks she’s found the formula to send Elvira back to The Other Side – but instead, she conjures Ghost Ruth, so that now Charles sees (& can interact with) both of them.
  • (Madame Arcati’s costumes are perfect, by the way.)
  • It’s weird that after Ruth is conjured, she & Charles have no interactions, before Arcati embarks on a series of alternate spells (?) to send both Ruth & Elvira away. Had any of these spells succeeded, Charles & Ruth would just never see or speak to each other again, about any of this – Ruth dying tragically & unseasonably, Charles now being a second-time widower – and they seem to be okay with that.


I do not find that believable at all.

  • PLOT TWIST!!!!!

Edith (the Condomines’ new maid, who runs everywhere but is otherwise very plain) (played by Jacqueline Clarke) is at the root of it all!!!

…Unconsciously, though?


(I don’t get it.)

  • Anyhow, the ladies disappear (at least from view, as well as audibly…but it seems they’re still present in spirit).
  • Because of this, Charles decides he’ll leave the house for a while, on a trip…except they (his wives) have other plans – and cause his car to crash off the same bridge that factored in Ruth’s demise.
  • So the tale ends, with all three of them, green-tinted, sitting together on a bridge rail, with Charles in the middle.
  • I didn’t love this so much. It had a clever, fast-paced script, and all of the actors play off & with each other exquisitely – but the plot was kind of nonsense. It’s like they came up with this interesting, cool idea for a plot – but then couldn’t come up with the details to make the whole concept worthwhile. Not much happened, I’m sorry to say.
  • Margaret Rutherford was by far the best in her role – the other 3 main ones (we’re not counting Edith) didn’t require much depth or substance. I mean – the other actors were fine at their parts – but it was nothing spectacular.
  • I’d skip this one. Not particularly memorable. Also – it’s probably worth noting that Noel Coward hated this film adaptation, and thought the filmmaker’s had ruined one of the best things he’d ever wrote. Probably the hugest change was the ending – in the original play, Charles successfully departs on his vacation…but in the movie, they killed him off. Weird, right?


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