Blithe Spirit

Author Charles Condomine and his wife Ruth (Rex Harrison and Constance Cummings) invite a spirit medium (Margaret Rutherford) to dinner as research for a new book. But the séance goes better (or worse) than they expect, bringing back Charles’s dead ex-wife Elvira (Kay Hammond) who only he can see. Unable to get rid of her, he tries to integrate the inconsiderate ghost into his marriage.

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It’s not often the other woman comes from the other side, and what results is a very bizarre film. The post-mortal feud is like Death Becomes Her, but the séance scenes and tone feel more like Hitchcock’s psychic-based comedy Family Plot. Like Brief Encounter it’s based on a play by Noël Coward, but it could just as easily be based on a headline in the Sunday Sport (“My husband had an affair with a ghost”).

The verbal sparring of the couple is well acted, in particular by Harrison, better known as My Fair Lady‘s Henry Higgins, and many of the funniest moments are to be found when Charles tries to convince Ruth than Elvira is really there. Rutherford also give an entertaining turn as bumbling psychic Madame Arcati.

David Lean again does an excellent job directing, including the ghostly effects. Elvira appears with a pale, greenish hue, but there are occasional reminders that she’s not solid as objects pass through her.  The result is an immensely enjoyable supernatural oddity.

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