Theatre: Blithe Spirit

Not be confused with the trope Blithe Spirit, although you could if you really wanted make an argument for a character or two fitting that trope.

Here Blithe Spirit refers to an upper-class farce written by British playwright NoŽl Coward, who claimed to have written the entire play beginning to end in five days. It premiered on West End in July of 1941. The original cast included Cecil Parker as Charles Condomine, an author/socialite who invites famed medium Madame Arcati, played by Margaret Rutherford, over for dinner and a seance in hopes of gathering research for his latest book. Things go awry when the spirit of his deceased wife, the temperamental and seductive Elvira, played by Kay Hammond is called back from the otherside. This intrusion proves to be somewhat upsetting to his current wife of five years, the rather stuffy Ruth, played by Fay Compton. Hilarity Ensues.

The 1945 film adaptation was directed by David Lean and starred Rex Harrison as Charles. Angela Lansbury played Madame Arcati in a Broadway revival and recreated her role in the West End in 2014. In 1964, the play was adapted into a Broadway musical, High Spirits; Coward co-directed the original production of it.

Tropes featured include:

  • Black Comedy: There's an awful lot of death in this farce.
  • Celestial Bureaucracy: Charles asks if there's anyone Elvira can talk to from... beyond... that can help get her back, hinting at some bureacratic way of going about it. She can't really remember; after crossing back over everything from before is a little fuzzy. She also complains about having had to fill in lots of forms to return to the world of the living for a visit.
  • Dead to Begin With: Elvira.
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: Inverted. As one of the characters in the Love Triangle is Dead to Begin With, her plan to solve the triangle is to kill Charles so he can be in the afterlife with her. So its more like... Death of Everyone But the Hypotenuse.
  • Death as Comedy
  • I Am Very British: All except for Madame Arcati and Edith, the maid. Though portrayal varies from production to production, it's rather difficult to read the dialogue and not want to speak as poshly as possible. Also Justified, as, well, it's a Noel Coward play, and he wrote about the upper class.
  • Murder by Mistake: Elvira sabotages the car, intending to kill Charles so he would join her in the afterlife. Ruth uses the car first...
  • Vehicular Sabotage: Elvira tampers with the brakes of Charles's car so he'll die and join her in the afterlife. But unfortunately for all, it is Ruth who drives the car and gets killed, turning her into a ghost too.