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Film / The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

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"You must make your own life amongst the living and, whether you meet fair winds or foul, find your own way to harbor in the end."

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is an American romantic fantasy film released by 20th Century Fox in 1947, adapted from the 1945 novel The Ghost of Captain Gregg and Mrs. Muir by R. A. Dick (the pseudonym of Irish author Josephine Leslie), directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and starring Rex Harrison and Gene Tierney. It is perhaps most notable for its lush music score, composed by Bernard Herrmann.

Lucy Muir (Tierney), newly widowed, has had it with her domineering in-laws and decides to settle the issue by moving herself, her daughter Anna (Natalie Wood), and her faithful maid Martha (Edna Best) to Whitecliff-by-the-Sea, a small, charming coastal village somewhere in Edwardian England. Gull Cottage, a beautiful if slightly run-down house on top of the bluffs, is for rent, and the asking price extraordinarily cheap. The agent, however, is none too keen about the idea of someone living in the house, and it is not too long after moving in that Lucy finds out why.

The late Captain Daniel Gregg (Harrison), the builder and former owner of the house, has not quite gotten around to moving out, despite being... dead. A cantankerous and blustery ghost, his attempts to move Lucy and her family out prove futile and short-lived, as he quickly falls in love with the beautiful widow, and she with him. Their cozy, if unusual, domestic arrangement is threatened when Lucy meets Miles Fairley (George Sanders), a suave author and veteran charmer. Fairley is interested, Daniel is jealous, and Lucy has a difficult decision to make.

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is hard to categorize: part romance, part tragedy, part supernatural fantasy, part drama, part comedy. There's loads of room for Alternative Character Interpretation, but the plot is a permutation on a common story: boy meets girl, and they fall in love.

The film was loosely adapted into the 196870 Fantastic Comedy TV sitcom The Ghost & Mrs. Muir, shifting the setting to contemporary Maine. Edward Mulhare starred as Captain Gregg, with Hope Lange as his mortal love interest (renamed "Carolyn Muir"). Much was made of the comedic hijinks of Captain Gregg's surviving great-nephew, the venal and cowardly Claymore Gregg, played by Charles Nelson Reilly. Popular character actress Reta Shaw played the part of Martha.

Tropes used in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir include:

  • Accidental Suicide: Captain Gregg eventually admits that he died by accident when he kicked his gas heater in his sleep, which opened the gas valve and suffocated him.
  • Beautiful Dreamer: Lucy when Daniel alters her memory.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Lucy finally ends up with Daniel, but she had to die first.
  • Boy Meets Ghoul: Inverted. Lucy Muir, the new homeowner, meets Daniel Gregg, the ghost of a Sea Captain.
  • Cultured Badass: Daniel quotes Keats and is quite eloquent while dictating his memoirs.
  • Cute, but Cacophonic: How Lucy sort of ends up under Daniel's influence, especially what with picking up his swearing habits.
  • Damsel in Distress: Subverted. Lucy's not helpless, but Daniel thinks she is.
  • De-aged in Death: After the ghost of Captain Gregg moves on and erases Lucy's memory of him, she lives into old age, long enough to see her granddaughter engaged. When she dies and is reunited with Captain Gregg, her spirit appears as it did in her 20s when she first met him.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Lucy and Daniel fit this trope to a T.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Basically the entire movie.
  • Driven to Suicide: Subverted. It's commonly believed Daniel killed himself by locking himself in his bedroom with the gas heater on. It turns out he had fallen asleep, and unconsciously kicked the lever for the gas. It's one of the earliest and most passionate points of contention for him.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Lucy (though she does still have three freckles). This gives no hint about her character, though, as it was merely the favored beauty-type of The Edwardian Era and the late 1940s.
  • Friend to All Children: Years after Lucy warned Daniel to stay away from her daughter because she was too young to be haunted, she finds out that he and her daughter used to hang out and chat all the time. Might be why he knew her reading tastes, though he is a ghost and seems privy to all sorts of information nobody told him anyway.
  • Handsome Lech: Miles Fairley. Also turns out to be something of a Jerkass, considering he's already married. Ironically, after this secret is revealed he comes off as much more pathetic, perhaps a Casanova Wannabe.
  • Hard-to-Light Fire: Mrs. Muir attempts to light a candle, but the ghost keeps blowing out the matches. Her irritated outburst provokes Gregg's manifestation and their first conversation.
  • Haunted House: The house Lucy selects is cheap because Daniel has been frightening away all potential tenants.
  • Hopeless Suitor: Mr. Combe is clearly getting ideas about marrying Lucy; she's not interested, and Daniel subverts any such intentions by pushing his parked car back down the hill.
  • Invisible to Normals: Daniel is only seen and heard by the people he decides should. This causes some awkwardness when Lucy argues with him in front of her in-laws.
  • I Will Wait for You: Subverted. Oh so subverted. Though Lucy has forgotten Daniel's existence, in her later years she appears to be waiting for him. Then, on her death, he does reappear — so this may be a rare case of I Will Wait for You from a man.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: When Daniel sees that Lucy is falling in love with Miles Fairley, he's initially jealous but decides to remove himself by making her forget that he exists, and that the biography she wrote of him really did come from her own imagination, because it's only right that she be with a living man rather than a ghost.
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: Subverted. Daniel appears as Lucy sees him in the portrait, though that may well have been what he was wearing when he died. Also Lucy, who dies an old woman in her nightgown and appears thereafter a young woman in one of the dresses of her youth.
  • Ladykiller in Love: Daniel mentions three women mourning his death. And then he meets Lucy.