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Film / The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

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The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is a 1947 film released by 20th Century Fox, adapted from a 1945 novel by R. A. Dick (the pseudonym of writer Josephine Leslie), directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and starring Rex Harrison and Gene Tierney. It is perhaps most notable for its 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 faithful maid Martha (Edna Best) to Whitecliff-by-the-Sea, a 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.

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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, 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.

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The film was loosely adapted into a 1968–70 Fantastic Comedy TV sitcom, 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:

  • Awesome Mc Coolname: Daniel decides to call Lucy "Lucia" after he realizes she's no helpless widow.
  • 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Lucy and Daniel fit this trope to a T.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Basically the entire movie.
  • Determined Widow: Lucy is determined to live her own life in the manner that she chooses.
  • Driven to Suicide: Averted. 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 has give 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.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Lucy argues with Daniel about a certain word he's dictated, and when he asks what word she uses instead, she claims she doesn't have a need to. Finally, she types out four letters.
  • 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.
  • Haunted House: The house Lucy selects is cheap because Daniel has been frightening away all potential tenants.
  • Innocent Cohabitation: Lucy balks at the idea of Daniel staying in the master bedroom, but he insists it's fine because he's a spirit. (Though it doesn't stop him from remarking on her figure.)
  • 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.
  • Love Before First Sight: Lucy, if one subscribes to her Alternative Character Interpretation.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: The mentor's already dead!
  • Monster Roommate: A cranky ghost of a sea-captain.
  • The Mourning After: Invoked, averted, subverted.
  • Never Suicide: It's a point of honor with Daniel that he didn't kill himself. Not that what actually killed him is more noble.
  • Noodle Incident: Daniel's memoirs. We don't hear much his actual dictation, just his laughter over it and Lucy's objections over the language he wants to include. (What we do hear is strongly implied to be the loss of his virginity.)
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Lucy's mother and sister-in-law. The sister is judgmental and domineering, while her mother-in-law is very much My Beloved Smother.
  • Opposites Attract: A prim and mannered widow with a rough (and dead) sea-captain.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Daniel can throw objects, can only be seen or heard by people he chooses, and can use psychic suggestion on sleeping people.
  • Plucky Girl: Lucy is brave and dogged, in her prim way.
  • Seadog Beard: Daniel sports one.
  • Second Love: Daniel is Lucy's. What she says about her late husband suggests that she was questioning her choice of first love, too.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Lucy's proper exterior is a sheen over a determination to get what she wants and a willingness to lecture ghosts into submission.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Daniel (by Edwardian standards). When Lucy objects to his using the word "blast" as punctuation, he says that his thoughts are a good deal saltier.
  • Tastes Like Diabetes: In-Universe, Miles Fairley's "Uncle Neddy" books. He considers them such himself and only writes them because they sell. Lucy claims that her daughter's a fan because she likes him, but Anna can't stand them.
  • Time Skip: A couple of them toward the film's end.
  • Together in Death: Lucy and Daniel at the end.
  • Unwanted 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.
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