Blithe Spirit; David Lean; 1945= As a little kid I went through a period of hating any “old” films. This lasted until 2 films changed my mind: Gone with the Wind and this film. With such fond memories, I had high expectations. Based on a play by Noel Coward, the film begins with novelist Charles Condomine’s (Rex Harrison) plan to write a book about crooked mediums. To aid his research he hires eccentric Madame Arcati (Dame Margaret Rutherford) under the pretence that she will perform a seance for Charles’s second wife Ruth (Constance Cummings) and some friends. Although the event seems to be a failure, Charles is visited later that night by the spirit of his long dead first wife, the beautiful but insufferable Elvira (Kay Hammond), who only appears to him. She is less than impressed with his new wife and pledges to make their life a misery. The film owes a lot to Coward’s play. He was one of the greatest wits of the 20th century, so the film is full of clever jokes and snappy one liners. It’s a perfect example of how a good comedy doesn’t date. Even after nearly 70 years, this film is just as funny as I imagine it was on it’s release. The plot as a whole feels a little weak. Although I love the dialogue, it never seems to go anywhere. The characters react in ways which seem inappropriate, for example Charles’s reaction to something which happens about 2/3 of the way through (I won’t spoil it for you but you’ll know). I think another 15 minutes to spend on the plot could have lifted the film. Just as we start to enjoy the tension between Elvira and Ruth, it stops; then just as we begin to enjoy the tension between Elvira and Charles, that also stops. Brilliant dialogue is one thing, but it needs a plot to hang on and it’s underdeveloped here. The cast are brilliant. Harrison is appropriately snooty, Cummings delivers her quick one liners like a natural, while Hammond gives a perfect, theatrical performance as Elvira. The star is Rutherford. She was in her 50s when she filmed this but she bounces around the room like a child. She gives her all to the role, and it’s really fun to watch. The film didn’t make much of a mark in the box office, and it’s known that the Academy has an aversion to comedy, but I think Rutherford deserved recognition for her performance. I was pleased to find that the film lived up to my expectations after all these years. The plot is weak and needs more direction, but the charming wit and natural performances make for a delightful watch.

- Tue, 29th May
#1940s #blithe spirit #charles condomine #constance cummings #david lean #elvira condomine #favourite films #kay hammond #madame arcati #margaret rutherford #movies #noel coward #oscar winners #reviews #rex harrison #ruth condomine #adaptation