BLITHE SPIRIT (1945) (***1/2)

28 08 2007

Noel Coward adapts his own stageplay into a screenplay, which was brought to the screen by director David Lean before the famed helmer went on to make classic Dickens adaptations and widescreen epics such as LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI and DOCTOR ZHIVAGO. However, Lean started his career with this great light entertainment. With witty dialogue and that effortless British suave demeanor, BLITHE SPIRIT floats across the screen like a smooth waltz.

In researching his next book that features a homicidal medium, Charles Condomine (Rex Harrison, UNFAITHFULLY YOURS), along with his wife Ruth (Constance Cummings) and their friends Dr. George and Violet Bradman (Hugh Wakefield, 1934’s THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH & Joyce Carey, IN WHICH WE SERVE), hold a séance with the genuinely loony Madame Arcati (Margaret Rutherford, MURDER AHOY). After some seemingly sketchy hocus-pocus, everyone believes Arcati to be a charlatan except for Charles, who begins hearing and seeing the ghost of his dead wife Elvira (Kay Hammond). At first Ruth believes Charles is playing with her then she believes he has gone cuckoo, but a floating vase of flowers convinces her that there is now one too many wives in the Condomine household. And so does the wisecracking Elvira. In trying to solve the situation, the help of Madame Arcati and the Condomine’s shy maid Edith (Jacqueline Clarke) will be needed.

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