The Ghost and Mrs Muir
I reached a place in my story today where my need for lunch overpowered my creativity. I took a break. Made a sandwich, sat down in front of the television. Surfed right to the The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. The 1947 film, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, is based on the novel by R A Dick (the pseudonym of Irish Writer Josephine Leslie) but has become much better known as a film.
I’ve seen it more times than I can remember, enough times to be able to speak many of the lines along with the actors.
Mrs. Muir (Gene Tierney) a young widow with a small child, Anna (Natalie Wood), moves to
a cottage by the British coast, accompanied by her faithful housekeeper Martha (Edna Best). The cottage is haunted by the ghost of its former owner, a naval officer by the name of Captain Gregg (Rex Harrison). The two of them become intimate companions until Miles Farley (George Sanders) quite alive, comes into her life and sweeps her off her feet.
It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve cried through this movie, I still root for the Captain.He sees the two of them together and knows he must leave. Watch for the brief shot of Harrison in the foreground and the two of them in the distance right. Wonderful moment.
The Captain comes to her while she sleeps to say he’s leaving.
“You’ve made your choice. The only choice you could make, you chose life.
And that’s why I’m going away.”
“You’ve been dreaming. It’s been a dream, Lucia, and it will die as all dreams must die on waking.”
Can you be unmoved by that? It gets me every time.
He stands by the open window and watches her sleep as he slowly disappears in a cross fade of 1947 special effects until the window overlooking the sea is left.
Add some violins and waves crashing in the background . . . .well, I’ve never made it through the scene with dry eyes.
Of course the suave Mr. Farley is a philanderer, but as in all great romances, she doesn’t learn this until after the Captain has gone and she only remembers him as a dream she once had.
Major black moment.
Time passes, Mrs Muir grows older, and the sea marker that Mr. Scroggins (David Thursby) had carved with the child Anna’s name on it becomes weather-beaten, the name faded.
In a wonderfully effective passage of time, crashing waves roil on a stormy sea, then slowly quiet, the camera settles on the peaceful beach and Anna’s marker, now just ragged pieces of broken wood.
Mrs. Muir is old, Martha fusses. But she says “I’m only tired.” She sits by the fire with a glass of milk. Her eyes close and as the glass slips slowly from her hand, the Captain is there.
“And now you will never be tired again. Come my dear.”
She rises, young again, and they walk, strangely enough, across the room, down the stairs passing Martha on the way, and out the front door to the clouds.
The ultimate happy ending. We can guess there will be no philanderers where they are going. No fights, no disappointment. Companions at last and forever.
As a film, it hits all the basic points of romance, the widowhood, the flight to a new life in a strange place. The unreachable love, the other man who we know instinctually, if not by Sanders’ superb perfomance, is not the man for our heroine.
The blackest of black moments and the final triumph of their love, if only in death.
A paranormal story that strikes to the very heart of what it means to be human.
Simple, poignant, with no gratuitous grandstanding. And a great inspiraton for us writers. Something to be studied and loved.