Saturday, 18 May 2013
Blithe Spirit (1945) - ★★★★
Writer: Noel Coward (Play), David Lean, Ronald Neame, Anthony Havelock-Allan (Adapted Screenplay)
Stars: Margaret Rutherford, Rex Harrison, Constance Cummings, Kay Hammond
One of the greatest writer/director teams in cinematic history is that of Noel Coward and David Lean. Together they've created many unforgettable films, their greatest being Brief Encounter (1945). Blithe Spirit happens to be one of their very best, having both comic genius and amazing performances. This is one of Margaret Rutherford's greatest roles, which is amazing for an actress that has never given a bad performance. I laughed and laughed throughout this film.
When Charles Condomine (Rex Harrison) invites a clairvoyant (Margaret Rutherford) into his home to perform a seance, he accidentally conjures his wife Elvira (Kay Hammond) back from the dead. All he wanted was to see what kinds of tricks the clairvoyant had so that he could write a book about them, but he got much more than he bargained for. This results in a hilarious and clever comedy about a man and his second-wife having to deal with the ghost of his deceased first-wife.
Right off the bat, Margaret Rutherford steals the show. My God, is there nothing this woman can't do? She never fails to make me laugh, and in Blithe Spirit she made me laugh until my voice went hoarse. I feel that one either likes or dislikes Rutherford's style of comedy. I happen to think it's up there with the very best of British comedy. No one can do what she does, and this movie shows her unique talent exuberantly.
The supporting performances hit all the right notes too, being brilliant in their own ways. My special mention goes to Constance Cummings, who played Charles' disgruntled and hotheaded wife (that is still alive). When Rutherford wasn't on screen, she stole the show. She couldn't see Elvira, so whenever Charles would talk to the ghost, she'd think he was talking to her. Her confusion and reactions were absolutely hilarious, providing many of the laughs in the film.
To my surprise, I found out that Blithe Spirit actually won an Academy Award for Special Effects. They're nothing special by today's standards, but for the time they were pretty amazing. There were scenes where Charles would try to touch the ghost, or the ghost would walk through him. It was pretty awesome to see, because you didn't see much of that in the 1940s. Not to mention, the ghosts appeared green and looked as if they were but wisps in the wind. I really liked the way David Lean made this movie, it was effective in every sense of the word.