Movie Review: Blithe Spirit (1945)
Synopsis: Hoping to gain information for a murder novel he is writing, Charles Condomine and his wife, Ruth, invite a local medium to perform a seance at their house. Charles assumes the medium is a fake until the spirit of his first wife, Elvira, is summoned and, unable (or unwilling) to leave, puts a strain on his new marriage.
Review: I had come across this movie multiple times but always found an excuse not to watch it. However, I wound up starting it while waiting for my daughter at the ice rink yesterday evening and, after finishing it this morning, have to say it was an enjoyable film.
I think the thing that surprised me most about this movie was, even though it is classified as a comedy, it ended up feeling much more like a drama at times. This is especially true when Charles (Harrison) starts to see Elvira (Hammond) for the first time and his second wife, Ruth (Cummings), goes through a wide range of emotions as she tries to figure out if he's been drinking, having some sort of nervous breakdown or is trying to gaslight her. Whenever they argued, the strain on their marriage seemed very real.
Even when he proved Elvira was there, the tension remained, both from Ruth feeling threatened by her husband's first wife being in the same room with them but also because she suspected Elvira was up to something sinister (which led to a twist I honestly didn't see coming). The fact Elvira proved not to be the saintly woman he remembered from their marriage was also intriguing, especially when she began to openly confess to the love affair she had been having when she died.
Another thing I liked about this movie was the overall mystery about why Elvira was there in the first place. At first, it seemed like a simple accident but, when the movie revealed her coming back in her ghost-like form wouldn't happen unless someone wanted it, it did add a little something extra, especially when it became clear it wasn't Charles.
Probably my favorite part of this movie had to be the medium, Madame Arcati (Rutherford). She was brilliantly written and played in a way that made it unclear whether or not she actually knew what she was doing or was actually a fake who was now scrambling to cover up her lack of knowledge about the spirit world. I found I enjoyed watching Rutherford in that role even though her various attempts to reverse what she did were starting to drag on a bit at the end.
Final Opinion: I wasn't sure if this was a movie I would enjoy, but it did turn out to be an entertaining film that wasn't quite as predictable as I was expecting it to be. I don't know if I would really classify it as a comedy because some of the scenes do play off as a lot more serious than maybe they were intended to be (or just seem that way today). However, it is still worth taking the time to watch.
My Grade: A