My Fair Ghost: Blithe Spirit & Henry Higgins


blithe spirit


If you want timeless classics, you cannot find anything remotely close to a rare David Lean directed comedy, written and produced by Noel Coward. The delightful Blithe Spirit transcended its time of 1945 with lively repartee and shockingly modern sensibilities.

Novelist Charles Condomine (Rex Harrison) has invited a daffy cliché-ridden medium named Madame Acarti (Margaret Rutherford) to his home to study her for “tricks of the trade” for his new book.

One séance leads to another. Charles’s overly minx-like dead first wife named Elvira shows up to complicate his life and present marriage to staid Ruth.

It’s one of those ironic British tales where the ultra-rich shut off lights to save electricity, but they dress four times per day for each meal with increasing foppery. Saving the best for last, Rex Harrison and Constance Cummings are dressed to the nines for dinner, just themselves of course. What a quaint era.

As Elvira in ghastly grey and green makeup to make her fade into a faded color movie, Kay Hammond is utterly wonderful as the acerbic Elvira—making off-hand comments on the medium and guests with aplomb.

As Madame Arcati, Margaret Rutherford made an impression on movie audiences, though her big success was still a decade away. The old gal simply steals every moment of film she shares with anyone else in the cast.

That is no mean feat with Rex Harrison in his most classic glib demeanor. It’s Henry Higgins with Ruth as Colonel Pickering and Elvira as Eliza. Every moment is a classic, and David Lean deftly shows he could handle even the soufflés that Noel Coward half-baked.

Short, sweet, and with a light touch on special effects, the charm is just right.