The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

Last updated
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Screenplay by Philip Dunne
Based onThe Ghost of Captain Gregg and Mrs. Muir
1945 novel
by R.A. Dick
Produced by Fred Kohlmar
Starring Gene Tierney
Rex Harrison
George Sanders
Cinematography Charles Lang
Edited by Dorothy Spencer
Music by Bernard Herrmann
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date
  • June 26, 1947 (1947-06-26)(U.S.)
Running time
104 minutes
CountryUnited States

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is a 1947 American romantic fantasy film starring Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison. It was directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and is based on a 1945 novel written by Josephine Leslie under the pseudonym of R.A. Dick. In 1945, 20th Century Fox bought the film rights to the novel, published only in the United Kingdom at that time. It was shot entirely in California.



In Britain in the early 1900s, recently widowed Mrs Lucy Muir moves to the seaside village of Whitecliff despite the disapproval of her in-laws. She rents a house there named Gull Cottage, although it has a reputation for being haunted by the spirit of a seaman who accidentally died there.

On the first night after moving in with her young daughter, Anna, and her loyal maid, Martha, Lucy is visited by an apparition of the former owner, a roguish but harmless sea captain named Daniel Gregg. He tells Lucy that his death four years ago was not a suicide, but the result of accidentally kicking the valve on a gas-fired room heater in his sleep. Daniel explains that he wanted to turn Gull Cottage into a home for retired seamen and does not appreciate her presence, having personally frightened away previous visitors. However, due to Lucy's headstrong attitude, as well as her appreciation of the house, Daniel reluctantly agrees to allow her to live in Gull Cottage and he promises to make himself visible only to her.

Lucy's poor investment — her only source of income — has dried up, and she considers a move back to London. However, Daniel has warmed up to her and asks her to stay. They decide to write a book, a dictation of his memories from his time at sea, from which she will profit. During the course of writing the book, they fall in love. Both realize it is a hopeless situation, and Daniel tells Lucy that she should find a living man to be with. In London, Lucy goes to meet a publisher and encounters Miles Fairley, a suave author who writes children's stories under the pen name Uncle Neddy. Daniel's lurid and sensational recollections, titled Blood and Swash, become a bestseller, providing Lucy with royalties which she uses to buy Gull Cottage.

Fairley follows her back to Whitecliff and they begin a whirlwind courtship after Fairley claims he fell in love with her at first sight. Desperate to connect with a living man, Lucy projects her feelings for Daniel onto Fairley and considers marrying him. Though initially jealous of their relationship, Daniel decides to leave, as he considers himself an obstacle to Lucy's chance at happiness. While she is asleep, he places in her mind the suggestion that she alone wrote the book and his presence was merely a dream. He then fades away after declaring his regret that he never had a life with her.

Fairley sends a note cancelling a planned visit to Gull Cottage, saying he will be in London for a few days. Later, Lucy visits London to sign a contract, and obtains Fairley's address in the city from the office clerk to pay a surprise visit. She discovers that Fairley (who is not at home) is already married with two children, and that Fairley has romanced other women in the past. Heartbroken, Lucy returns to Whitecliff to spend the rest of her life as a recluse, with Martha looking after her.

Anna, now at university, returns with a Royal Navy lieutenant she plans to marry. In the course of a conversation with her mother, Anna reveals that she too had seen Daniel, whom she regarded as a childhood friend, and she knew about her mother's relationship with Fairley. Lucy in turn reveals that Fairley is now an overweight alcoholic, abandoned by his wife and children. Through the conversation, Lucy realizes that the ghost she loved was in fact real.

Many years later, now ailing and under a doctor's care, Lucy receives a letter from Anna, informing her that Anna's daughter - also named Lucy - is engaged to a plane captain. Anna believes that affection for captains runs in their family. Lucy rejects the glass of hot milk Martha has brought for her with a complaint that she is tired. After Martha leaves the room, Lucy takes a sip, but the glass falls to the floor as she dies. Suddenly, Daniel returns and approaches her, whispering that she will never be tired again. Taking his hands, her young spirit leaves her aged body and greets him with a loving smile. Unnoticed by Martha, the couple leave the house and walk arm-in-arm into an ethereal mist.



Although Joseph Mankiewicz had an excellent reputation as a screenwriter, Philip Dunne says Mankiewicz's only contribution to this script was writing a couple of "excellent lines" for George Sanders' character. Sanders' casting came about when Richard Ney, the original actor playing the role, was fired for being inadequate in the part. [2] Bernard Herrmann, the composer of the film's music, regarded it as his finest score. [3]


The New York Times called The Ghost and Mrs. Muir "a pleasurable film, despite its failings," singling out Edna Best for "by far the best performannce [sic]". In the writer's opinion, Harrison "has such an ingratiating personality that this compensates in large measure for the lack of characterization in his role," but Tierney "is a pretty girl, but has no depth of feeling as an actress." [4]

Variety, on the other hand, praised the actors and the film unreservedly:

Gene Tierney gives what undoubtedly is her best performance to date. It’s warmly human... the out-of-this-world romance pulls audience sympathy with an infectious tug that never slackens. In his role as the lusty, seafaring shade, Rex Harrison commands the strongest attention...Philip Dunne’s script lards the R. A. Dick novel with gusty humor and situations that belie the ghostly theme. Dialog makes full use of salty expressions to point up chuckles.” [5]

The film holds a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average critic rating of 8.23/10.[ citation needed ]


Charles Lang received a 1947 Academy Award nomination for his black-and-white cinematography on the movie.

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

Adaptations to other media

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir was adapted as an hour-long radio play on the December 1, 1947 broadcast of Lux Radio Theater with Charles Boyer and Madeleine Carroll and was adapted on the August 16, 1951 Screen Director's Playhouse with Boyer and Jane Wyatt. A 90-minute adaptation by Barry Campbell of the novel was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 21 December 1974 with Bryan Pringle as Captain Gregg, Gemma Jones as Lucy Muir, and Philip Bond as Miles. [9]

From 1968 to 1970, a TV series titled The Ghost & Mrs. Muir , starring Hope Lange and Edward Mulhare, aired on NBC and then ABC. It had the same premise and main characters as the book and film, but it was a situation comedy, downplaying the romantic fantasy elements and focusing on broad humor. The time and setting were changed, with the action taking place in a contemporary American coastal town (although the ghost was portrayed as being from the Victorian era). For the series, Mrs. Muir's first name was changed from Lucy to Carolyn, and the children's names were changed from Cyril and Anna (in the original novel) to Jonathan and Candace.

In April 1994, Variety continued its reporting on Sean Connery's being slated to play the Captain in a version of the story for 20th Century Fox. [10] The project was reportedly still “in the pipeline” in 1997, but the remake never came about. [11]

On June 3, 2005, a musical based on the film and the book, written and directed by James J. Mellon, had its world premiere at the NoHo Arts Center in Los Angeles. Variety gave it a mixed review. [12]

DVD and Blu Ray releases

The film was released on Blu-ray in 2013 by 20th Century Fox after being selected in Fox's Voice Your Choice promotion. It previously was released on DVD as part of the 20th Century Fox Studio Classics collection.

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>A Letter to Three Wives</i> 1949 film by Joseph L. Mankiewicz

A Letter to Three Wives is a 1949 American romantic comedy-drama which tells the story of a woman who mails a letter to three women, telling them she has left town with the husband of one of them, but not saying which one. It stars Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Ann Sothern, Paul Douglas, Kirk Douglas, and Jeffrey Lynn. Thelma Ritter as "Sadie" and Celeste Holm are both uncredited.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rex Harrison</span> English actor (1908–1990)

Sir Reginald Carey "Rex" Harrison was an English actor. Harrison began his career on the stage in 1924. He made his West End debut in 1936 appearing in the Terence Rattigan play French Without Tears, in what was his breakthrough role. He won his first Tony Award for his performance as Henry VIII in the play Anne of the Thousand Days in 1949. He won his second Tony for the role of Professor Henry Higgins in the stage production of My Fair Lady in 1957.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gene Tierney</span> American actress (1920–1991)

Gene Eliza Tierney was an American film and stage actress. Acclaimed for her great beauty, she became established as a leading lady. Tierney was best known for her portrayal of the title character in the film Laura (1944), and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance as Ellen Berent Harland in Leave Her to Heaven (1945).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Edward Mulhare</span> Irish American actor (1923-1997)

Edward Mulhare was an Irish actor whose career spanned five decades. He is best known for his starring roles in two television series: The Ghost & Mrs. Muir and Knight Rider.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Joseph L. Mankiewicz</span> American film director, screenwriter, and producer (1909–1993)

Joseph Leo Mankiewicz was an American film director, screenwriter, and producer. Mankiewicz had a long Hollywood career, and won both the Academy Award for Best Director and the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in consecutive years for A Letter to Three Wives (1949) and All About Eve (1950), the latter of which was nominated for 14 Academy Awards and won six.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Edna Best</span> British actress (1900–1974)

Edna Clara Best was a British actress.

<i>The Big Heat</i> 1953 American film noir crime film by Fritz Lang

The Big Heat is a 1953 American film noir crime film directed by Fritz Lang starring Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, and Jocelyn Brando about a cop who takes on the crime syndicate that controls his city. William P. McGivern's serial in The Saturday Evening Post, published as a novel in 1953, was the basis for the screenplay, written by former crime reporter Sydney Boehm. The film was selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 2011.

<i>The Honey Pot</i> 1967 film by Joseph L. Mankiewicz

The Honey Pot, also known as The Honeypot, is a 1967 American crime comedy-drama film written for the screen and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. It stars Rex Harrison, Susan Hayward, Cliff Robertson, Capucine, Edie Adams, and Maggie Smith. The film was based on the play Mr. Fox of Venice by Frederick Knott, the novel The Evil of the Day by Thomas Sterling, and loosely on the 1606 play Volpone by Ben Jonson.

<i>The Major and the Minor</i> 1942 film by Billy Wilder

The Major and the Minor is a 1942 American romantic comedy film starring Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland. It was the first American film directed by Billy Wilder. The screenplay credited to Wilder and Charles Brackett is "suggested by" the 1923 play Connie Goes Home by Edward Childs Carpenter, based on the 1921 Saturday Evening Post story "Sunny Goes Home" by Fannie Kilbourne.

George Davis was an American art director and was the supervising art director at MGM from 1959 to 1970. He won two Academy Awards for Best Art Direction for his work on The Robe in 1954 and for The Diary of Anne Frank in 1960.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Reta Shaw</span> American actress

Reta Shaw was an American character actress known for playing strong, hard-edged, working women in film and on many of the most popular television programs of the 1960s and 1970s in the United States. She may be best remembered as the housekeeper, Martha Grant, on the television series The Ghost & Mrs. Muir and as the cook, Mrs. Brill, in the 1964 film Mary Poppins.

<i>The Legend of Lucy Keyes</i> 2006 film

The Legend of Lucy Keyes is a 2006 suspense mystery film directed and written by John Stimpson, and starring Julie Delpy, Justin Theroux and Brooke Adams. The film premiered at the 2006 Santa Barbara Film Festival.

<i>Suddenly, Last Summer</i> (film) 1959 film by Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Suddenly, Last Summer is a 1959 Southern Gothic mystery film based on the 1958 play of the same name by Tennessee Williams. The film was directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and produced by Sam Spiegel from a screenplay by Gore Vidal and Williams with cinematography by Jack Hildyard and production design by Oliver Messel. The musical score was composed by Buxton Orr, using themes by Malcolm Arnold.

<i>Dragonwyck</i> (film) 1946 film by Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Dragonwyck is a 1946 American period drama film made by Twentieth Century-Fox. It was directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and produced by Darryl F. Zanuck and Ernst Lubitsch (uncredited), from a screenplay by Mankiewicz, based on the novel Dragonwyck by Anya Seton. The music score was by Alfred Newman, and the cinematography by Arthur C. Miller. The film stars Gene Tierney, Walter Huston, and Vincent Price.

<i>The Ghost & Mrs. Muir</i> (TV series) American sitcom

The Ghost & Mrs. Muir is an American sitcom based on the 1947 film of the same name, which was based on the 1945 novel by R. A. Dick. It premiered in September 1968 on NBC. After NBC cancelled the series at the end of its first season, it was picked up by ABC for its second season before being cancelled a final time.

<i>Irene</i> (1940 film) 1940 American film

Irene is a 1940 American musical film produced and directed by Herbert Wilcox. The screenplay by Alice Duer Miller is based on the libretto of the 1919 stage musical Irene by James Montgomery, who had adapted it from his play Irene O'Dare. The score features songs with music by Harry Tierney and lyrics by Joseph McCarthy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Martha Wentworth</span> American actress (1889–1974)

Verna Martha Wentworth was an American actress. Her vocal variety led to her being called the "Actress of 100 Voices".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Michelle Fairley</span> Northern Irish actress

Michelle Fairley is an actress from Northern Ireland. She is best known for playing Catelyn Stark in the HBO series Game of Thrones (2011–2013). She has since appeared in the USA Network series Suits (2013), the Fox series 24: Live Another Day (2014), the RTÉ miniseries Rebellion (2016), the science fiction series The Feed (2019), and the Sky Atlantic crime drama Gangs of London (2020–).

<i>Close to My Heart</i> 1951 film by William Keighley

Close to My Heart is a 1951 American drama film directed by William Keighley, written by James R. Webb, and starring Ray Milland and Gene Tierney.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Will Stanton (actor)</span> English-American character actor (1885–1969)

William Sidney Stanton was an English-born American character actor, whose career spanned the first twenty-five years of the sound film era. Stanton broke into the film industry at the very tail end of the silent film era in 1927, appearing in several film shorts for Hal Roach Studios. He would appear in 70 films, mostly in small and supporting roles.


  1. "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir". AFI Catalog of Feature Films . American Film Institute. Archived from the original on 2014-10-25. Retrieved 2015-03-08.
  2. Lee Server, Screenwriter: Words Become Pictures, 1987 p 108-109
  3. David, Cooper (2005). Bernard Herrmann's The Ghost and Mrs Muir. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. pp. xvii. ISBN   0810856794.
  4. "' The Ghost and Mrs. Muir,' With Rex Harrison, Gene Tierney and George Sanders, Opens of Radio City Music Hall". The New York Times. June 27, 1947. Archived from the original on September 18, 2017. Retrieved December 20, 2017.
  5. "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir". Variety. 1947-01-01. Archived from the original on 2021-04-10. Retrieved 2020-03-03.
  6. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions" (PDF). American Film Institute. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2011-03-13. Retrieved 2016-08-19.
  7. "AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Nominees" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2011-07-06. Retrieved 2016-08-19.
  8. "AFI's 10 Top 10 Nominees" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2016-08-19.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  9. "Broadcast - BBC Programme Index". Archived from the original on 2020-06-06. Retrieved 2021-07-03.
  10. O'Steen, Kathleen (1994-04-20). "Connery set for 'Cause'". Variety. Archived from the original on 2020-03-03. Retrieved 2020-03-03.
  11. Goldner, Diane (1997-05-05). "Agent 007 accepts mission to produce". Variety. Archived from the original on 2020-03-03. Retrieved 2020-03-03.
  12. Hirschhorn, Joel (2005-06-06). "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir". Variety. Archived from the original on 2020-03-03. Retrieved 2020-03-03.

Streaming audio