📖[PDF] The Ghost and Mrs Muir by Frieda Grafe | Perlego (2023)

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The film was only a moderate success when it was released in America. Mankiewicz explained this by saying that his apprentice-piece, rather than having the stylistic coherence that might have been achieved by an auteur, possessed only the uniformity of a studio production moulded by Zanuck. Philip Dunne blames the screenplay: 'The basic trouble in the script is that once the ghost drops out of the story, it tends to sag, and we had to go through a series of big lapses to get him in again at the end. That was the weakness inherent in the book, and there was really no way to solve it.'

The novel itself doesn't have these problems, because the ghost, for good reasons which are different from the film version, only disappears from the story momentarily, never definitively, and the idea of collaborating on a book only appears in the second part of the novel, after Lucy's unhappy affair with the ladies' man Miles Fairley. The problems the screenplay encountered arose first from the adaptation of the novel for the cinema, which made a visual spectacle out of an internalised, aural story, secondly from the fact that a women's novel, a female fantasy of self-discovery with a good few drily comic overtones, had to be transformed into a passionate love story, in line with the 40s Hollywood idea of what constituted a successful women's film. Rather than being seen, twofold, as a squatter, the character of the woman becomes a male fiction, a mere reiteration of the old formula expressed by the irritable publisher Sproule: 'Twenty million discontented females in the British Isles, unhappily, are writing novels.'

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'Second-hand seafaring'

Rex Harrison, at the time not quite forty and under contract to Fox, is the perfect match for the attractive young widow. He plays a retired captain who, in the book, is too old for the sea, 'short in sight and wind, slower in thought and movement'.

The author of the novel, Leslie, and her book meet the same fate as Mrs Muir when she tries to place the book with a publisher. Women write women's fiction, cookery books or, at best, fictional biographies of romantic poets.

Not that a more respectful treatment of the little novel would have yielded a better film. It was, indeed, the book's good fortune that no one involved really felt responsible as an author. This meant that the material could go on working autonomously, with resistances, gaps and inconsistencies. The rushes of the first few days' shooting suggest that Mankiewicz was closer to the author's intentions than Dunne. 'Haunted, how perfectly fascinating,' says Lucy with delight, completely reversing the standard scenarios involving haunted houses, where masochistic women are usually victims. Mrs Muir loves the house at first sight, 'as if the house itself would welcome me, asking me to rescue it from being so empty'.

But then Mankiewicz did after all behave like a director working to contract and Dunne as Zanuck's hack writer: 'To put it bluntly, a screenwriter is basically a hack. It cannot be otherwise, as long as motion pictures remain a collaborative art. A screenwriter at best is a stylistic chameleon, he writes in the style of the original source.'

The film is detached, like a pastiche, and Dunne's treatment comes as close to English women's literature as he was able to get. In the first third of the novel Lucy and the captain have an intimate conversation that shows them at their most harmonious. '"Oh, Lucia," the captain said softly, "you are so little and so lovely, how I should have liked to have taken you to Norway and shown you the fiords in the midnight sun, and to China – what you have missed, Lucia, by being born too late to travel the Seven Seas with me! And what I've missed too."' In the film, poetically embellished, these are the captain's words of farewell to the sleeping Lucy. He speaks them emphatically, as if reciting a poem, in order to legitimise the improbable invention of the entire film as a dream.

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Overleaf: The repertoire of the ghost film genre – descending into the 'crypt'

Just as Dunne relies on English women's fiction, Mankiewicz draws on the repertoire of the ghost film genre for scenes like the one in which Lucy, on her first meeting with the ghost, descends, a candle in her hand, into the crypt – the kitchen. Disinterestedly as Mankiewicz directs this scene, it reveals that genre conventions are the fundamental abstract formulae of the cinema.

By his own account, Mankiewicz also learned his approach to the cinema and his trade from the hacks, in the days of silent film, around the time of the changeover to sound, when the writing of a film was divided between two people, one of them responsible for continuity, the other for dialogue – men who were incapable of writing a decent letter, but who were 'nevertheless real writers in their own medium'. Mankiewicz was convinced that a new kind of writing had emerged with and for the cinema, one which altered the artistic function of language and its relationship to the audience as practised by the novel and the theatre. It assimilated certain visual and staging devices, and addressed the audience directly as a spoken language in actual voices which called for a response. Which is why Mankiewicz, even in the films that he only produced, exerted more influence on dialogue than on plot.

When I was finishing my studies, a writer was somebody who conceived and created the whole of a novel, a poem or a play, but who couldn't call himself a writer until he had sold his work: the novel, the poem or the play didn't exist until they were published, or acted. With the arrival of the sound film a completely new job emerged. A writer was engaged to write, or to adapt the work of others, and he was paid by the week. And he could rely on his income, even if the completed work wasn't what the client wanted.

The forms of marketable writing in Hollywood were shaped not only by production methods, but at least as much by those who delivered them, by the imported East Coast writers who despised their work for film, who hid their shame behind cynicism, although what they had done before in newspaper offices in New York and Chicago had also been unoriginal hack work.

Mankiewicz, not so much out of conformism as out of an insight into the specific nature of his work, didn't see its reproductive nature as discreditable, but more as something required by the medium: 'I'm not good at "originals". I have to start off with something, some plot situation; then I rework it in my own language and my own form.'

Despite his being obliged to respect Dunne's screenplay, Mankiewicz's interventions, his reworkings and rewrites, quite apart from those specifically mentioned by Dunne, are often apparent at many points as a third or fourth reading of the subtext. It would never have occurred to the captain as conceived by Leslie to quote poetry, certainly not Keats' Ode to a Nightingale. This is one of a series of references to English romanticism with which the film tries to evoke the aura of the female imagination, maybe even the memory, in educated viewers, of lines like 'the viewless wings of Poesy .... I have been half in love with easeful Death ... Was it a vision or a waking dream?'

Mankiewicz certainly chose this poem because it contains the line which became the title of Fitzgerald's novel Tender is the Night. Mankiewicz had rewritten Fitzgerald's dialogue for Three Comrades to make it more filmic, and had provoked enraged protests from him. 'If I go down at all in literary history, in a footnote, it will be as the swine who rewrote F. Scott Fitzgerald.'

Adapting Miss Leslie's novel for the cinema involved more than the usual problems of visualisation; because Mrs Muir in the book doesn't see ghosts, she hears the captain's voice inside her. 'The voice was not really there, she did not hear it with her ears. It seemed to come straight into her mind like thought.'

The intentions of the adapters, who were aiming at a predominantly female audience, required a radical restructuring, whose details speak for themselves. The location is no longer a lonely, forbidding stone house, but a sunny Californian building made of lightweight materials. In the novel the captain doesn't demand that Lucy put his portrait in her bedroom; she does it of her own accord and thus in her imagination she breaks the great taboo. In the Hollywood love story, when the same thing happens at his command, it is the kind of suggestive circumvention of the censor of which Lubitsch was such a master.

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Lucy, about to undress, covers the captain's portrait

In the book, in order to clarify to herself how she is to make sense of the captain's voice – and so that Leslie can do the same thing for her readers – Mrs Muir goes to an analyst, who proposes that she sublimate and rationalise the voice. But Mrs Muir has her own ideas about how she can put to rest the unruly ghost within herself. That will be the book.

In order to externalise this inward-looking female perspective, which is not hysterical, immediate identification, the classic Hollywood film needs a concert of differentiated voices. It needs a story with realised characters, because it cannot imagine any other way of attracting and holding an audience. This means that the film strays close to the boundaries of plausibility, and the audience's credulity nearly becomes active reflection about the medium and narration, in order for the film to work.

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Fairley has stolen a handkerchief from Mrs Muir so that he can arrange to see her again.

FAIRLEY: Life is just one coincidence after another.

LUCY: Thank you for returning my handkerchief.

FAIRLEY: I feel ashamed of having taken it.

LUCY: You should be.

FAIRLEY: Only as a writer, of course. It is much too obvious a device.

LUCY: And in questionable taste.

The film allows ...

Citation styles for The Ghost and Mrs Muir

APA 6 Citation

Grafe, F. (2019). The Ghost and Mrs Muir (1st ed.). Bloomsbury Publishing. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/1978484/the-ghost-and-mrs-muir-pdf (Original work published 2019)

Chicago Citation

Grafe, Frieda. (2019) 2019. The Ghost and Mrs Muir. 1st ed. Bloomsbury Publishing. https://www.perlego.com/book/1978484/the-ghost-and-mrs-muir-pdf.

Harvard Citation

Grafe, F. (2019) The Ghost and Mrs Muir. 1st edn. Bloomsbury Publishing. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/1978484/the-ghost-and-mrs-muir-pdf (Accessed: 15 October 2022).

MLA 7 Citation

Grafe, Frieda. The Ghost and Mrs Muir. 1st ed. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.


What is the plot of the book The Ghost and Mrs Muir? ›

Plot. 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 former owner, who committed suicide.

How many pages is the ghost and Mrs Muir? ›

Product information
Publisher‎Buccaneer Books (14 Sept. 1999)
Hardcover174 pages
4 more rows

Is the ghost and Mrs Muir a book? ›

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is based upon a lean Victorian novel by Josephine Leslie (who published under the name R. A. Dick in 1945 for fear of misogyny leading to no or low sales). The novel is a romantic ghost story, more novella than epic.

How does the ghost and Mrs Muir end? ›

Climactic Moment: Lucy dies and Captain Gregg comes for her spirit. Resolution: Lucy and the captain walk into the clouds together.

What is the message of the book Ghosts? ›

As the story develops, Cat discovers more about the town's celebration of the Day of the Dead and her own Latino heritage. I especially love the way Raina layers poignant, important messages about family, courage and facing fears.

What is Patty's secret in the book ghost? ›

His father made him start running, and Sunny believes it is to punish him for his mother's death. Patty tells them that she is adopted but knows her biological mother, who has diabetes and had her legs amputated as a result.

Why did they cancel the Ghost and Mrs Muir? ›

The series was again unsuccessful in beating out another hit CBS series, Family Affair. It was later moved to Friday nights at 8:30 pm in January 1970, but ratings did not improve. As a result, ABC cancelled The Ghost & Mrs. Muir in spring 1970.

Was there a TV series called The Ghost and Mrs Muir? ›

Based on the 1947 movie starring Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison, the TV series The Ghost And Mrs. Muir is a gem. Like its big-screen predecessor, the series tells the story of a widow who moves into a haunted house with her children and housekeeper.

How long did the ghost and Mrs Muir last? ›

Based upon the popular novel and 1947 film of the same name, "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" ran for 50 episodes over two seasons (1968-70) as a romantic supernatural sitcom.

What reading age is the girl and the ghost? ›

Product information
Publisher‎HarperCollins (August 4, 2020)
Reading age8 - 12 years
Lexile measure‎840L
Grade level‎3 - 7
Item Weight‎13.1 ounces
9 more rows

Do you have to read the Ghost series in order? ›

My son would recommend reading the series in order, but I didn't and can verify that each book stands on its own. Still, I would recommend reading Ghost first and Lu last. This middle grade series is for ages 8 and up. What are your favorite series?

What time period is the Ghost and Mrs Muir set in? ›

In 1900, a young widow finds her seaside cottage is haunted and forms a unique relationship with the ghost.

What does the ending of we have a ghost mean? ›

Netflix. Joy's research reveals that Ernest isn't really Ernest; the real Ernest is still alive, so they track him down and real-Ernest reveals the ghost is actually his brother-in-law named Randy.

Where was the original Ghost and Mrs Muir filmed? ›

Comedy about a widow's friendship with the ghost of a Sea Captain; Oscar nominee for Cinematography; Scenes filmed in February 1947 on a beach near Stillwater Cove in Pebble Beach.

What kind of dog is in the ghost and Mrs Muir? ›

Muir (and a Cairn Terrier) If you're not a cinema “color snob” (which is to say that if a movie is in black and white, you'll pass), and you think you've seen every movie with a Cairn Terrier in it, make sure you haven't overlooked the 1947 film, “The Ghost And Mrs.

What is the plot of the paper ghosts? ›

“Julia Heaberlin's Paper Ghosts is the spellbinding, brilliantly original story of a young woman desperate to find her missing sister and the man she suspects knows the truth, joined together on a perilous journey as elusive and mysterious as the paper ghosts that lure them.

What is the plot of the ghost writer? ›

What is the summary of the poem the ghost? ›

'The Ghost' by Sara Teasdale describes a speaker's unwelcome experience after reuniting with two ex-lovers in a city she used to know. The poem begins with the speaker stating that she went back to a city she used to live in. There are a number of men who she used to love in this place and she means to speak with them.

What is the plot of the ghost Bird series? ›

When her family moves to a new school district, Sang infiltrates a group of boys nearly perfect in every way. Grateful for an influence outside of her parents' negativity, she quickly bonds with the boys, hoping to blend in and learn from them what it means to have a natural relationship with friends.

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