Blithe Spirit - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Blithe Spirit Reviews

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May 24, 2016
A charming British Colour Film that was based on Noel Coward's hit play on West End called Blithe Spirit.

The story is a clever premise a country side British couple invite a physic for dinner & she accidentally summons the ghost of the husbands ex wife.

The couple spend most of their time trying to remove the ghost & in the process his current wife dies & he is stuck with 2 ghosts. A charming comedy filmed in beautiful technicolor.
½ March 15, 2016
Classic supernatural comedy from Noel Coward is as sparkling and witty today as when it was first devised. Starring the inimitable Rex Harrison, with Margaret Rutherford as the dotty medium, Madame Arcati.
½ March 5, 2014
I'm not sure that Lean made many comedies but this is worth the admission fee. Very funny and very quirky.
½ January 29, 2014
Blithe Spirit (David Lean, 1945)

David Lean is one of those "all the pros are really in love with this guy" directors whose films I rarely seem to get round to watching. This confuses me somewhat, because when I do watch a Lean film, I find it immensely enjoyable; I've only seen two so far, but Lawrence of Arabia, as of this writing, is sitting at #121 on my all-time top 1000 list, and Blithe Spirit entered the list at #541. Both are phenomenal pictures. A stage performance of Blithe Spirit had just closed its run right across the street from where I work a couple of weeks before I sat down to watch the movie; by the time it was over, I was kicking myself for not having gone to see the play. That strikes me as the best recommendation I can give the silly, wonderful thing.

Charles Condomine (My Fair Lady's Rex Harrison) and his new wife Ruth (The Criminal Code's Constance Cummings) have moved back into the old pile after the honeymoon. The only problem is, the ghost of Charles' late first wife, Elvira (Two on a Doorstep's Kay Hammond), is still very much around and causing mischief for the happy couple. Charles, distressed by the goings-on, hires the medium Madame Arcati (the wondrous comic actress Margaret Rutherford) to get to the bottom of things-which just makes Elvira all the more determined to pursue her ulterior agenda...

As you can tell by the first paragraph, I am shockingly unfamiliar with the work of David Lean. But between this and Lawrence, which are such entirely different pieces of work, I find it hard to believe the man could have done anything wrong. Lawrence is a massive four-hour (admittedly quite doctored) biopic, epic in every way, dramatic and sweeping and saturated with those brilliant, brilliant colors. This movie is its polar opposite in every way-lean, slapstick, looking almost colorized, intimate and packed with impeccable comic timing. The ending is a bit of a downer-no, wait, that's the wrong word for it. Compared to the rest of the movie, quality-wise, the ending is a bit of a downer; it's the one place where Lean steps over the line from brilliant slapstick into cheesiness (it's Jerry Lewis as opposed to the Preston Sturges of the rest of the film). But that doesn't matter much, because the rest of it is so good. Well worth your time. *** 1/2
Super Reviewer
½ December 28, 2013
Considering the strength of the source material, its surprising the film feels so stale. The cast is alright, but one gets the sense that Lean wasn't that invested in directing this movie.
December 8, 2013
Witty, entertaining and good fun overall.
November 1, 2013
According to the IMDb, Noel Coward thought David Lean screwed up his play in translating it to the screen. Probably, it did lose something because it starts out witty and snappy but descends into less funniness. Nevertheless, Rex Harrison, looking young, is the writer who manages to conjure up his dead first wife from the spirit world (with the help of very wacky medium Margaret Rutherford) much to the consternation of his current wife. So, the set up is great (bringing to mind that Robyn Hitchcock song) but the current wife, played by Constance Cummings, is too hard and too unsympathetic to keep the comedy alive. The final pay-off doesn't quite bring the chortles either. Lean was much better in his Dickens' adaptations.
Super Reviewer
June 19, 2013
My final David Lean, Noel Coward adaption I viewed was Blithe Spirit. I fell in love with this movie. There's no paranormal movie quiet like this. It's elegant in humor and moves quickly. There are no scares, it's more in depth on the idea of the other world, and a humorous view of how life is after you die. David Lean morphed the dead with the living, when an estranged wife comes to "visit" her husband and his second wife. She terrorizes the family through this, and a quote brought up early in this movie really summarizes it well. " It's discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit". Not only is it a great line but it is perfect in the film. Harrison, Cummings, and Hamond have great on screen chemistry, making this an amazing feel good comedy.
½ April 18, 2013
A true classic for me, saw it when I was a child and every time I watch it again I appreciate it even more.
½ December 4, 2012
Dame Margaret Rutherford at her very best--A refreshing and humorous movie!!
November 16, 2012
Disappointing. Other than the annoying unrealistically rapid dialogue, the script is verbose, the character of the medium is extremely irritating and the whole thing is very cosy and dated indeed. It's from 1945, but it could just as easily be Victorian. The basic premise is almost amusing and might make for a decent comedy if it was remade and written for a modern setting. As it stands though, it plays like a cross between Randall & Hopkirk and Rentaghost, but not as good as either of them. A tiresome 6/10.
October 29, 2012
A true classic! A comedic window into the world of the paranormal through a sťance, which soon leads to a materialization of a spirit. Madame Arcati, the medium, is wonderfully eccentric in this phantasikal gem. Not by any means serious... but still very good!
October 20, 2012
Loved Margaret Rutherford-- she was just wonderful. Story itself was cute.
½ September 15, 2012
Smartly written comedy, adapted from Noel Coward's play, with a memorable performance from Margaret Rutherford as a spritiualist medium.
½ August 13, 2012
Generally overlooked by most David Lean, it's closer to slapstick comedy, and nothing like Lean's other masterpieces of spectacle. As for Noel Coward fans, even he was displeased with the cinematic adaptation of his stage play. Dealing with seances, ghosts, and lingering spirits, but in a comedic way, the movie's centerpiece is the technical use of the camera, effectively moving around all around the mansion. Although negatively, this creates a lot of confusion about the layout and mapping of the home, and the audience does not feel exactly comfortable knowing the location.
August 12, 2012
A Comedy treat that in many ways is quite fresh- coming at a time before the certain solid genre hybrids the film is a paranormal Comedy with an added dash of romance. Harrison and Cummings are hilariously at odds and Hammond is delightfully cheeky but the show stealer is Rutherford who is simply a jonas the barmy Madame Arcarti.
May 6, 2012
Amusing and cute, but overall fairly lackluster. Rex Harrison is great but seems a bit miscast.
½ May 3, 2012
After watching "Brief Encounter" by Noel Coward and David Lean, I was compelled to purchase the Criterion Collection's "David Lean directs Noel Coward" boxed set. Instead of writing three separate reviews of the three films I hadn't looked at already (Having previously reviewed the excellent "Brief Encounter" already which you ALL SHOULD WATCH!), I thought I would take care of them all in one fell swoop.

In the 1940's, Britain was well into World War II, Noel Coward was easily one of Britain's top playwrights, and David Lean was still mainly known for his mad editing skills. With Britain in a less than happy state (to put it very mildly), Noel Coward decided to put on the screen a film about the British Navy and boost morale. Coward felt confident in directing the players for his film "In Which We Serve," but was unsure about how to handle the major action scenes. He tapped David Lean on the shoulder to give him a hand. "In Which We Serve" marks the first of four collaborations of Lean and Coward and it is obviously the beginning of a beautiful friendship made clear by Coward's trademark wit and questioning of Britishness evident in most of Lean's movies.

"In Which We Serve" is a film about a ship, the HMS Torrin, commanded by Captain Kinross, played by Coward himself. The movie does have a tendency to beat you over the head with its blunt patriotism; however, there is far more depth to it. What makes this film truly engaging, other than the well-done action sequences, is the focus on the individual members of the ship and their struggles before and after the war. We see family men, newlyweds, and bachelors all in their pre-war lives. Coward's direction and acting reveals these characters in appropriate detail in brief, effective vignettes. These are later punctuated by Lean's excellent action sequences as we see the ship get attacked by the Germans. While the film asserts the Brits as the typical "stiff-upper lipped," courageous face of the war effort, it also displays the sensitive side of these same people, putting a relatable face to those serving. (90%)

Coward and Lean's second collaboration, "This Happy Breed" marks Lean's first directorial effort. The movie follows the Gibbons family during the interwar period, from just after the first world war until the start of World War II. Coward guides us through the lives of this middle class as they deal with the problems of that affect Britain at the time. It does a decent job at conveying the rise of Socialism in England, the General Strike of 1926, the rise of fascism and Hitler, the death of a son, and the death of a king. Lean and Coward formulate a decent human drama that touches on the important issues and the progression from the prosperity of peace, leading up to the hardships of war. (80%)

After two great dramas, Lean and Coward lighten things up with the comedy "Blithe Spirit." A novelist and his new second wife move into his house.The subject of his next novel is the paranormal and calls in a medium to study. The medium, Madame Arcati, and Charles, his wife, and friends conduct a seance. They appeared to have failed, but Charles eventually finds out that he has brought forth the spirit of his first wife. However, only Charles can see her. What ensues is a hilarious deconstruction of his current marriage and great encounters between Charles and his ex-wife Elvira. This is one of Rex Harrison's first movies and he is excellent as Charles and the ending is quite appropriate and funny. A very underrated comedy. (90%)

I highly recommend checking out this set. Be sure to watch out for some of the earliest roles of great British actors such as Sir Richard Attenborough (In Which We Serve), Celia Howard (This Happy Breed), and Rex Harrison (Blithe Spirit). These films mark the height of Noel Cowards career and the start of a great career in David Lean's. Definitely try to check these out if you get the chance (and can afford it =|).
April 28, 2012
3: I can now officially say that David Lean never made a bad picture. This is without a doubt the lightest Lean film I have seen though. There is little to be serious or grandiose about here. Appropriately, Lean does not treat it as a larger than life story, but instead restricts it to the peculiar little world it was meant to represent. Granted, he obviously didn't have the kind of artistic control at this stage in his career that he would wield later. This is the third in a series of Noel Coward/David Lean collaborations. It is quite entertaining and very unusual for Lean, but perfectly fits in with what I know of Coward. It's the closest I've seen Lean come to screwball comedy. Excellent all-around.
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