Coward on Film

Blithe Spirit

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Blithe Spirit
David Lean, 1945
UK | Format: 35mm | 96 minutes

Restored 35mm print!

The play Blithe Spirit was Coward’s biggest commercial success. Written in five days, it ran for 1,997 West End performances—longer than WWII. It was an unlikely subject for a nation at war: writer Charles Condomine invites a local medium, Madame Arcati, to hold a séance in his home to help with a book he is preparing. By accident, she conjures up the spirit of his late wife, Elvira—awkward, since he is now married to Ruth. Lean’s film version—the third of his four Coward collaborations—is faithful to the source, with Kay Hammond and Margaret Rutherford reprising their stage roles as Elvira and Madame Arcati. In the play, Charles was a slightly pompous Cecil Parker, whose middle class embarrassment provides some of the humor. In the film, the younger Rex Harrison insisted on playing the role as... Rex Harrison. Director David Lean was not at home with comedy and certainly does little to explore the domestic environment the way he had in This Happy Breed. He simply films the play—which, as it turns out, is more than enough.

Series: Coward on Film

Venue: Walter Reade Theater

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