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Tag Archives: Cosmic Romances

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir – R.A. Dick (Josephine Leslie)

239437One of my favorite romantic films is the 1947 The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, with Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison. That film, however, was based on a book, published only two years earlier with the same title, by R. A. Dick, pseudonym for Josephine Leslie. It’s a short novel, only 180 pages, and the movie is quite faithful to the book with only a few, understandable changes.

Mrs. Lucy Muir, often called little Mrs. Muir, is now a widow with two children (there is only one child in the movie). She has always lived, all her life, meekly adhering to the lifestyle that her husband and his family wanted. But now that he is gone, she has determined that she will direct her own life. She moves out from the home of her in-laws and decides that she wants to live by the seashore. Even the residents of her chosen town seem to expect that she will conform to a certain lifestyle and assume she will live in a respectable house in a respectable neighborhood. But Lucy falls in love with a most unsuitable place, an empty cottage, Gull Cottage, that is said to be haunted. No one’s been able to live there for ten years.

Undeterred, she rents the house and moves in with her two children. Sure enough the ghost manifests himself – as a voice – but she refuses to be frightened off. She has taken her own life into her hands and she is not about to let even a ghost swerve her from her decision. Instead the ghost, a sea captain named Daniel Gregg, who seems a bit lonely in the afterlife, is impressed by her and the two of them forge a unique friendship that lasts Lucy’s whole life, with the captain empowering Lucy to stand firm and live as she chooses.

I did enjoy the book, though it does not have the haunting, romantic beauty of the film and the story is more remarkable than the writing. The book is less a romance and more strongly emphasizes Lucy’s quest for independence; financial independence, but also independence in the eyes of other people. For various reasons, she is always being viewed as helpless by other people, like her sister-in-law, the rental agent, her children, even the town people. She is petite, a widow, does not push her weight around, has a sweet manner and people are always wanting to take care of her when all she desires is to be left alone and to let other people alone.

But she is lonely. As in the movie, there is that sense of the absence of a soul mate, someone she understands and who truly understands her. Daniel Gregg does understand her, though perhaps he has an unfair advantage because as a ghost he can read her mind and delights to break into her thoughts to give her unsolicited advice, which generally prompts a quarrel.

Gene Tierney as Lucy looks at Captain Gregg picture in the film, which looks suspiciously like Rex Harrison

Gene Tierney as Lucy looks at Captain Gregg’s picture in the film

Unlike the movie, the captain is not an apparition; he is only a voice. She never sees him. There is a picture of him in the house that she suspects does not do him justice and one night she has a dream about him, but otherwise he remains a voice, with a great deal of personality and a tendency to use strong language. But the one thing that being a voice does allow in the the story is for Daniel and Lucy to achieve an extreme form of intimacy in their friendship that would be impossible if he had a physical body. He is almost one with her, being able to advise her on extremely personal matters and make personal observations. Though it is a bit one-sided, since there are many things she does not know about him, especially because he is a ghost and he declines to make too many comments about what the afterlife is like. But he does talk with her and tells her many things about his life and adventures.

In both the movie and the book, Daniel dictates his memoirs to Lucy, called Blood and Swash. He does this because she is in need of money. In the movie, she needs money simply to go on living in the house, but in the book it is because she needs to be able to provide for her children. However, what the book ends up doing in Leslie’s novel is not so much as meet an immediate need as it gives her the financial security she needs so that she can live her entire life, even when she is old and infirm, in Gull Cottage and not have to move in with anyone. It is the ultimate means to her independence.

But because Daniel is always saying that he does not view the things of the flesh in the same way, there is less romance and more friendship. He does still make the comment that he made in the movie about how much they missed by not being alive at the same time, but that is not quite as pivotal a scene as in the film. However, the book does retain that sense, when she dies, of having come home, as if she never really was at her ease while she lived on earth. She is united with Daniel and one can imagine that perhaps Daniel will at last find some peace in the afterlife, too.

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2015 in Fiction

 

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The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)

bdb96316682ef26ef0a985c306ab92b9Most ghost stories are meant to be frightening or creepy, even when they are funny, but The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is a ghost story of a different tradition; it is a romance, a beautiful and poignant love story that gets me every time I see it.

Sometime in the early nineteen hundreds, Mrs. Lucy Muir (Gene Tierney) is widow who has been living with her husband’s mother and very overbearing sister and she yearns for independence. She has some money from her husband and takes her daughter (Natalie Wood) to the ocean where she falls in love with Gull Cottage, which is thought to be haunted. She tours the house and there are some odd occurrences (like laughter, which could theoretically just be the wind) but she’s indomitable and rents the place. The cottage used to belong to a sea captain, Captain Daniel Gregg, who died four years earlier, reportedly of suicide.

One evening, during stormy weather, Lucy goes down to her kitchen to prepare tea for herself, but the lights go out and her candle is repeatedly blown out and in prim and proper annoyance, she announces that she is not afraid of the ghost, that his tricks are quite unimpressive and she dares him to show himself. To her surprise, he (Rex Harrison) really does reveal himself. She is very taken aback, but still indomitable and the ghost, Captain Gregg, is rather impressed. They make a deal: he’ll stop haunting the whole house and keep to her bedroom (which used to be his bedroom) so her daughter won’t see him if she’ll put his picture up in her room (which he likes). Also, he expects her to leave the cottage to sailors as a home, which is why he had been haunting the house in the first place, trying to keep other people away. He also rather indignantly denies having committed suicide – he was sleeping in a chair with his window shut because there was a storm and kicked the gas on with his foot.

Rex Harrison and Gene Tierney

Rex Harrison and Gene Tierney

The two argue a lot, but also become friends and spend a great deal of time talking about their lives. When her income from her husband unexpectedly peters out so that she can no longer afford to stay at Gull Cottage, Daniel suggests that she write a book, or rather that he write it and she take the credit for it. He calls it “Blood and Swash,” to her mild disapproval, but he asserts that this must be a man’s book, the unvarnished life of a sailor, which is basically his own life story.

It is while they are writing the book together that Lucy begins to realize that she and Daniel have gotten themselves into a pickle, emotionally. She realizes they are in love, but there’s nothing to be done about it. But after they finish the book and find a publisher, she meets another man, a real man, named Miles Fairley (George Sanders – in one of his inimitable cad roles) who pursues her, despite Daniel’s strong disapproval.

Rex Harrison and Gene Tierney make such an adorable couple, which is kind of funny because I don’t think I would have applied that term to either of them on their own. Gene Tierney is a gorgeous woman and I never considered Rex Harrison exactly cute, but together they are perfect; they convey that these two souls were made for each other. They are companions, as well as lovers. In fact, they are companions because they can’t be lovers. He is cantankerous and goes about saying “blast” this and “blast” that (a habit that Lucy picks up, much to the surprise of several of her acquaintances) and has lived a very full life. Lucy is very refined, very proper, but with a will of her own and a longing to do something worthwhile. She loves to hear his stories and he recognizes a kindred and queenly spirit in her. He calls her Lucia instead of Lucy, because he considers it a name fit for a queen.

b8ce2caed6798145200b564e21299f73I must confess the end didn’t go in the direction I was expecting at all, but it’s a beautiful story, but also quite sad because it’s about loneliness. She is a lonely widow, though she never complains about it. When Daniel tells her how he ran away to sea when he was young and how his aunt was probably glad to be rid of him, Lucy asks him if she ever wrote and he replies that she did faithfully until she died. Lucy comments that his aunt probably missed him much more than he knew. When Lucy falls for Miles Fairley, she does so partly as a reaction to the fact that he is alive and can provide real companionship and love.

But in truth, Lucy and Daniel were made for each other and Lucy never does find a real companion in life. She loves her daughter, but it’s not quite the same thing. She cares for her servant, Martha, but that also is not quite the same thing. The tragedy is that they didn’t miss each other by many years. He only died four years before she came to Gull Cottage and if he’d been alive, she still would have come to that village, they would have met, and they could have been together. When Miles Fairley enters the picture, Daniel talks to her while she is sleeping of all that they have missed, allowing himself to image what it would have been like if they could have been together.

The-Ghost-and-Mrs-Muir-1947-Gene-Tierney-and-Rex-Harrison--300x226The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is another example of what I call a cosmic romance: the romance that was fated to be, where there is no other one for you, that transcends time and space. Though, in this case, it’s a bit like something went wrong with fate. They were meant to be together, but he accidentally died, and that kind of messed everything up. So they have to wait for after life to truly be united.

The score was written by Bernard Herrmann, who is probably better remembered for his scores to movies like Psycho and North by Northwest. He joked that the score was his “Max Steiner score” (who wrote sweepingly dramatic scores for movies like Gone With the Wind), but it’s haunting, lovely, almost like a tone poem, often running along in the background and providing a cohesive feel to the movie, as if the movie were part of the tone poem. Leonard Maltin describes the movie as a fantasy, which it is more than a ghost story. It is a movie that has to be accepted on its own terms (why there is a ghost is never explained) and is rather achingly romantic, almost a tear-jerker, with a tremendous amount of charm from the actors.

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Posted by on October 27, 2014 in Fantasy, Romance

 

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Waterloo Bridge (1940) – Waterloo Bridge Three Post Series # I

MV5BMTQ3NzUzOTc1N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzcwMDkxMTE@__V1_SX214_When I first watched the movie Waterloo Bridge from 1940 with Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor, my reaction was twofold; I reacted to the movie itself and to it as a remake of the 1931 Waterloo Bridge with Mae Clarke and directed by James Whale. I wanted to compare the movies, but I also thought that both movies deserved to be analyzed on their own, as individual movies, so I’ve decided to write a three post series about each movie and ending with a comparison of the two, with each post being released on a Monday: the 22nd (today), 29th, and the 6th of October.

The original story was a play by Robert E. Sherwood who is said to have based it loosely on events of his own life while he was stationed in London during WWI. The play was released in 1930 and was made into a movie only a year later, and was remade nine years after that when MGM bought the rights to the play from Universal (who made the first one) for the first movie Vivien Leigh made following her Oscar winning, fame-catapulting and fiery performance as Scarlet O’Hara the year before.

The 1940 Waterloo Bridge is by far the most beloved and well-known of the two movies. In fact, it is a highly beloved movie, period; inspiring real affection and not just liking in many of its viewers.

The movie opens with Roy Cronin (Robert Taylor), an officer in the British army during WWII, who must leave London and stops at Waterloo Bridge to remember another time, during the first world war, when he was young and first met the woman he loves on that same bridge. The rest of the movie is a flashback, and I don’t believe I am giving anything away when I say that you just know by the way the older Roy is reminiscing that the story does not end happily. The entire movie is drenched in gentle, yet tragic, remembrance; most of the movie taking place in the evening or at night, as if to say that the story was over even before it began. The song “Auld Lang Syne” is the theme of the movie, gently playing and foretelling the inevitable end of the story.

tumblr_ln0agaei1L1qiwalto1_500Except the end isn’t inevitable, really. And that’s why it is also so frustrating, because it is also about the inherent defeatism that we impose on ourselves, which defeat does not come from the outside world.

At the beginning of the flashback, Roy meets a group of ballerinas on their way to the theater and when there is an air raid, they all take refuge in a shelter, where he meets Myra Lester. He is instantly attracted, and she is too, but because he must leave the next day, she assumes that they will never meet again. However, that night he puts off a dinner with his colonel and goes to see her dance. Despite being forbidden to go out with him by the director of the ballet troupe, (Maria Ouspenskaya – highly memorable, as always), her much more worldly, though kind-hearted, friend Kitty (Virginia Field) arranges for Myra to meet Roy.

They have dinner and dance and talk and fall so deeply in love that you know no one else could ever do for these two people, no matter what happens. In many ways, though, they are quite different in their attitude towards life. He is eager to embrace life and to make life happen. He is brash, warm-hearted and confident and unwilling to ever let her get away from him, no matter if there is a war. She is young, very innocent and trusting, but with a much less aggressive attitude towards life. She assumes that life happens without her and when he says that she is a defeatist and that she could imagine never seeing him again, she agrees. She does not expect to see him again.

But when Roy is given unexpected leave for two days, he rushes to Myra’s house and proposes. It is so unexpected and magical and wonderful for Myra and it is as if she were infused with the same spirit as he is as they both rush to get married. It is too late in the day, however, for the reverend to marry them and before they can marry the next morning, Roy’s leave is canceled. Myra then misses the ballet performance because she had rushed off to say farewell to Roy, and she is fired along with Kitty, who stood up for her.

1822457,ZIPp_ZrhMBsQR1mNUksR_qhMKuWNa0vMvaD19GLii+37Y6ndrWVt3TSkakTsbdK0YDjzV1xJTYwtQa_3w1eR_w==And then Myra reads in the newspaper that Roy has died. After she falls ill and finally recovers, she realizes that Kitty has resorted to prostitution to pay the bills, including Myra’s medical ones. Myra doesn’t want the burden to fall on her friend and soon becomes a prostitute as well. But Roy was not really dead and he comes back completely unexpectedly to carry her off to meet his family without knowing what has transpired.

Spoiler Warning: the rest of this post contains spoilers.

This was quite interesting because the main obstacles in this film to the couple’s happiness are the war and her own defeatism. The war constantly drives them apart, but it is not insuperable. And unlike the first Waterloo Bridge film, there is no class or family prejudice against her. Everyone who meets her absolutely love her. The only thing that stands in her way is the fact that she is hiding from him that she worked as a prostitute during the time he was away and her own guilt over it. She is afraid to tell him and ultimately she is the one who decides that she is not worthy of him and his great family name; and because she can no longer imagine living without him, she walks in front of an army truck on Waterloo Bridge and kills herself.

Roy does find out, however, about her past. After she had left him he goes to Kitty and hears the whole story and what is so tragic is that it would not have mattered to him if she had been a prostitute or not. He loves her and he knows that she always loved him and all he wants is to be with her. It is so sad because she did not realize just how much he loved her and she never even gave him the chance to tell her. She makes her decision far to quickly and takes the irrevocable way out of the situation. Even if she had simply chosen to leave Roy – without killing herself – the simple act of choosing to live would probably have meant happiness for them both since Roy would have found her and they could have been happy.

c318b0edc8eeb1677b6701c95f56500dGoing along with the sense of defeatism is also the sense that Myra had that all her happiness was unreal. She asks several times in the movie if it is real, as if she can hardly believe that so much love could really come to her. The irony is that every time she says it, it is because of something Roy has done to make her happy. He works to make happiness. He is the one who puts off his duty so he can see her again and he is the one to propose so quickly. When he was presumed dead, he was really in a German prison camp and he escapes, returns to England, and brings her to his family home. She has trouble accepting what would essentially be a fairy tale ending for her; and one wonders if she never, in her heart, subconsciously believed in happy endings.

And in the end, in a tragic twist, it is now Roy who echoes Myra’s defeatism when he says that he knows he will never find her again. He says it the same night that she kills herself.

I still can’t decide whether or not I enjoyed it. It’s a very haunting film and the pathetic tragedy of the theme song, “Auld Lang Syne” stayed with me long after the movie was over. Of course, it didn’t help that afterwards I was reading about the tragic death in prison of Gavrilo Princip, who assassinated Franz Ferdinand of Austria – which sparked WWI – and about the love between Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophia and how their final thoughts before they died were of each other and about how their two sons were sent to Dachau in the late 1930s when they opposed the Nazi takeover of Austria. It put me in a regular, reflective funk about life, loss and suffering. And how the greatest tragedies in life – like WWI – are often self-inflicted.

However, there is a slight, hopeful note at the end of the movie, despite the tragedy. After Myra kills herself, we flash forward to WWII where Roy Cronin is remembering her. It is clear that, despite the tragedy, what he is really remembering is her and how much he loves her and how much he knows she loved him. Their love has endured, despite her death. It is another cosmic romance.

Vivien-Leigh-and-Robert-Taylor-in-Waterloo-Bridge-1940-4

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2014 in Drama, Romance

 

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