I had the pleasure recently of watching a classic ghost story from 1944 starring Ray Milland and Gail Russell titled The Uninvited. It is a black and white film filled with intrigues more than horror, and with a mystery to be solved.
Rick Fitzgerald (Ray Milland) and his sister Pamela (Ruth Hussey) find a house on a bluff overlooking the ocean while on holiday in Cornwall. They have the means to purchase the house, and move there from London to take up residence full time. They bring their housekeeper with them, and are soon troubled by moaning and wailing in the night, which can only be from ghosts.
They discover that Windward House had a sordid past, and that the owner, Commander Beech (Donald Crisp) had sold it to them just to get it off his hands. His granddaughter Stella (Gail Russell) is an orphan being raised by him since her parents’ deaths, and he wants to keep her away from the house.
Rick befriends Stella and they develop a close friendship. But Windward House has secrets that threaten their lives.
I thought it a little odd that siblings, brother and sister, would buy a house to live in together, but this is 1944 after all. It was the middle of WWII, and life was very different then. People in England who were well off did have servants or housekeepers.
The black and white cinematography lends itself well to the nighttime scenes in the old house and on the cliffs oceanside. Charles Lang was nominated for an Academy Award for best black and white cinematography. Considering this is a film from 1944, the special effects are adequate. Very misty looking ghosts appear to the homeowners. It is one of the first films to portray a haunting as an actual event; previously ghosts were used for comedy. The ghost story was tapped into very early on in cinema for a type of story that moviegoers would be sure to embrace.
Edith Head designed the costumes. Victor Young composed Stella by Starlight, now a jazz standard, for this film. Rick is a musician and composes and plays the tune for Stella. The melody did sound vaguely familiar.
A great addition to the DVD was a visual essay on The Uninvited called Giving Up the Ghost by filmmaker Michael Almereyda that was filmed in 2013 for Criterion Collection. It focused closely on the stars of the film: Ray Milland, the famous Academy Award winning actor for his performance in The Lost Weekend, and Gail Russell, an actress with a tragic life despite her career in film.
If you like an intelligent ghost story with a mystery to be solved, then this is for you. I was impressed by the screenplay; good dialogue and scenes for the characters, a house that almost has an aliveness (or deathlike presence), and some fun scenes during a séance.
The Uninvited will be shown on the TCM station on 10/29/16, so you can catch this excellent supernatural mystery/romance right before Halloween.