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The Uninvited
Directed by Lewis Allen
Produced by Charles Brackett
Written by Book Author:
Dorothy Macardle
Screenwriters:
Frank Partos
Dodie Smith
Starring Ray Milland
Gail Russell
Ruth Hussey
Donald Crisp
Cornelia Otis Skinner
Dorothy Stickney
Music by Victor Young
Cinematography Charles B. Lang
Editing by Doane Harrison
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) February 10, 1944
Running time 99 min.
Country USA
Language English
Spanish
Followed by The Unseen (1945)

The Uninvited is a 1944 American supernatural mystery/romance film directed by Lewis Allen. It is based on the Dorothy Macardle novel Uneasy Freehold.

It was nominated for a 1945 Academy Award for Best Black and White Cinematography for Charles Lang's camerawork.

The movie begins with a narration by Ray Milland. "They call them the haunted shores, these stretches of Devonshire and Cornwall and Ireland which rear up against the westward ocean. Mists gather here, and sea fog, and eerie stories. That’s not because there are more ghosts here than in other places, mind you. It’s just that people who live hereabouts are strangely aware of them."

Contents

Cast

Plot

London music critic and composer Roderick "Rick" Fitzgerald (Ray Milland) and his sister Pamela (Ruth Hussey) discover a handsome, abandoned seaside house during a holiday on one of England's rocky coasts on the 10th of May, 1937. Even though their terrier, Bobby, refuses to climb the house's graceful, curving stairway, Pamela and Rick find themselves having "fallen head-over-heels in love" with the grand old home. Pamela insists that "important decisions have to be made quickly," and the brother and sister purchase the property, called Windward House, for an unusually low price from its owner, the imposing Commander Beech (Donald Crisp). The Commander long ago inherited the eighteenth-century home from his grandmother, then, more recently, gave it to his late daughter, Mary Beech Meredith. During the property sale transaction, Rick and Pamela meet Beech’s 20-year-old granddaughter, Stella Meredith (Gail Russell), who lives with her grandfather in the nearby town of Biddlecombe. Stella is deeply upset by the sale of Windward because of her attachment to it and to the memory of her mother, despite Windward's being the location of her mother’s death when Stella was but three. Her nostalgia over the house is discouraged by the Commander, who has forbidden Stella to enter. However, against Beech’s wishes, she gains access to Windward House through Rick, who has become infatuated with Stella's charm and "Sleeping Beauty magic."

The Fitzgeralds' initial enchantment with the house diminishes, once they have become its owners and unlock a forbidding and uncomfortable artist's studio, in which they experience an unexplainable chill; even a small bouquet of roses Pamela has picked withers in the cheerless room. A few weeks later, once Rick arrives in Biddlecombe to stay, he learns that Bobby has deserted Windward in a decidedly uncharacteristic manner for a terrier. Then, just before dawn, after his own first night in his new home, Rick hears the eerie and heartbreaking sobs of an unseen woman--a phenomenon that Pamela has investigated thoroughly during the time she has spent decorating Winward whilst awaiting her brother's return with the Fitzgeralds' Irish housekeeper, Lizzie Flynn (Barbara Everest). Lizzie's cat, like the terrier Bobby, will not climb the stairway. And although the superstitious Lizzie notices a peculiar draft on the stairs, she is ignorant of the sounds of weeping. Now Rick and Pamela must face the obvious--a secret they must keep from Lizzie: Windward House is haunted.

On a pleasant Sunday evening, Stella comes to Windward for dinner, and she soon becomes aware of Windward's spirit. Rather than fearing it, she senses a calming presence that she associates with her mother, as well as a strong scent of mimosa--her mother's favorite perfume. Suddenly Stella becomes unreasonably distressed for enjoying herself in her mother's house. Crying, "But she was so young, and she died so cruelly," Stella dashes down the stairs and out across the lawn towards the very cliff from which Mary Meredith fell to her death seventeen years earlier. "It's that blasted room!" Rick calls to Pamela as he chases Stella and catches her just before she falls from the cliff to the rocky seas below. Something in Windward has possessed Stella and tried to kill her. As Rick, Pamela, and Stella return to the house, they hear a scream from Lizzie Flynn. Lizzie has seen a ghostly apparition, and, in short order, decides to sleep at a neighbor's farmhouse (although remaining in the Fitzgeralds' employ).

Windward's now undeniable haunting and the ways in which it relates to Stella prove to be a complex mystery. The strange occurrences are investigated by the Fitzgeralds along with the town physician, Dr. Scott (Alan Napier), whom they've befriended, and who has adopted the Fitzgeralds' wandering terrier, Bobby. In exploring the history of the family, they are told that Stella's father, a painter, had had an affair with his model--a Spanish gypsy girl named Carmel. Stella's mother, Mary Meredith, from all accounts a beautiful and virtuous woman, found out about the infidelity and took Carmel to Paris, leaving her there. Carmel eventually came back, stole the infant Stella and, during a confrontation, flung Mary Meredith off the nearby cliff to her death. Shortly afterward, Carmel herself became ill and died.

Rick, Pamela and Dr. Scott conspire to dissuade Stella from her dangerous obsession with Windward by staging a séance. Using an upturned wineglass and an alphabet on a tabletop, they attempt to convey to Stella the "message" that Stella’s mother wants her daughter to stay away from the house. Suddenly the real ghost takes over the proceedings, communicating that it is guarding Stella, presumably from the ghost of Carmel. A sort of ghostly confrontation ensues, causing the wineglass to fly from the table and shatter. Stella is unexpectedly possessed by the spirit of a woman who mutters in Spanish, "My love," and "Do not believe!" The séance is interrupted by Commander Beech, who removes Stella and secretly arranges for her to be sent to The Mary Meredith Retreat, a sanitorium run by a Miss Holloway (Cornelia Otis Skinner), Mary Meredith's childhood friend and confidante. Holloway worships Mary with an obsession that borders on insanity.

The Fitzgeralds travel by car to the sanitorium to interview Holloway, not knowing that Stella is confined there. Holloway explains to them that after Mary's death, she took care of Carmel, who had contracted pneumonia and eventually died of the illness. The Fitzgeralds return home with little new information. Rifling through old records left by the previous village physician, Dr. Scott discovers that Carmel died of neglect at the hands of Miss Holloway. The doctor is then called away to care for an ailing Commander Beech, who tells him that Stella is at the sanitorium. Knowing Holloway's true nature, Rick, Pam, and Scott decide to rescue Stella. They telephone Holloway and tell her that they are on their way.

At the Meredith Retreat, knowing the trio is en route, Holloway deceives Stella, saying that the Fitzgeralds have invited her to live with them to be closer to the spirit of her mother. Stella happily takes the train home, not knowing Holloway's motive is to send her alone to house filled with a malevolent spirit, who will quickly overwhelm Stella, leading her to the cliff and a deadly fall.

The trio arrives at the sanitorium only to find a deranged Holloway, who tells them that Stella is on her way to Windward House. They rush back towards Biddlecombe, but are twenty minutes behind Stella's train. Stella arrives at the house to find her grandfather in the haunted artist's studio. Weakened nearly to the point of death, he begs Stella with his last strength to get out of the house, but she loyally remains at his side. As a ghostly presence appears, the Commander succumbs to a heart attack.

Stella welcomes the ghost, convinced it is the protective spirit of her mother. But the cold, vindictive apparition makes her scream with fright, and she flees in panic again towards the cliff. Rick, Pam, and Scott arrive just in time to pull Stella from the crumbling cliff to safety.

Back inside the still-troubled house, the group is drawn again to the physician's journal found by Dr. Scott. They discover that before her death at the hands of Miss Holloway, Carmel gave birth to a child--apparently in Paris, where Stella herself was born. Then the truth becomes clear: Stella's mother is actually Carmel, who returned to Windward from Paris not for love of Mary's husband, but to be near her own little girl. Stella recalls that mimosa was said to be her mother's favorite perfume, not that of Mary Meredith at all. Indeed, the warm scent of mimosa and the heartfelt, ghostly sobs have been emanating from Carmel--not from supposedly saintly Mary--all along. Understanably, Stella is relieved to learn that she is not the child of the cold, perfect Mary Meredith. Being Carmel's daughter makes sense to her, and she realizes that the spirit of her true mother is free and has left Windward, never to cry again.

Something evil, though, has remained. The living flee the house--all but Rick, who overcomes his own terror to confront the cruel and furious spirit of Mary Meredith, admonishing her that they are no longer afraid of her, and that she has no power over them anymore. Defeated, Mary's spirit then departs, and the house is calm. Lizzie's cat eases up the stairway, licking a paw. The night of struggling spirits and wicked vindication has ended, and a bright future dawns for Rick, Stella, Pamela, Scott, and, perhaps, even for Windward House on its lonely cliff along a haunted shore.

Adaptations to Other Media

The Uninvited was dramatized as a radio play on the August 28, 1944 broadcast of the Ford Theatre with Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey and Betty Field. It was also presented on the November 18, 1949 broadcast of Screen Director's Playhouse with Ray Milland, Alma Laughton and Mary Shipp.

Production notes

  • Miss Holloway, as portrayed by Cornelia Otis Skinner, is often cited as a Lesbian caricature. For a detailed study, see Patricia White’s book Uninvited: Classical Hollywood Cinema and Lesbian Representability (Indiana University Press, 1999; ISBN 0253213452).
  • The filmmakers initially did not intend to show any ghosts in the film, but Paramount’s unease resulted in the insertion of several ghost shots in post-production. According to the Internet Movie Database, the ghost’s facial features were modeled by actress Elizabeth Russell and physical form by model and bit player Lynda Grey. Russell also posed for the large portrait of "Mary Meredith" that is seen on the wall of Miss Holloway’s office in the film.

Reception

Director Martin Scorsese placed The Uninvited on his list of the 11 scariest horror films of all time.[3]

References

External links








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