David Lean

Blithe Spirit

Blithe Spirit

Blithe Spirit, David Lean’s delightful film version of Noël Coward’s theater sensation (onstage, it broke London box-office records before hitting Broadway), stars Rex Harrison as a novelist who cheekily invites a medium (Margaret Rutherford) to his house to conduct a séance, hoping the experience will inspire a book he’s working on. Things go decidedly not as planned when she summons the spirit of his dead first wife (Kay Hammond), a severe inconvenience for his current one (Constance Cummings). Employing Oscar-winning special effects to spruce up Coward’s theatrical farce, Blithe Spirit is a sprightly supernatural comedy with winning performances.

Film Info

  • David Lean
  • United Kingdom
  • 1945
  • 96 minutes
  • Color
  • 1.37:1
  • English
  • Spine #606

Special Features

  • New high-definition digital transfer of the BFI National Archive’s 2008 restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • New interview about the film with Noël Coward scholar Barry Day
  • Episode of the British television series The Southbank Show from 1992 on the life and career of Coward
  • Trailer

Available In

Collector's Set

David Lean Directs Noël Coward

David Lean Directs Noël Coward

Blu-Ray Box Set

4 Discs

$79.96

Collector's Set

David Lean Directs Noël Coward

David Lean Directs Noël Coward

DVD Box Set

4 Discs

$63.96

Special Features

  • New high-definition digital transfer of the BFI National Archive’s 2008 restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • New interview about the film with Noël Coward scholar Barry Day
  • Episode of the British television series The Southbank Show from 1992 on the life and career of Coward
  • Trailer
Blithe Spirit
Cast
Rex Harrison
Charles Condomine
Constance Cummings
Ruth
Kay Hammond
Elvira
Margaret Rutherford
Madame Arcati
Hugh Wakefield
Dr. Bradman
Joyce Carey
Mrs. Bradman
Jacqueline Clarke
Edith
Credits
Director
David Lean
Producer
Noël Coward
From the play by
Noël Coward
Adapted by
David Lean
Adapted by
Ronald Neame
Adapted by
Anthony Havelock-Allan
Photographed by
Ronald Neame
In charge of production
Anthony Havelock-Allan
Musical score composed by
Richard Addinsell
Played by
The London Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by
Muir Matheson
Film editor
Jack Harris

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Noël Coward’s Enduring Encounter with Film
Noël Coward’s Enduring Encounter with Film

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Explore

David Lean

Director

For many cinephiles, the name David Lean signifies grand moviemaking—sweeping epics like Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago. But the long and eclectic career of this legendary British director encompasses arresting intimacy as well, as evidenced by the films of his in the Criterion Collection. Among those are pictures that he was responsible for editing, early on in his work in film: some of his national cinema’s greatest hits, including Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard’s Pygmalion, Gabriel Pascal’s Major Barbara, and Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 49th Parallel. In the forties and early fifties, having moved to directing, he made several luminous films, including adaptations of such classic and important contemporary works from the stage and page as Harold Brighouse’s Hobson’s Choice, Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit and Still Life (Brief Encounter, in the film version), and Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations and Oliver Twist. All are graced by evocative, shadowy black-and-white cinematography and elegantly restrained compositions. Summertime, his gorgeous 1955 Technicolor trip to Venice with Katharine Hepburn, marked a turning point in his career: the sun-dappled location shoot was galvanizing for Lean, and the remainder of his films, from The Bridge on the River Kwai to A Passage to India, could be considered outdoor spectacles. Yet Lean’s deep interest in complex characters, his brilliant way with actors, and his classic sense of storytelling were never trumped by scale.