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5 Spooky Fun Films of the 1940s!

Glory is just a star struck kid at heart who loves writing about classic films and vintage TV and she invites you along for the ride!

Hollywood has a long history of producing films that have a paranormal or supernatural theme and these five films, all from the 1940's, are perfect examples.

I have not provided an in-depth plot synopsis, a quick query using your favorite search engine will fill in all the details I have left out. My hope is to pique your interest enough to go in search of these films, if you are not already familiar with them.

While these films could be classified as just Halloween fare, they are really enjoyable anytime of the year.

One of the films is an outright comedy while the other four are certainly a little more serious in their approach, but yet do find time to have some humorous moments.

So enough dawdling, let's get on with the show!

(1940) The Ghost Breakers

Publicity photo for The Ghost Breakers starring Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard and Noble Johnson

Publicity photo for The Ghost Breakers starring Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard and Noble Johnson

This 1940 film released from Paramount was based on a 1909 play called The Ghost Breaker written by Paul Dickey and Charles W. Goddard.

Bob Hope stars as Larry Lawrence a radio gossip reporter who almost lets slip some information about the less than legal dealings of mobster Frenchy Duval (Paul Fixx). When summoned to a hotel to meet with Frenchy, things go wrong and Larry ends up hiding in the clothes trunk of hotel guest Mary Clark (Paulette Goddard) who is going to Cuba as she has inherited a spooky old castle called Castillo Maldito on Black Island. Mary eventually discovers Larry's hiding place and the duo and the duo get to Cuba, they decide to work together learn the secret of the old castle which includes, run ins with ghosts and zombies.

Also in the cast in William Best as Alex, Anthony Quinn in one of his early movie roles and Noble Johnson as the zombie.

If you like this film, you might want to check out another Hope and Goddard pairing in the 1939 The Cat and Canary which is another "old dark house" film.

(1944) The Canterville Ghost

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This film was based on the 1887 short story by Oscar Wilde.

In 1634, Sir Simon de Canterville (Charles Laughton) is walled alive by his father, Lord Canterville (Reginald Owen) in Canterville Castle, because of his cowardice act of refusing to fight a duel to protect his brother Anthony's (Peter Lawford) honor. His father curses him and says his will remain a restless spirit and roam the halls of the old castle until a kinsman will perform a brave deed.

Fast forward to 1943, when a platoon of US Army Rangers are stationed at the castle which is now owned by six year old Lady Jessica de Canterville (Margaret O'Brien) who warns them the place is haunted. When Sir Simon appears to them in an attempt to frighten them away, they instead mock and laugh at him, scaring him away, instead. One of the Rangers, Cuffy Williams (Robert Young), feels sorry for Simon and he and Jessica search for him and when they find him they discover he is really just a sad and lonely ghost who simply wants to be buried in soft ground and be at peace.

When Jessica discovers that Cuffy is really a de Canterville through Anthony's side of the family, she realizes that he might be just what Simon needs. But, it seems that Cuffy is a much of a coward as Sir Simon. Will Simon ever find peace?

(1944) The Uninvited

Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey stars a siblings Roderick and Pamela Fitzgerald in The Uninvited

Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey stars a siblings Roderick and Pamela Fitzgerald in The Uninvited

This 1944 film was based on the 1941 novel Uneasy Freehold by Dorothy Macardle.

Set in England in 1937, music professor Roderick Fitzgerald (Ray Milland) and his sister, Pamela (Ruth Hussey), discover an old house that sits atop a cliff. Falling in love with it almost immediately, they search for its owner and discover it is Commander Beech (Donald Crisp), who is willing to sell the place, but warns it is haunted. Undeterred, they purchase it much to the disappointment of Beech's granddaughter, twenty year old Stella Meredith (Gail Russell) whose mother, Mary, died from a fall off the cliff seventeen years earlier.

After the siblings move in, strange things begin to happen, a particular room always grows ice cold, the sound of a woman weeping fills the house, the smell of mimosa fills the air, is it the ghost of Stella's mother or perhaps someone else?

The film co-stars Alan Napier as Dr. Scott. You may remember Alan from the 1960s television series Batman as Alfred, Bruce Wayne's ever loyal butler. Cornelia Otis Skinner plays Miss Holloway, a woman who has an almost obsessive fixation for Mary.

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)

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This film based on the 1945 book of the same name by R.A. Dick (the pseudonym for author Josephine Leslie) was released by Twentieth Century-Fox on June 26, 1947.

Lucy Muir (Gene Tierney), a recent widow, has decided she wants to lead a life of her own. She leaves the security of living with her over bearing in-laws in London and moves her young daughter Anna (Natalie Wood) and personal maid, Martha (Edna Best) to the seaside town of Whitecliff where she rents Gull Cottage.

She is warned by the real estate agent that the place is haunted by the former owner, cantankerous sea captain Daniel Gregg (Rex Harrison) who died there four years earlier. The ghost has successfully scared away all other tenants, but Lucy is determined to stay as the house is within her budget and she doesn't believe in ghosts. When strange things begin to happen, she reluctantly changes her mind, especially when the ghost of Captain Gregg appears and orders her to leave. Lucy, tired of being told what to do by others, shows a spunk that impresses the old sea dog and the two agree to a truce. When Lucy's money runs out she fears she will have to move back to London, but the good captain devises a plan; he will dictate his life story to her and call the book Blood and Swash. It gets published and Lucy's money problems are over, but now she is being romantically pursued by fellow author Miles Fairley (George Sanders) who has a secret of his own. Who will win her heart?

Portrait of Jennie (1948)

Struggling painter Eben Adams (Joseph Cotton) is in a creative slump. One cold winter day, as he sits on a bench in Central Park, he meets a young girl named Jennie Appleton (Jennifer Jones). The girl seems odd to him as she is dressed in old fashioned clothes and she chats about people, places and events that are past to Adams, but are apparently current to Jennie. When she disappears as mysteriously as she appears, Eben realizes that there is something very unique about her and he wonders if he can capture that with his pencil. When he gets back to his apartment, he sketches her from memory and the next day he is able to sell the drawing to a gallery. The owner, Miss Spinney (Ethel Barrymore), suggests that he do more studies of her, maybe even a portrait.

Over the coming year, Eben meets Jennie several times and each encounter it appears she has grown older. The couple eventually fall in love and Eben begins to paint her portrait.

As Eben talks with Jennie, he is able to learn about her life and also of the fact that she died tragically in a storm off the coast of Cape Cod. Somehow, she is reliving again periods of her life that lead up to her death. With the anniversary of her passing just days away, Eben decides to go to Cape Cod in an attempt to save her life.

Thanks for visiting and I hope you enjoyed your stay. I highlighted these five films for no other reason than they are some of my personal favorites. If these films are not up to your liking, just know that there are others from that decade that have the same fantasy and or supernatural feel (Blithe Spirit and The Curse of the Cat People to just name two).

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© 2021 Glory Miller