Rick Fitzgerald (Ray Milland) and his sister Pamela Fitzgerald (Ruth Hussey) are on vacation visiting the coast of Cornwall. Climbing a cliff near the seashore they come upon a large house. Known as the Windward House, the stately mansion lays empty. Curious, the two wander through the house. They immediately fall in love with it. Pooling their resources they inquire about purchasing the mansion. The owner is Commander Beech (Donald Crisp). He lives with his granddaughter Stella Meredith (Gail Russell).
Beech sells the house for an unusually low amount. Stella is at first unhappy about the sale since it was her childhood home and the last home she had with her mother and father before they died. Her attitude changes when she makes friends with Rick. The Commander, on the other hand, is standoffish and forbids Stella to have anything to do with the Fitzgeralds and forbids her to set foot in it. Stella, on the other hand, is drawn to the house and ignores his demand.
Pamela readies the house while Rick wraps up some business in London. A few weeks later Rick returns with their old housekeeper Lizzie Flynn (Barbara Everest). The house has been cleaned and furnished and ready for occupancy but their dog Bobby refused to stay in it and has abandoned them. That night Rick is awakened by the sound of someone crying. Pamela tells him that it happens quite often but there is no one else in the house. There is also an unusual coldness to the room that Mr. Meredith used as an art studio. The Fitzgerald family is beginning to believe they have a ghost in the house.
Eventually they find out that the house has a sad and sorted history. Mr. Meredith was an artist who was having an affair with his model, a Spanish gypsy named Carmel. It is believed that Mary fell from the cliff while trying to stop Carmel from committing suicide. Some believe Carmel murdered Mary. A week later Carmel succumbed to pneumonia and died. Stella was three when her mother died. She moved in with her grandfather while her father moved abroad. He died three years ago.
When Stella visits the house she feels the spirit as well. She believes it is her mother. But there seems to be more than one spirit that infests the house. One who brings warmth and comfort to Stella and one that wishes her harm. Now that Rick has fallen in love with Stella he is determined to find out the truth of what happened to Mary and why she haunts the house.
“The Uninvited” was released in 1944 and was directed by Lewis Allen. It is a gothic style horror mystery and a thriller. It is based on the 1941 novel “Uneasy Freehold” by Dorothy Macardle. The novel was published in America as “The Uninvited” in 1942. The film has been credited as being Hollywood’s first real supernatural story.
The song that Milland’s character Rick plays was written for the film. The song “Stella by Starlight” was recorded by several popular performers, in particular Frank Sinatra, Dick Haymes and Dennis Day.
This was a great little ghost story. A fun and spooky mystery with a little light humor and some wonderful characters. Everything about it is well done and in the traditional gothic style. It is now one of my favorites.
Apparently the film got a lot of flak for its “Lesbian undertones” for the character of Miss Holloway the trained nurse, played by Cornelia Otis Skinner. Some thought that her devotion to Mary was more than just loyalty to a woman she admired. Father Brendan Larnen of the Catholic Legion of Decency went so far as to write a letter to the creator of the Hays Production Code, Will Hays. In it he stated that “large audiences of questionable type” attend the film, at unusual hours. He further said that they were drawn by certain erotic and esoteric elements of the film. He also warned Hays to guard against showing such subject matter in the future.