For Reel

The Ghost Goes West (1935)
July 25, 2014, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: René Clair
4.5 Stars
The Ghost Goes WestLargely neglected today in favor of director René Clair’s later fantastical romantic comedy I Married a Witch, The Ghost Goes West is a hugely successful aesthetic achievement with charm to spare due to its gentle, even-handed satire and likable stars. Robert Donat plays a dual role as both a disgraced Scottsman who is doomed to haunt a castle until he brings pride back to his family name and as his descendent. The father (Eugene Pallette) of the woman (Jean Parker) that the living Donat has fallen in love with purchases the castle and plans to move it to Florida with a publicity scheme on his mind. It is the early sequences in the Scottish castle that are the most memorable. Clair details the estate beautifully with rolling fogs at nights and an abundance of farm animals roaming the grounds in the afternoon, and in building the anticipation for the first haunting he successfully gives the castle character–shots linger on objects such as the mechanical movement of a clock as if to suggest the livingness of the building itself. The early ribbing at Scottish pride is matched equally by the boisterous, money-grubbing American businessman in the end, and even if the comedy isn’t as sharp-tongued as it could have been it is smart and amiably written throughout. Jean Parker (a dead ringer both visually and in her comedic timing for Jean Arthur) is particularly good as the curious love interest.

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