For Reel

The Smiling Ghost (1941)
August 21, 2015, 2:30 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Lewis Seiler
3 Stars
The Smiling GhostParamount’s success in merging the haunted house and low brow comedy genres with The Cat and the Canary in 1939 led to a number of imitators, perhaps the best of which being Bob Hope’s next stab at the genre with The Ghost Breakers. If Warner Brothers’ attempt at imitation doesn’t quite live up to standard of its predecessors, it’s nonetheless a well-constructed, if derivative picture. As with the best films of its ilk, the horror genre is not completely overshadowed by the comedy–the eponymous ghost is made up to somewhat resemble Lon Chaney’s Phantom or Conrad Veidt’s Gwynplaine, and director Lewis Seiler builds suspense by letting audiences in on his presence when the leads are distracted elsewhere. It’s formulaic stuff with the occasional digression–Alan Hale is bizarrely cast as the valet, a tough talking clod who in the climax wields dual pistols. Willie Best, who also starred in The Ghost Breakers, is the highlight as the lead’s (Wayne Morris) perpetually frightened valet. In these thankless parts, Best dependably showed remarkable comic timing and charisma.