• Fiona Prior

Blithe Spirit

Updated: Nov 30, 2020

Blythe Spirit

Director: Edward Hall

Orginally a comic play by Noël Coward

An exercise in style and spirit


Set in the thirties, this latest remake of Noël Coward play ‘Blithe Spirit’ is as close to being a filmic ‘Pimms’ as you can get. The eye-candy is to die for; all satin, bias cut gowns, gorgeously detailed 1930's houses, and everyone seems to be continually sozzled due to an over-indulgence in elegant cocktails.

image: 'Blithe Spirit' 2020


Most of us know Coward’s ‘Blithe Spirit’ story; a famous and very spoilt writer (‘Charles Condomine’ played by Dan Stevens) has writer's block and his spoilt young wife (Isla Fisher) is cross because ‘daddy’ (her movie mogul father) is expecting his new son-in-law to come up with a block-buster script.


Charles calls on the assistance of occult specialist Madam Arcati (Judi Dench) for a little literary inspiration (Arcati is the only sympathetic character in the film and Dench does lovely things with the role) and she accidently summons from the after-life Charles' equally spoilt (dead) first wife (Leslie Mann).


What follows is a parlour comedy where our writer is tormented by both wives and behaves like a cad. (If ones sleeps with both one’s wives – albeit one is dead – does this make one a bigamist ... or an adulterer? Is a poor chappie in an impossible situation? Maybe if a chappie has a jolly martini things will improve ... and if not, some Benzadrine may help? Oh dear, now a chappie really is too smashed to think straight …)


An interesting note is that fictional writer Charles Condomine's interest in séances and the occult was certainly not uncommon in the late 19th and early 20th century and the critical inclusion of Madam Arcati in Coward’s script is probably more unusual to a modern-day audience than to its original recipients. One of Australia’s very own early Prime Ministers, Alfred Deakin (Prime Minister of Australia on three occasions between 1903 and 1910) like many of his era and background “… explored mysticism and the Occult ... attended séances and channelled messages from mediums. In 1877 he became president of the Victorian Association of Spiritualists, and was for a short time a member of the Theosophical Society”.

(*Alfred Deakin and the Divine · Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House (moadoph.gov.au)


As light as fairy floss and about as substantial, ‘Blithe Spirit’ is resurrected eye candy from a by-gone era.

I have to admit I enjoyed the sugar hit.

image" 'Blithe Spirit' 1945

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