Thursday, 21 July 2011
Ray Milland #5
Considered by Martin Scorsese to be one of the eleven best horror films of all time, Lewis Allen’s seductively melancholic ghostly tale, The Uninvited (1944), was one of the first Hollywood films to portray a haunting as a supernatural event in a serious manner; before this, it was someething that could be explained away rationally or it was played for laughs.
During a séance, the ghost communicates that it is guarding Stella, who then becomes obsessed by the spirit of Carmel and she is packed off to a sanitorium by Commander Beech.
Realising that Dr Scott and the Fitzgeralds are on their way, Holloway sends Stella home by train, hoping that the spirit in the house will lead her to the cliff edge. When she arrives back, she refuses to listen to her grandfather’s pleas to leave, but the appearance of the spirit causes him to die of a heart attack.
When Hitchcock finished filming Rebecca, producer David O. Selznick wanted the smoke from the burning Manderley to form a large letter “R”. Fortunately, the director had the last word and only filmed a burning monogrammed nightdress. With The Uninivited, Allen wanted to rely on suggestion and atmosphere, but Paramount insisted on the inclusion of several ghost shots during post-production and he was unable to stand up to the producers. The ghost’s features were puportedly modelled by actress Elizabeth Russell (no relation to Gail, but a regular in Val Lewton’s horror movies) and physical form by model and bit-player Lynda Grey. Russell also posed for the large portrait of Mary Meredith that is seen on the wall of Miss Holloway’s office in the film. Fortunately, the ghost shots were removed from the British release and critics praised its chilling atmospheric suggestion.
Milland did not appear in the weak follow-up, The Unseen (1945). While it was also directed by Allen (and numbered Raymond Chandler among those who received a writing credit), it was more of a murder mystery with shades of George Cukor's recent popular film Gaslight (1944).