The Uninvited (1944)

Ruth Hussey, Ray Milland, and the skylight seen in many movies in the 1940s.

On our last night in Richmond, an old friend of Dr. A’s posed a question: Would you sleep in a room that was haunted? My answer was a resounding YES. Why? I don’t believe in ghosts. I do, however, like haunted house movies. Go figure.

The Uninvited was released in 1944. It’s an early example of a Gothic haunted house movie. Most haunted house movies were B-pictures but The Uninvited was an A-picture all the way: Ray Milland was one of Paramount’s top stars and the supporting cast of Ruth Hussey, Donald Crisp, Alan Napier, and Gail Russell is stellar as well.

The Uninvited is set on the English coast; Cornwall to be precise. Milland and Hussey play a brother and sister who stumble on to Winward House during a walk. They buy it without realizing it’s haunted. Classic mistake.

The paranormal activity wouldn’t phase the cast of one of those fakakta teevee ghost shows, but it rattles our cast, which reminds me of this unghostly Jeff Lynne song:

Gail Russell’s character is particularly affected: Windward House used to be a family home and one of the ghosts is her mother. If a woman can have an Oedipus Complex, Gail Russell has one.

This feature is called Pulp Fiction, not pulp spoilers, so I won’t go into the spooky details. Suffice it to say that it’s as entertaining as hell and much less gory than a modern spookfest. Dr A dislikes onscreen gore, so she approves.

I mentioned the cast: the acting is superb. The characters shown in the seance scene below are so likable that I’d have a pint in a pub with any of them as long as they left the ghosties at home.

Alan Napier, Ray Milland, Gail Russell, and Ruth Hussey.

You might recognize Alan Napier as Alfred the butler from the Batman teevee series. In The Uninvited, he plays the town doctor who falls for Ruth Hussey. She’s best known for her Oscar nominated performance in The Philadelphia Story. I told you this was an A-picture.

The movie is based on Dorothy Macardle’s novelĀ Uneasy Freehold, which was retitled The UninvitedĀ by its American publisher. I cannot find an image featuring the original title, so the US title will have to do:

The Uninvited was something of a trailblazer. Gothic ghost stories began appearing more frequently after it was a hit. There was even condemnation from the Catholic Church for its subtle sapphic sub-plot but to learn more about that, you’ll have to see the movie.

Grading Time: I give The Uninvited 3 1/2 stars and an Adrastos Grade of B+.

It’s poster time. I like the quad best.

Do you know what time it is?

It’s time to buy some junk food and check out the lobby cards. We’re back to our classic “color lobby cards for a black and white movie” theme.

Some call them previews; I call them trailers. Whatever you call them, their time has come:

The last word goes to Ben Mankiewicz with his TCM intro to The Uninvited: