The classic 1947 Academy-Award nominee The Ghost and Mrs. Muir featured an unforgettably romantic seaside house in the (fictitious) English village of Whitecliff-by-the-Sea. Gene Tierney starred as Lucy Muir, a young widow who rents Gull Cottage, only to discover that the handsome sea captain who died there is still haunting it.
The movie was actually filmed entirely in California. Steve told Movie Real Estate it was built by the production department of 20th Century Fox in Palos Verdes and taken down after filming ended.
The set had no running water or electricity, and the ceilings were removable to accommodate lights and sound equipment.
The famous Monkey Puzzle tree in the front yard–which Rex Harrison’s Captain Daniel Gregg planted himself and is unhappy to see taken down–was real. It was found on the back lot of Fox studios and transplanted for the shoot. You can read more about Monkey Puzzle trees here.
They built a greenhouse on the side of the house that they didn’t end up using in the movie. You can see it in this production photo taken during filming:
Real estate agent Mr. Coombe tells Lucy that Captain Gregg committed suicide, which is why he’s haunting the house. But the Captain insists he didn’t kill himself–hekicked the gas heater over in his sleep.
He has run everyone else off the property within a day or two, but Lucy isn’t as easily frightened. She loves the cottage and is determined to stay–ghost or no ghost. An unconventional romance ensues.
Despite her beauty and fame, Tierney had a difficult life marked by tragedy and mental illness.
She had a daughter with husband Oleg Cassini in 1943 who was born with multiple special needs after Tierney was exposed to Rubella during her pregnancy. She had to drop out of later film roles because of mental instability and personal troubles and died at the age of 70 from emphysema.
The movie was based on a popular 1945 novel written by British author Josephine Leslie under the (unfortunate) pseudonym R.A. Dick. It was adapted by American screenwriter Philip Dunne.
The Captain isn’t about to let her go, though. He comes up with a plan to dictate a rough and tumble book about his seafaring life called Blood and Swash. Lucy finds a publisher and it becomes a bestseller.
Lucy (stupidly) falls for children’s book author Miles Farley (George Sanders) after meeting him at her publisher’s office. He turns out to be a charming cad, but it takes her a while to notice.
The Captain says goodbye to Lucy while she’s sleeping, telling her she needs to move on and experience real-life love. When she wakes up, she’ll think he was just a dream (I hate that part! Don’t go, Captain Gregg!).
Did anyone else think it was sad that she spent so many years alone, believing the Captain was nothing but a strange dream she had when she first moved there? He should have come back when she kicked Miles to the curb, IMO.
Two weeks ago I posted photos of the real house used in the 1960s sitcom “The Ghost & Mrs. Muir,” which was based on this movie. It’s beautiful, too, and was also filmed in California instead of England. You can see it here if you missed it!