While films featuring ghosts have been around since the very beginnings of cinema, they experienced a peak in popularity around the time of the Second World War; it’s been speculated that this was due to people needing spiritual comfort in those dark days. Here we present one pre-war ghost film and five made during it.
The Ghost Goes West
René Clair | UK | 1935 | 95 minutes
An American businessman’s family convinces him to buy a Scottish castle and disassemble it to ship it to America brick by brick, where it will be put it back together. The castle though is not the only part of the deal, with it goes the several-hundred year old ghost who haunts it.
Roy Boulting | UK | 1942 | 112 minutes
David Charleston (Michael Redgrave), once a world renowned journalist, now lives alone maintaining the Thunder Rock lighthouse in Lake Michigan. He doesn’t cash is paychecks and has no contact other than the monthly inspector’s visit. When alone, he imagines conversations with those who died when a 19th century packet ship with some 60 passengers sank. He imagines their lives, their problems their fears and their hopes. In one of these conversations he recalls his own efforts in the 1930s when he tried desperately to convince first his editors and later the public of the dangers of fascism and the inevitability of war. Few would listen.
The Canterville Ghost
Jules Dassin | USA | 1944 | 95 minutes
In the 1600s, cowardly Sir Simon of Canterville flees a duel and seeks solace in the family castle. His ashamed father seals him in the room where he is hiding and dooms him to life as a ghost until one of his descendants performs a brave deed. Simon believes he may be saved when he meets Cuffy Williams, an American kinsman stationed with a troop of soldiers at the castle in 1943. Will this blood relative save the family honor, or will his blood be as yellow as the rest of the Cantervilles?
The Halfway House
Basil Dearden and Alberto Cavalcanti | UK | 1944 | 95 minutes
A group of travellers, each with a personal problem that they want to hide, arrive at a mysterious Welsh country inn. There is a certain strangeness in the air as they are greeted by the innkeeper and his daughter (Mervyn Johns and his real life daughter Glynis Johns). Why are all the newspapers a year old? And why doesn’t Gwyneth seem to cast a shadow?
Lewis Allen | USA | 1944 | 99 minutes
A brother and sister move into an old seaside house they find abandoned for many years on the English coast. Their original enchantment with the house diminishes as they hear stories of the previous owners and meet their daughter (now a young woman) who now lives as a neighbor with her grandfather. Also heard are unexplained sounds during the night. It becomes obvious that the house is haunted. The reasons for the haunting and how they relate to the daughter whom the brother is falling in love with, prove to be a complex mystery. As they are compelled to solve it, the supernatural activity at the house increases to a frightening level.
David Lean | UK | 1945 | 96 minutes
Adapted from a play by Noel Coward, Charles (Rex Harrison) and his second wife Ruth (Constance Cummings), are haunted by the ghost of his first wife, Elvira (Kay Hammond). Medium Madame Arcati tries to help things out by contacting the ghost…