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Ghost Goes West, The (1935)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment

Main image of Ghost Goes West, The (1935)
DirectorRene Clair
Production Co.London Film Productions
A Production byAlexander Korda
ScenarioGeoffrey Kerr
Original storyEric Keown
Director of PhotographyHarold Rosson

Cast: Robert Donat (Murdoch Glourie/Donald Glourie); Jean Parker (Peggy Martin); Eugene Pallette (Joe Martin); Elsa Lanchester (Lady Shepperton); Herbert Lomas (Fergus, a creditor)

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The Glourie ghost is doomed to roam his castle until he has avenged his family name. He has been waiting two hundred years when an American buys the castle and gives him his chance.

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The Ghost Goes West (d. René Clair, 1935) is a whimsical romantic comedy set on both sides of the Atlantic. The story of an eighteenth-century ghost doomed to haunt his old castle until he can avenge a family insult, the film wittily combines a romantic celebration of pre-industrial life in the Scottish highlands with a gentle satire of twentieth century American materialism. This perhaps explains its popularity with audiences at home and in the US. It provided both British and American audiences with points of identification and allowed all to revel in the nostalgia for simpler times.

The film was inspired by a short story, 'Sir Tristam Goes West', in Punch magazine, written by Eric Keown. London Films mogul Alexander Korda liked it and had a script written, with Charles Laughton in mind to play the lead. Frenchman René Clair, admired for his grasp of trick photography and his light comic touch, was brought on board to direct.

Once Clair and the American writer Robert Sherwood had rewritten the script, bringing the romantic elements to the fore, it was clear that a younger, more attractive actor was required. Rejecting Clair's first choice - Laurence Olivier - Korda went for the charismatic Robert Donat who, having just finished Hitchcock's The 39 Steps (1935), was at the height of his career.

To Clair's irritation, Korda interfered frequently during the production, demanding some scenes being reshot. However it might have damaged Korda's relationship with Clair (who never completed his three-picture contract), the intervention paid off, and the film not only grossed £450,000 at the box office, but was voted the best film of 1936 by the annual ballot of Film Weekly.

Lou Alexander

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Video Clips
1. The curse (3:20)
2. Ghost of the Glouries (2:43)
3. A visitation (2:18)
Original Posters
Production stills
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Bouchier, Chili (1909-1999)
Donat, Robert (1905-1958)
Korda, Alexander (1893-1956)
Lanchester, Elsa (1902-1986)
Alexander Korda and London Films