The Smiling Ghost


1h 11m 1941
The Smiling Ghost

Brief Synopsis

A newswoman investigates a haunted house.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Mystery
Release Date
Sep 6, 1941
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 11m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
6,401ft

Synopsis

Unemployed engineer Lucky Downing is hired by wealthy Mrs. Bentley to feign an engagement to her granddaughter Elinor Bentley Fairchild. Unknown to Lucky, all of Elinor's former fiancés have suffered horrible accidents. Two of them died as a result and the third, Paul Myron, has been confined to an iron lung for three years. Elinor, who is aware of her grandmother's plan, meets Lucky and his nervous valet Clarence at the station, and Lucky is delighted to discover that she is very beautiful. Her relatives are a different matter: Sinister great-uncle Ames Bentley has a collection of shrunken heads; cousin Tennant Bentley has a drinking problem; and Uncle Hilton Fairchild and his wife Rose will lose part of their fortune when Elinor marries. That night, as Lucky prepares for bed, Tennant objects to his presence in what had been Tennant's room. Lucky agrees to switch rooms with Tennant, and later, Tennant is attacked by a man who resembles Elinor's first fiancé, John Eggleston. In the confusion, Lucky meets reporter Lil Barstow, who has been writing about Elinor's romantic troubles for the local newspaper. Lil tells Lucky the truth about his predecessors and persuades him to leave. He changes his mind and stays, however, when Elinor confesses that she has fallen in love with him. When Lucky tries to stop Lil from writing the story of his broken engagement, she takes him to visit Paul, who expresses his belief that Eggleston is not really dead and is killing Elinor's fiancés out of jealousy. Lil and Lucky head for the cemetery to make sure that Eggleston is really in his grave, and Lucky is attacked and shut in Eggleston's coffin. After Lil rescues him, Lucky suggests that he and Elinor pretend to marry in order to lure the killer out of hiding. She coaxes him to make it a real ceremony, to Lil's dismay. Lil is sent to cover the wedding, and while writing in the library, is startled by a man who appears through a secret panel. Her screams bring Lucky rushing to her aid, but she has disappeared when he arrives. Norton, a policeman masquerading as a butler, locks Lucky and Clarence in the same room, believing that they will be safe there. By accident, they discover the secret panel and find the missing Lil. Lucky is attacked by the killer, but fends him off and reveals that he is Paul disguised by a mask that makes him look like Eggleston. Paul pretended to be confined to an iron mask and killed the others out of revenge when Elinor refused to marry a cripple. With the mystery solved, Lucky confesses that he has fallen in love with Lil and will marry her rather than Elinor.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Mystery
Release Date
Sep 6, 1941
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 11m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
6,401ft

Articles

The Smiling Ghost


Warner Brothers' answer to Paramount's successful horror comedy The Cat and the Canary (1939) adheres to the established genre pattern: a good natured goofball (Wayne Morris, subbing for Bob Hope) and his African American pal (Willie Best, who had partnered with Hope in The Ghost Breakers [1940]) take up residence in a spooky mansion where "black widow" Alexis Smith wants to know why her last three husbands have met with horrible fates. Based on an original story by Stuart Palmer (author of the Hildegarde Withers mystery novels, which garnered their own film series at RKO), The Smiling Ghost is derivative but charming stuff, rich in sliding panels, clutching hands, and characters who are not all they claim to be. Hollywood's original Kid Galahad (1937) - Elvis Presley would play the role in 1962 - beefy Wayne Morris left movies behind him to enlist in World War II after making The Smiling Ghost, which was released just three months prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Though deemed too big for flight school, Morris pulled enough strings to get him into the cockpit of a Navy Hellcat and was credited with shooting down several Japanese flyers in combat and aiding in the sinking of several Japanese battleships. The decorated war hero died prematurely in 1959 at age 45 but not before being cast against type as a cowardly army lieutenant in Stanley Kubrick's blistering anti-war I drama Paths of Glory (1957). By Richard Harland Smith
The Smiling Ghost

The Smiling Ghost

Warner Brothers' answer to Paramount's successful horror comedy The Cat and the Canary (1939) adheres to the established genre pattern: a good natured goofball (Wayne Morris, subbing for Bob Hope) and his African American pal (Willie Best, who had partnered with Hope in The Ghost Breakers [1940]) take up residence in a spooky mansion where "black widow" Alexis Smith wants to know why her last three husbands have met with horrible fates. Based on an original story by Stuart Palmer (author of the Hildegarde Withers mystery novels, which garnered their own film series at RKO), The Smiling Ghost is derivative but charming stuff, rich in sliding panels, clutching hands, and characters who are not all they claim to be. Hollywood's original Kid Galahad (1937) - Elvis Presley would play the role in 1962 - beefy Wayne Morris left movies behind him to enlist in World War II after making The Smiling Ghost, which was released just three months prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Though deemed too big for flight school, Morris pulled enough strings to get him into the cockpit of a Navy Hellcat and was credited with shooting down several Japanese flyers in combat and aiding in the sinking of several Japanese battleships. The decorated war hero died prematurely in 1959 at age 45 but not before being cast against type as a cowardly army lieutenant in Stanley Kubrick's blistering anti-war I drama Paths of Glory (1957). By Richard Harland Smith

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Although director Lewis Seiler receives screen credit, a May 21, 1941 Hollywood Reporter news item notes that A. Edward Sutherland replaced him, pushing back the start of the film. A second news item dated May 22, 1941 contradicts this, however, and states that Sutherland was assigned to another film, Nine Lives Are Not Enough, which he did direct. According to a pre-production press release included in the file on the film at the AMPAS Library, the film was based on a mystery story by Philip Wylie and B. A. Bergman. The SAB does not credit them, however, and the extent of their contribution to the completed film, if any, has not been determined.