Streaming ‘Blithe Spirit’

A new British version of Blithe Spirit opens in theaters and online this Friday, February 19. Will it hold up against many prior incarnations of Noel Coward’s 1941 comic fantasy play, especially a classic 1945 British feature film?

Blithe Spirit is about a novelist, Charles, who invites a clairvoyant, Madame Arcati, to his house for an inspirational séance, but she inadvertently summons the spirit of his first wife, Elvira, who proceeds to wreak havoc on Charles and his second wife, Ruth.

The new Blithe Spirit stars Dan Stevens as Charles, Judi Dench as Madame Arcati, Leslie Mann as Elvira, and Isla Fisher as Ruth. To stream starting Friday, visit BlitheSpiritMovie.com for links to providers and pricing.

If you can’t wait for Friday, you can spend $10 to stream the film tomorrow, February 16, at 10 pm ET, followed by a Q&A with director Edward Hall. For tickets, visit the KCET Cinema Series on Eventive.

The 1945 version of Blithe Spirit, which won an Oscar for best visual effects, was directed by David Lean and starred Rex Harrison as Charles, Margaret Rutherford as Madame Arcati, Kay Hammond as Elvira, and Constance Cummings as Ruth. It’s available with HBO Max and Criterion Channel subscriptions, or for $3.99 from Amazon and iTunes.

Blithe Spirit was also adapted numerous times from 1946 to 1966 by British and American TV networks. Here’s the final one, originally in color, for NBC’s Hallmark Hall of Fame, starring Dirk Bogarde as Charles, Ruth Gordon as Madame Arcati, Rosemary Harris as Elvira, and Rachel Roberts as Ruth:

(Special note to Star Trek fans: over the final credits, William Shatner does an audio plug for the next day’s episode, “The Conscience of the King”)

Blithe Spirit, Brazil
Blithe Spirit, 1956

Ten years earlier, in 1956, Noel Coward himself had directed and starred as Charles in a CBS Ford Star Jubilee color production, with Mildred Natwick (Emmy nomination) as Madame Arcati, Lauren Bacall as Elvira, and Claudette Colbert as Ruth.

Alas, we couldn’t find even a clip of that Blithe Spirit, nor of a 2010 Brazilian version (above, right) being offered by Amazon for $1.99.

(Top photo: cast of the new ‘Blithe Spirit’)

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