Sat 17 Mar 2012
THE GHOST GOES WEST. London Films, UK, 1935 / United Artists, US, 1936. Robert Donat, Eugene Pallette, Jean Parker, Everly Gregg, Elsa Lanchester. Screenplay by Robert Sherwood; cinematography: Harold Rosson. Director: René Clair. Shown at Cinevent 35, Columbus OH, May 2003.
Don’t blink or you’ll miss the elegant and icy Elsa Lanchester playing a psychic.
An American businessman buys a Scottish castle, dismantles it, and transports it (along with the resident ghost) to America where it is reassembled and restored. I kept waiting for the “magic” to happen, but this film remained earthbound until the ending when there was a somewhat brief sentimental rush that might qualify as the intrusion of a bit of magic.
The director is notable, the cast a good one, the premise promising, but the film is overproduced and the execution flat-footed. Or maybe I’m just one of those “sophisticates” the program notes refer to who “regularly prowl the art houses” and find Clair’s American films inferior to his French work. This film is, indeed, inferior to it and I don’t think you have to be a “sophisticate” to conclude that.