Spirit was the second of three
adaptations produced by Lean's
new company Cineguild.
Ronald Neame, co-founder
of the company alongside producer
Anthony Havelock-Allan, was again the
Director of Photography, and the film was another
Coward himself performed
the witty introductory voice-over. With its cast of distinguished comedy
actors, the film did well with post-war audiences, but
Coward professed himself
disappointed with the result, although
Lean had warned him that
'high comedy' was not really his forte.
The film is stylish. The action is set at the
Condomines' comfortable upper middle-class home in Kent, and great care was
taken to ensure the right look for the set. An actor like
Rex Harrison was quite at
ease in the world of the play, but
Lean himself reportedly
found it not to his own taste. The special
effects are convincing and
Lean's lighting and framing give it visual interest. The action is
stagey, so all depends on the cast and they play wonderfully, even though
Harrison was considered by
some to look too young for the role of the middle-aged Charles.
Kay Hammond and
Margaret Rutherford had created their roles on the stage; the play
premiered at London's Piccadilly Theatre on 1941 and was still running when
Lean to make a film
Hammond, in her floaty green chiffon gown, green hair and pale make-up,
is a sexy and mischievous Elvira, employing her throaty, theatrical drawl to
good comic effect. The American actress
Constance Cummings' Ruth,
by contrast, is brisk and sensible.
performance of Madame Arcati has passed into theatre legend and she recreates
the role of the eccentric and rather incompetent medium effectively for film.
Her joy at the realisation that she has actually managed to summon up a spirit
is beautifully judged.