Blithe Spirit

Ghosts or Double Exposures ?

Nothing similar in the family albums but  in this family theatre program are some ghosts of a different kind on the stage of the Comedy  Theatre in Melbourne in 1945.  The  Blithe Spiritghost  in question is the spirit of a man’s first wife who turns up after a seance.  She can be seen  (and heard)  by the husband but not by the second wife or anyone else.

And of course the play is Blithe Spirit by the witty and cheeky Noel Coward.  Wikipedia reminds  us that ” the play concerns the socialite and novelist Charles Condomine, who invites the eccentric medium and clairvoyant, Madame Arcati, to his house to conduct a séance, hoping to gather material for his next book.

The scheme backfires when he is haunted by the ghost of his annoying and temperamental first wife, Elvira, after the séance.    Elvira makes continual attempts to disrupt Charles’s marriage to his second wife, Ruth, who cannot see or hear the ghost.”

But there are many more twist and turns before the end.

Perhaps they should have staged the show a block away in The Princess Theatre which has its own resident ghost, that of a baritone playing in Faust who died just off stage in 1888.

In May 1945 Australia was still at war with Japan and the Military Hospital in the suburb of Heidelberg was very busy. The hospital had a theatre and with a replica Blithe Spirit set constructed the whole cast was able to pile Blithe Spirit - backinto a bus and go to Heidelberg to put on the show one afternoon.

With patients, bed cases  and staff there was no standing room left, with some patients needing to sit in the orchestra pit.  A most appreciative audience.

Meanwhile just across the road from the Comedy Theatre was His Majesty’s Theatre which that same year staged  The Desert Song with Max Oldaker  and his interpretation of The Red Shadow which I wrote about in a previous post

Also in 1945 a film was made of Blithe Spirit with Rex Harrison as the male lead and the wonderful Margaret Rutherford as Madame Arcati who conducts the seance.

Australian TV viewers might see a slight overlapping of the theme with the recent ABC production of “Glitch”  where the fortunate/unfortunate husband has both his living and his dead wife in his life at the same time.

Whereas Noel Coward was strictly for the laughs, Glitch is a serious look at the “what if” situation.  It has been described as an Australian Gothic and much of the shooting was done on summer evenings in my old home towm, the old gold town of Castlemaine in Central Victoria.

Further connections to ghosts and double exposures can be found in this week’ Sepia Saturday post.





8 thoughts on “Blithe Spirit

  1. jofeath

    There have been a few movies based on the concept of a spirit returning to his or her life partner, like Ghost for example, and perhaps they got the original idea from Blithe Spirit. I’ll definitely go and see that if it’s ever put on as a play again, or alternatively the movie is shown. I enjoyed Glitch, apart from the inconclusive ending, but of course it leaves things open for another series. Interesting to know that the location was Castlemaine Cemetery.


      1. boundforoz Post author

        I’m not sure about the cemetery but many of the street scenes are recognizable, particularly the lovely old verandah posts and the lacework on the balconies. I wrote about the hotel in the opening scenes in a previous blog. Someone should put together a “Visit the Glitch” tour in Castlemaine ! I know they have used the old police station, town hall and hospital and that they have used Tomkies Road for other shots.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Deb Gould

    Blithe Spirit one of my favorites — and there’s a BBC program about a family sharing a house with the ghost of its previous owner…quite clever. And who can forget The Ghost and Mrs. Muir?


  3. La Nightingail

    “Blithe Spirit” is a wonderful play – full of laughter, yet some serious contemplating – and has undoubtedly led to similar situations in other plays & movies – one of my favorite being the 1963 comedy “Move Over Darling” with Doris Day, James Garner, & Polly Bergen wherein a man – whose wife, thought to have perished in a plane crash seven years earlier – is preparing to marry again when his ‘dead’ wife suddenly shows up.



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