In the early 1900s, young widow Lucy Muir moves to the seaside English village of Whitecliff despite the fierce disapproval of her caterwauling mother-in-law and domineering sister-in-law. Despite its reputation of being haunted, she falls in love with and rents Gull Cottage, where she takes up residence with her young daughter Anna and her maid Martha.
On the first night, she is visited by the ghostly apparition of the former owner, a roguish but harmless sea captain named Daniel Gregg, who tells her that his death four years ago was accidental. He was trying to close a window which blew open during a storm, when he kicked his gas heater on with his foot in his sleep. He further explains that he had wanted to turn Gull Cottage into a home for retired seamen in generations to come.. After learning of Lucy's appreciation of the house, Daniel reluctantly agrees to allow her to live in Gull Cottage and promises to make himself known only to her. (Anna is too young for ghosts.) Despite a few differences and disagreements with Captain Gregg, Mrs. Muir and her household settle comfortably into Gull Cottage.
However, it is not long before Mrs. Muir's in-laws arrive with the news that Lucy's investment income has dried up, and they insist that Lucy move back to London with them. After his ghostly eviction of the in-laws, Captain Gregg comes up with an idea to save the house: he will dictate his memoirs to her and she will have them published, with the royalties going to her. During the course of writing the book, they find themselves falling in love, but as both realize it is a hopeless situation, Daniel tells her she should find a real (live) man.
When she visits the publisher in London, Lucy becomes attracted to suave Miles Fairley, a writer of children's stories under the nom-de-plume of "Uncle Neddy," who helps her obtain an interview. Despite a rocky beginning, the publisher agrees to publish the Captain's book. The Captain's racy recollections, published under the title Blood and Swash, become a bestseller, allowing Lucy to buy the house.
Fairley follows her back to Whitecliff and begins a whirlwind courtship. Captain Gregg, initially disgusted by their relationship, decides finally to cease being an obstacle to her happiness. While Lucy sleeps, Captain Gregg places the suggestion in her mind that she alone wrote the book and that he was just a dream. His task accomplished, Captain Gregg disappears from the house.
Shortly thereafter, while again visiting her publisher in London, Lucy decides to pay a surprise visit to Fairley's home. There she discovers to her horror that Miles is not only already married with two children, but also that this sort of thing has happened before with other women. Lucy leaves, heartbroken, and returns to Whitecliff to spend the rest of her life as a recluse in Gull Cottage, with Martha to look after her.
About ten years later, Anna returns with her fiancé, a Royal Navy lieutenant. In the course of a conversation with her mother, Anna reveals that Captain Gregg's ghost was her childhood companion during the same year Lucy and the Captain were acquainted. She also knew about her mother's relationship with Miles Fairley all the time, rekindling faint memories in her mother of the Captain. It is also revealed that Fate has not been kind to Fairley; he has become fat, bald and a heavy drinker, and his wife and children have finally left him.
Lucy spends a long peaceful life at the cottage, still tended to by Martha. One foggy night, as Lucy sits dozing in her bedroom chair before the gas fire, she dies. Captain Gregg appears before her at the moment of her death. Reaching out, he lifts her young spirit free of her aged body. The two walk arm in arm down the stairs, out of the front door, and into a brightly lit mist.Gene Tierney as Lucy Muir
Rex Harrison as Captain Daniel Gregg
George Sanders as Miles Fairley
Edna Best as Martha Huggin
Vanessa Brown as Anna Muir (as an adult)
Anna Lee as Mrs. Fairley
Natalie Wood as Anna Muir (as a child)
Robert Coote as Mr. Coombe
Isobel Elsom as Angelica Muir, Lucy's mother-in-Law
Victoria Horne as Eva Muir, Lucy's sister-in-Law
Stuart Holmes as Man ordered out of train compartment by the Captain (uncredited)
Whitford Kane as Mr. Sproule, the publisher (uncredited)
The New York Times reviewer called The Ghost and Mrs. Muir "a pleasurable film, despite its failings," singling out Edna Best for "by far the best performannce [sic]". In the writer's opinion, Harrison "has such an ingratiating personality that this compensates in large measure for the lack of characterization in his role", but Tierney "is a pretty girl, but has no depth of feeling as an actress."
Charles Lang received a 1947 Academy Award nomination for Cinematography.
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:2002: AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions – #73
2005: AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores – Nominated
2008: AFI's 10 Top 10:
Nominated Fantasy Film
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir was adapted as an hour-long radio play on the December 1, 1947 broadcast of Lux Radio Theater with Charles Boyer and Madeleine Carroll, and was also adapted on the August 16, 1951 Screen Director's Playhouse with Boyer and Jane Wyatt.
From 1968 to 1970, a TV series titled The Ghost & Mrs. Muir, starring Hope Lange and Edward Mulhare, aired on NBC and then ABC. It had the same premise and main characters as the book and film, but it was a situation comedy, downplaying the romantic fantasy elements and focusing on broad humor. The time and setting were changed, with the action taking place in a contemporary American coastal town. For the series, Mrs. Muir's first name was changed from Lucy to Carolyn and the children's names were changed from "Cyril" and "Anna" (in the original novel) to "Jonathan" and "Candace".
The film was released on Blu Ray in 2013 by 20th Century-Fox after being selected in Fox's Voice Your Choice promotion. It was previously released on DVD as part of the 20th Century Fox Studio Classics collection.