The Uninvited (1944) Film Review B-

DIRECTOR: Lewis Allen.
BOTTOM LINE: A Queer Ghost Story with so many lesbian characters that it’s challenging to keep count! It’s either FOUR (three living and one dead) or FIVE (three living and two dead). “The Uninvited” was a big hit back in 1944 and still entertains. The film opens with lesbian number one, Pamela Fitzgerald, played by Ruth Hussey. Pamela and her brother Rick (Ray Miland, then at the peak of his Hollywood stardom) fall in love with an old house on the Cornwall coast of England. The way director Lewis Allen introduces his film; you initially think they are newlyweds, which is quite naughty of him. It’s only after you notice Huussey’s very boyish “do” that you know this cannot be the case! Heavens! Our brother and sister combo discover a room with a chill – it’s a few degrees cooler than the rest of their dream house. Turns out the ghost of lesbian number two haunts it. That would be Mary Meredith. Mary, like Hitchcock’s Rebecca four years earlier, died under mysterious circumstances by falling off a nearby cliff, and it seems that she wants her daughter Stella (Gail Russell, looking beautiful before the effects of her alcoholism began to show) to die in the same way. However, the communication between mother and daughter feels more erotic than maternal, and Stella likes it! Good grief, it’s lesbian number three. It also transpires that Mary, before she passed to the other side of the Sapphic divide, had a female lover, leading us to lesbian number four, Miss Holloway, played by gay writer and actress Cornelia Otis Skinner. Now, this is where things get complicated. It turns out that there is a second, seemingly more benevolent ghost named Carmel, the mistress of Stella’s father. Carmel is also very interested in Stella. Is she lesbian number five? Or are her concerns more maternal than Mary’s? Well, there will be no spoilers here!
The movie gives you the occasional shiver, and it’s fun to see how Hussey and Skinner interpret their Queer characters – Hussey taking the comedic approach and Skinner giving us a variation on Judith Anderson’s Mrs. Danvers. Today, what dazzles are Charles Lang’s immaculate, Oscar-nominated, black-and-white cinematography and Victor Young’s haunting theme for Stella, which was later made into a song with lyrics by Ned Washington entitled “Stella by Starlight.” The costumes are by gay costume designer Edith Head. Adapted from the novel by Dorothy Macardle.
The film was so hugely popular that director Allen and star Russell went on to make another horror movie/ghost story called “The Unseen,” another monster hit, which was released the following year.
Now, as to Ray Milland’s Rick’s sexual preferences, well, he is a music critic. Hmmmmmm!

STREAMING: “The Uninvited ” is unavailable for streaming. However, the DVD can be purchased at Amazon.


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