Last week’s release of Charlie St. Cloud, with Zac Efron as a young man who visits every day with the ghost of his younger brother, made me think of some of my favorite movie ghosts. What are yours?
1. “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” A young widow (the exquisite Gene Tierney) finds her new home haunted by the ghost of a handsome sea captain (Rex Harrison) in this bittersweet romance that inspired a 1960’s television series.
2. “Ghost” The late Patrick Swayze played a ghost trying to help his girlfriend (Demi Moore) identify the man responsible for his murder with the help of a medium surprised to find out she is not a fake (an Oscar-winning performance from Whoopi Goldberg).
3. “Portrait of Jennie” A young artist (Joseph Cotten) has a series of mysterious encounters with Jennie, who inspires him to create the title work of art. When he first sees her, she is a child, wearing the clothes and remembering incidents of a generation before. But over a period of months he sees her again, each time several years older than the last until she is a beautiful young woman (Jennifer Jones) and he finds himself falling in love with her.
4. “Truly Madly Deeply” Juliet Stevenson gives a radiant performance in this story of a woman devastated by loss who is overjoyed at first to be haunted by the ghost of the man she loved (Alan Rickman).
5. “The Sixth Sense” Bruce Willis is a therapist trying to help a young boy (Haley Joel Osment) who “sees dead people” in this haunting drama with a legendary twist.
6. “Heart and Souls” Four souls with unfinished business become guardians of a baby born as their bus crashed. When he grows up (played by Robert Downey, Jr.) they enlist his help in resolving the issues that have kept them from entering heaven.
7. “The Unforgiven” A brother and sister (Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey) move into a mysterious abandoned house by the sea, even though their dog refuses to cross the property line. It turns out the place is haunted and a tangled story has to be revealed to prevent another murder. This was one of the first non-comedy ghost stories produced by Hollywood and it introduced the lovely song “Stella by Starlight,” later recorded by many jazz musicians and singers.
8. “A Guy Named Joe”/”Always” “A Guy Named Joe” was Spencer Tracy, a WWII bomber pilot known for taking great risks, despite the pleading of the woman he loves (Irene Dunne). When he is killed in action, he comes back to help her find love again. Steven Spielberg did an updated version with Richard Dreyfuss and Holly Hunter called “Always,” featuring the luminous Audrey Hepburn as an angel.
9. “Topper” Cary Grant’s star-making role was as screen history’s most debonair ghost, half of a glamorous young couple who try to teach a milquetoast banker (Oscar-winner Roland Young) how to have some fun. Watch for Billie Burke (best known as Glinda the Good Witch in “The Wizard of Oz”) as the banker’s wife. This film led to two sequels and a 1950’s television series.
10. “The Canterville Ghost” This delightful family treasure based on a book by Oscar Wilde and updated to WWII has Robert Young and Margaret O’Brien as the descendants of a 17th century nobleman (Charles Laughton) cursed to haunt the family castle until his cowardice is redeemed by a member of the family. It has been remade a couple of times and there is even an opera version, but this one is the best and available for viewing online.
Other favorites: the ghosts of “A Christmas Carol,” “The Others,” “Ghostbusters,” “The Haunting” (the original version), “Poltergeist,” and “The Eclipse”