Blithe Spirit



  • Nöel Coward's comedy about a troublesome ghost.It opened in 1941 at the Piccadilly Theatre and ran for four and ahalf years before enjoying a lengthy run in New York. The originalcast included Margaret Rutherford, Kay Hammond, and Fay Compton. Thestory focuses on Charles, a cynical writer who accidentally summonsthe ghost of his first wife, Elvira, at a séance. She triesto kill him but mistakenly kills his new wife, so Charles now hastwo ghosts to nag him. Some objected to the risque dialogue, includingGraham Greene who found the play "a weary exhibition of badtaste".

    Coward underwent one of the most frustrating experiences ofhis career when CBS decided to broadcast a live production of BlitheSpirit in 1955. The sponsor, Ford Motors, tried to censor themore risque lyrics and several lines. Neither did Coward like theleading actress, Claudette Colbert, whom he found "bossy"and "extremely tiresome". She insisted on keepingone side of her face to the cameras at all times, causing all scenegroupings to be rearranged. After one rehearsal, during which sherepeatedly fluffed her lines, she assured Coward that she knew thembackwards. "And that's exactly the way you are saying them thismorning," he fumed. At such moments, Coward thought of his CBScheque and murmured to himself "Thirty thousand pounds, thirtythousand pounds, thirty thousand pounds!"