The Uninvited (1944)

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An appealing old house leads two siblings to impulsively buy it, seeking to escape their urbanesque existence in inner London. They quickly discover a ghostly sobbing which recurs ever so often and which they can’t get rid of. Desperately requesting clues that might help them, they unwind a grand mystery involving the family they bought it from, and since their continuous efforts to interrogate the current head of the family do not help them, they realize they are pulling themselves closer to a shocking truth they would’ve never expected.


Genre:
Horror

Country:
USA

Language:
English
.

Full plot:
“The Uninvited” from 1944 takes place at the “haunted shores” – a misty coastline stretching over Devonshire, Cornwall and Ireland, known for its many spooky tales. Two siblings from London, Roderick Fitzgerald and Pamela Fitzgeral, have taken a “brother and sister” holiday, and are driving through Devonshire (what is now known simply as Devon). They come across a beautiful, deserted manor, named Windward, and are touched by its similarity to a house they knew in their childhoods. Their dog spots a squirrel, sitting before the front door, and follows it into the manor through an open window, forcing the siblings to venture inside as well in order to get their dog back. The two siblings are swept away by the wonderful mix of Victorian and Baroque impressions and can’t beat the feeling of nostalgia. They “pretend they’re buying it” as they venture up the rounded stairs and past the grand chandelier. All doors in the house are open, except one door upstairs which is locked, so they begin to ponder that the room beyond might be in such a bad condition that the owner doesn’t want anyone to see it. Pam suddenly decides that she wants it and tells rod that he should quit his job as a music critic and compose his own music instead (and old dream of his). They seek out Commander Beech, the owner of the house, in his estate, where they are greeted by his granddaughter, Stella Meredith. In spite of Stella’s wishes, Beech offers them Windward for £1200. –An offer which they gladly accept.

Out of enthusiasm, they inspect their new property a little more to discuss what needs to be done to the house before they can begin living in it. Having obtained the key to the room which was previously locked off, they discover that it is essentially an atelier and not at all that bad, but on the other hand, it’s not exactly the most luxurious room either, since it lacks the vintage appeal which is found throughout the rest of the house. Moreover, it seems unexpectedly cold and damp. Roderick believes it will make an excellent workroom, as he needs space for his musical instruments. As they sit down on an old piece of furniture to talk further, a little bouquet of wild roses, which Pamela picked up just outside Windward, withers in only a few seconds. Neither of them seems to notice, but they do notice that Bobby, their dog, doesn’t even want to go upstairs at all.

Outside, they see Stella standing and watching the manor with a worried look. They decide to head back to the inn they’re staying at.

In the nearby town, Stella sees Roderick packing the car to leave the inn. The plan is that Pamela is to stay at the inn while Roderick arranges for their old furniture to be shipped from storage to Windward. When Roderick buys some Tobacco, the local tobacconist informs him that a couple of leaseholders, who used to occupy Windward, became known in the village for being debtors, and soon set off rumors about the house being haunted, most likely so that they could cancel their lease quicker. The tobacconist also informs that Beech’s daughter (Stella’s mother, and Beech’s only child for whom he originally purchased the manor) fell off the cliff by the shore and died, and how this shattered Beech.

Outside the shop, Stella approaches Roderick and apologizes for objecting so sternly to Windward’s sale the other day, and that she felt her deceased mother advising her to apologize. She explains how much it bothers her that her grandfather hates Windward because his daughter died while living there. Roderick tells Stella that she is wasting her time trying to protect the house, and that he and Pamela will be sure to bring the manor back to its former glory and not let it wane. He then rents a little boat and takes her for a short sale to bring her mind on other thoughts. When he becomes seasick, Stella gives him a mimosa-scented cloth, and reveals that it came from a bottle of mimosa (her mother’s favorite perfume) that she received many years ago – and one which she says to have spared and saved for and incredibly long time.

After having done what needs to be done in London, Roderick arrives late in the evening at Windward with Lizzie Flynn, the family’s old housekeeper, who is very impressed too. Pamela tells them that Bobby the dog has for some reason left the house and ventured into the wilds. Lizzie has brought her cat, Whiskey and Pamela has made some soup and installed all of the family’s old furniture – furniture that none of them have seen in over 10 years. Pamela explains had invited Stella over for tea in the meantime but that her grandfather had turned her in sick.

Lizzie, who is used to rule the household with an iron fist, calls for the two siblings to go to sleep and they agree that it’s about time, however, Whiskey the cat refuses to go upstairs (where all the bedrooms are), just like Bobby did. Also, as they walk up the stairs, the candles they are walking around with almost blow out. Pamela tells Roderick that there is something they need to talk about, although she changes her mind and says that it can wait until next morning after all.

At night, Roderick is woken up by a crying female voice, and assumes it is Pamela so he gets up to find her, but she is already awake. She clarifies to him that it’s a phenomenon habitual to the house and that she has already searched the house to find the source but never finds anything. She assures him though, that the cries will subtly die out upon the break of dawn, and so they do.

The day after, Roderick seeks Beech’s counsel on the matter, but doesn’t get anything substantial, other than that the spectral cries must have begun after the death of Mary, Beech’s daughter. When Stella walks into the middle of the conversation Roderick reckons that she is far from sick. Beech claims that she is, but that it doesn’t show. He quickly sends her of to church, saying that he will be with her shortly. Roderick asks him why he won’t let Stella visit Windward, but he refuses to go in depth with it. He then leaves for church as well, although Roderick does manage to intercept Stella, who I walking separately, and throw in another invitation for the evening which she accepts.

After having been to church, Stella tells her grandfather that he can’t expect her to decline the hospitality of the Fitzgerald-siblings, after which he contacts Miss Holloway on the phone and asks to meet her the same evening. Holloway is head of a social institution and was one of Mary’s closest friends.

When Stella visits Windward in the evening, she tells the Fitzgeralds that she hasn’t seen the house from the inside since she was three years old. She recounts a dream she seems to remember, wherein she was in her old room, fearing that her nightlight would be put out. Roderick shows her the new musical studio he has arranged in the former atelier upstairs, and she tells him that this was where her father painted a lovely portrait of her mother – although contested by Carmel – a Spanish model who frequented his studio for several reasons…

Stella asks Roderick to play the piano for her. Roderick plays “To Stella, By Starlight”, a tune he wrote himself. The candles almost blow out and the tune becomes graver. Stella reminds herself of the place she’s in and flees the manor immediately, heading for the cliff. Roderick prevents her from running over the edge. Stella recognizes the dead tree besides her and figures that this must the point of the cliff where Mary fell to her death. Pamela then reels the two in for supper. They hear a scream and run to check on Lizzie. Lizzie claims that she saw a misty specter haunting the upstairs in the vague shape of a woman. Roderick is skeptical though. Stella overhears the conversation and heads up the stairs. Pamela and Roderick feed Lizzie some sherry and head upstairs to look for Stella.

Stella lies comatose on the floor in the old studio and the temperature has fallen to that of a deep-freezer. Pamela has probed the area well and already found a doctor. Dr. Scott comes to their aid discovers that she fainted out of a mix of fear and being cooled down. Pamela gives Stella some soup and Scott commands that Stella stays put for the night. Scott also tells them that he found Bobby frightened on the street

Scott stays at Windward for the night, although awake and watching. He narrates that Carmel was an ill-intentioned Spanish gypsy with a bad character. Mary Meredith’s husband, a man of equally bad character, had a lasting affair with Carmel which threatened to make the whole family hated in the village. Out of love for her husband, Mary kept defending the actions of the two until her death. Mary fell from the local cliff while trying to save Carmel from suicide. Carmel then died a week after Mary died. Some people suspect that Carmel simply murdered Mary at the cliff. This whole story about the family subsequently had a relaunch when Mary’s husband then died abroad 3 years ago.

The doctor keeps track of the time to hear precisely when the spectral cries begin and end, but no cries are heard that night. Instead, three notice a scent flowery perfume – Mimosa, to be specific. They see what appears to be a nightlight in the doorway to Stella’s room. When they go to check on her, she is already awake and convinced that Mary is with her. The others want to take her home, but she refuses to leave her mother. Scott drives her home though, seeing as they already feared for her safety twice that night. Pamela concludes the reason why nobody heard any crying that night was because that the ghost of Mary Meredith indeed was close to Stella and therefore had found happiness and peace, and the haunting must have logically ceased. Thus, Pamela declares the problem solved.

She heads to Roderick’s workroom to check whether it’s still cold and damp, and it totally is. The crying-sound then returns. Pamela tries to talk to Mary’s ghost (assuming it is Mary) but the crying-sound won’t cease.

Roderick goes to Beech’s house to talk to Stella. He tells her that he is planning to demolish the haunted house and move back to London. He asks Stella to leave the village and come with him to London. She refuses and says that her mother needs her.

Scott, Roderick and Pamela agree to invite Stella to a séance at Windward. They use a round table as the Ouija board and a wineglass as the planchette. Stella makes contact to a spirit which claims to be her mother. Stella asks the spirit if she should stay away from Windward as the others advised her to. Scott and Roderick attempt to force the glass to land on “yes”. The glass lands on “no” instead. Stella noticed that she is being played and commands that Scott and Roderick let go of the glass (Now only Pamela and Stella are touching the glass). The Ouija board then spells out “I guard”. Stella asks who she is being guarded from, and the Ouija board attempts to spell “Carmel”. The glass starts to shake beyond their control so Stella and Pamela let go of it. The glass is suddenly tossed into the fireplace besides them. Stella then closes her eyes and enters a trance-state. Pamela asks her if she identifies as Mary Meredith. Stella shouts (in Spanish) that they should not listen to the “liars” and that her love has been “stolen”. The doorbell rings but nobody moves. The mimosa-scent reappears but the candles also die out and the room becomes chilling, giving the impression that two ghosts are present at the same time. The doorbell keeps ringing and Pamela wants to open but Roderick stops her. In front of the door, the mist forms into a ghostly, humanoid shape. The misty ghost disrupts and wanes as Beech breaks and enters through another door to rescue his granddaughter.

Scott drives Beech and Stella home and puts Stella to rest. Scott is then told that Beech and Stella are no longer his patients. Following this, Beech brings in Holloway, and Stella shows that she fears her for some reason. Holloway claims that Stella is far more ill than seemingly so, and offers to institutionalize her.

Afterwards, Lizzie tells Pamela and Roderick that she has been speaking to a local farmer who was at the place of death when Mary dies. The farmer, Mr. Jessup told her that a trained nurse, Holloway, was present at the scene when it happened. He also told her about the institution Holloway is running: The Mary Meredith Retreat.

Pamela and Roderick visit the retreat to talk to Holloway. Holloway says that when Stella was just three years old, Carmel took her from her nursery and took her to the cliff by the dead tree to throw her unto the rocks and kill her. Mary then caught her and intervened, and as the two wrestled, Carmel brought Mary down with her fists and tossed her over the cliff. Carmel ran into the night and caught a lethal case of pneumonia. Carmel died of the pneumonia a week later despite Holloway’s efforts to save her.

Pamela and Roderick leaves and Holloway goes to talk to Stella. Stella claims that she feels quite healthy but Holloway disagrees.

Click here to unfold the remaining story (SPOILER WARNING)

Pamela and Roderick visits Dr. Scott’s office and tell him of their findings. Scott knows her as “Holy Holloway of Wealth through Harmony”. Scott looks through the archives of his predecessor, Dr. Rudd. Dr. Rudd records that Carmel indeed did die of pneumonia, but that her condition was intentionally exacerbated through acts of “criminal negligence” on Nurse Holloway’s behalf. Scott gives them Rudd’s medical journal and tells them to keep looking for clues. Scott is then hastily called to Beech’s estate, where Beech has somehow fallen very ill.

The siblings arrive back at Windward and Scott arrives shortly thereafter. Lizzie is afraid of paranormal activity and leaves the manor to stay at Farmer Jessup’s place for the night. Scott has discovered that Stella has been institutionalized and wants to retrieve her. They call Holloway in the phone and say they wish to pick Stella up at the Mary Meredith Retreat. Holloway then tells Stella that she has arranged for a transport to Biddlecombe (Windward). Stella then jumps on a train, but is told that she must not let Beech know about her staying at Windward.

Pamela, Roderick and Scott walks into Holloway’s office and demands to see Stella. Holloway explains that she has already instructed Stella to go to Windward, and that she hopes for her that she’ll fall over the cliff to complete the picture. The party then leaves to catch Stella.

Stella arrives at Windward and begins searching for Pamela and Roderick. As she searches, she hears some gloomy sounds, and is called into Roderick’s workroom (the old atelier). Her grandfather sits in there, cold and sick in an armchair. He explains that he walked all the way to Windward out of an emergency. He instructs her to leave him but she refuses. He then faints and sinks into the chair. The misty ghost then forms again behind her and begins to approach her. She screams and runs toward the cliff.

The rescue party rolls in just in time to stop her at the tip of the cliff where the dead tree is. The cliff suddenly breaks and erodes under her feet. Stella tumbles down the cliff but manages to grab some roots belonging to the dead tree. The party pulls her up from the cliff and heads straight to Roderick’s workroom. After doing his best, Scott exclaims that he cannot save Beech’s life. Stella believes that she saw glimpse of her mother, the way her father had painted her, and concludes that her own mother must have attempted to kill her by hypnotizing her into running off the cliff, and then kill her grandfather by freezing him to death in his illness.

Unexpectedly, the doors to the room blows open and the wind blows over and flips the pages of Rudd’s journal, lying on a table. Analyzing Rudd’s journal, the party figures out that Stella is Carmel’s child, adopted into Windward since Mary herself either couldn’t or wouldn’t bear children. Also, the smell of mimosa originally came from Carmel, who couldn’t stay away from the manor as instructed to. All of this culminated in the deadly conflict that left Stella’s true identity unknown until now.

They all listen carefully to discover that the previous spectral crying has now turned into joyful laughter. Stella concludes that all ghosts are now satisfied, but the temperature in the house instantly drops and Roderick goes up the stairs to face Mary’s ghost, telling her that he now knows the full truth. He learns that he can chase the ghost away by laughing at it, and afterwards, the cat, Whiskey, begins to walk up the stairs, proving that the ghost is gone and that the haunting of the house has finally ended.

Cast:
Ruth Hussey as Pamela Fitzgerald
Ray Milland as Roderick Fitzerald
Donald Crisp as Commander Beech
Alan Napier as Doctor Scott
Gail Russell as Stella Meredith
Cornelia Otis Skinner as Miss Holloway
Barbara Everest as Lizzie Flynn

Director:
Lewis Allen

Writers:
Dodie Smith, Frank Partos and Dorothy Macardle

Links:
The Uninvited (1944) on IMDB

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