An Evening With The Uninvited (1944)

Last night Meril and I were burrowing in blankets on a chilly and windy evening at home alone, as Joe is away for work this week. We decided to catch up on another film on my list of movies to check out this fall. The weather the last few evenings here in the St. Louis area could not have been more perfect for an old black and white spooky film, so we made hot beverages (well I did, anyway), lit several candles, and popped in the recently released 1944 film The Uninvited. The cast includes Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey, Donald Crisp, Cornelia Otis Skinner, Dorothy Stickney, Barbara Everest, Alan Napier, and Gail Russell.

When it was over, we went out for our bedtime walk. Not only was it bitterly cold, but the earlier rain and wind had turned many of the trees naked for the first time this season. The misty cloud cover in the moonlit sky created an eerie, muted, black and white scene. Our day was closing with quite the Hollywood ending, minus having to retire to a quiet and cold bedroom by ourselves. I resisted turning the heat on and imagined we lived in an earlier time, wishing we had an old fireplace to take the chill away.


Some of my brief thoughts about the film

Meril watching (or not) The Uninvited.

Meril watching (or not) The Uninvited.

It appears Meril missed quite a bit of it, but I loved the movie. In this DVD, released by The Criterion Collection, the film is completely remastered and presented in its original aspect ratio on widescreen televisions. For the few times I got lost in the plot, I was able to refer to the very informative booklet included with the DVD. It includes several pages (with photos) of an essay by critic Farran Smith Nehme and a 1997 interview with Lewis Allen, who was actually a first-time director for this film.

The special features include a “visual essay” by filmmaker Michael Almereyda, which discussed some of the details of the film, the people involved, etc. It was very detailed and interesting. One of the things he mentions is how Gail Russell, who plays Stella, was plucked out of high school by the studio for her beauty. She was horribly shy, not confident, and the stress and anxiety drove her to drinking at such a young age. It was the alcohol that killed her at the age of 36. Apparently it was a common opinion, even by the director, that she was a poor actor with a studio contract who they were stuck with. Since I found her performance to be beautiful, it all surprised me. I felt that Donald Crisp, who was a respected academy award-winning actor by this time, had a horrible performance. It is said that at the time he was insulted to have to work with such a newcomer with no talent and experience. With the exception of Crisp, I thought the cast was spectacular! But what do I know?

I also want to point out that this 1944 film did an excellent job on several scenes with incredibly spooky ectoplasmic ghost manifestations. I expected to laugh at dated effects, but they really held up and are actually quite beautiful and impressive for 1944.

The film includes an original song, Stella by Starlight, which in the plot is written by one of the main characters, and in real life was later arranged with lyrics and covered by many famous artists. Here’s an overly dramatic but beautiful orchestral version. It is definitely not this dramatic in the film.



A haunting bit of information regarding this song was shared in the special features. Apparently in 1961, Gail Russell was known to frequently call into a particular radio station and request to hear Stella by Starlight. It is rumored that the night before she was found dead (apparently alcohol related), she had called in for her traditional request. 

Like many of these old films that I like, if you require your spooky old movies to include the classic old house (a beautiful and massive one), having to use candles in place of electricity, a séance scene (which you KNOW I enjoyed), and some really fantastic ghostly moaning, then add this to your list for sure! Click HERE to see the original trailer for the film. 


Next up! This year’s pumpkins turn into Jack-O-Lanterns!

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About Patrick Keller

Patrick Keller is an educator, blogger, and the host of the Big Séance Podcast, which is a place for paranerds to have an open discussion on all things paranormal, but specifically topics like ghosts and hauntings, paranormal research, spirit communication, psychics and mediums, and life after death. He’s the founder of the now inactive Missouri Spirit Seekers and has spent a lot of time experimenting with spirit communication tools and techniques, such as EVP. Patrick also has a passion for spending hours at a time in cemeteries and loves cemetery photography. Visit! View all posts by Patrick Keller

8 responses to “An Evening With The Uninvited (1944)

  • davidalmeida23

    Patrick, I saw The Uninvited. Gail Russell played an excellent role. I really think Michael Almereyda, the director, or whoever, made a mistake in letting her go . . . but what do I know?

    BTW – I love your movie picks. Although when I see reviews on movies like Session Nine, I realize how disturbing they can be. I think I need to take a much needed break from these old dramas for a while. I’ve been focusing on these old movies way too much lately. Old memories like Session Nine have their place. I feel like I need to spend time focusing on my relationships. I’m sure you know how too much TV can be distracting. Thanks!

  • davidalmeida23

    Patrick, interestingly enough, I was Goggling the movie title, and I saw rumors of a remake. I hear that the actress being considered for the part of Stella has a great personality for the role. I thought Gail Russell’s portrayal of Stella was brilliant, but I’m holding out hope that the director can breath new life into this classic and make it a phenomenal success. Let me know if you find any truth to this rumor. It might be worth seeing!

    • Patrick Keller

      I really don’t find this one disturbing, do you? I don’t typically like the disturbing movies either… but I guess everyone’s “disturbing” might be a bit different. I mean, I AM a middle school teacher. 🙂

      I had NO CLUE about a possible remake. That’s awesome! I wonder if it had anything to do with this brand new re-release of the film on to DVD all of a sudden????

      • davidalmeida23

        No. You’re right. I could have use a better word. It’s a good thing that I do a lot editing with my books. 🙂

        If they made a movie out of your job as a middle school teacher, I would be the first to see it, but I would watch it with one eye closed. 🙂

        This remake is an exciting idea. I’m looking forward to hearing more about it. It’s too bad about Gail Russell. I read the essay. Her life was so tragic. It’s always the pretty ones.

  • Randall Keller

    It’s been awhile, but I like this film. It has a charm to it that’s hard to pin down, which modern films have forgotten how to do.

  • Renae Rude - The Paranormalist

    Even thought I know this isn’t one of my favorites, your review makes me want to see it again. Maybe I was just in a bad mood when I saw it. (I can’t remember what rubbed me wrong … perhaps I didn’t find the brother and sister likeable?)

    Anyway, I think this a great review, and the edition you got hold of sounds fantastic.

    • Patrick Keller

      Actually, you made me remember that the whole brother and sister part of the story got on my nerves a bit. What two siblings, who are both beautiful and rich and eligible, are going to buy homes and live with each other as if they were a couple? And, of course, no one worked a day during the story. And she got to just stay at home… with her… assistant?

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