The Uninvited (1944)

Of the many horror films from Hollywood’s Golden Age, The Uninvited (1944) is one of the most beautifully shot. Shining in its eerie atmosphere and supported by a mesmerizing Victor Young score, there is much to enjoy in this screen gem.

The Uninvited was inspired by the novel Uneasy Freehold, written by Dorothy Macardle, focusing upon the story of a brother and sister who purchase a home in Cornwall but soon find that the secret behind the home’s low price is due to numerous paranormal occurrences.

The film was directed by Lewis Allen with a screenplay by Dodie Smith and Frank Partos. Though Alfred Hitchcock was initially sought by Paramount Pictures to direct this film, scheduling conflicts prevented his ability to work on the project. As a result, Allen was brought onto the project. Charles Lang, Jr.’s cinematography is a visual masterpiece, while Young’s standard–“Stella by Starlight”–created for the film was cemented as a notable jazz standard.

The cast members in this film are:

Cast adapted from the American Film Institute film database.

  • Ray Milland as Roderick “Rick” Fitzgerald
  • Ruth Hussey as Pamela Fitzgerald
  • Donald Crisp as Commander Beech
  • Cornelia Otis Skinner as Miss Holloway
  • Dorothy Stickney as Miss Bird
  • Barbara Everest as Lizzie Flynn
  • Alan Napier as Dr. Scott
  • Gail Russell as Stella Meredith
  • Holmes Herbert as Charlie Jessup
  • Betty Farrington as Voice of Mary Meredith
  • Queenie Leonard as Mrs. Taylor
  • Moyna MacGill as Mrs. Coatesworthy
  • Rita Page as Annie, a maid
  • Lynda Grey as Ghost of Mary Meredith
  • Ivan F. Simpson as Will Hardy, tobacconist

The Uninvited was part of a burst of supernatural-themed films that were released during and after World War II, likely playing upon the concept of connection and loss during such difficult times. Allen held much sway in the film’s casting, though it is well-documented that he was disappointed in Gail Russell’s performance, despite being struck by her beauty. To complicate matters, Allen found Russell difficult to work with–in some instances crying because she did not want to wear a particular hat in a given scene. On the other hand, Allen found positive working relationships among himself, Ray Milland, and Donald Crisp.

Though the film suggests an entirely different geographic location, filming occurred near Fort Bragg, California, with additional portions of the film being shot on studio backlots. Filming took 42 days, ultimately being released in February 1944. The film was later adapted to two radio broadcasts in 1946 and 1949, both of which featured Milland.

The film opened to much praise as a worthy addition to the horror genre, out-grossing Universal’s House of Frankenstein (1944) and The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944). Moreover, Russell’s performance also garnered positive reviews, as did Allen’s direction. Allen would again work with Russell in his next two films, Our Hearts Were Young and Gay (1944) and The Unseen (1945). Cinematographer Charles Lang was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, ultimately losing to Joseph LaShelle for Laura (1944).

The film’s song “Stella by Starlight” also achieved success as a popular song adaptation with lyrics by Victor Young. It would be recorded by the likes of Harry James, Frank Sinatra, Charlie Parker, Chet Baker, and more.

To this day, The Uninvited remains a well-written film that is sure to delight fans of the classic horror genre.

About Annette Bochenek

Dr. Annette Bochenek of Chicago, Illinois, is an avid scholar of Hollywood’s Golden Age. She manages the Hometowns to Hollywood blog, in which she writes about her trips exploring the legacies and hometowns of Golden Age stars. Annette also hosts the “Hometowns to Hollywood” film series throughout the Chicago area. She has been featured on Turner Classic Movies and is the president of TCM Backlot’s Chicago chapter. In addition to writing for TCM Backlot, she also writes for Classic Movie Hub, Silent Film Quarterly, Nostalgia Digest, and Chicago Art Deco Society Magazine.
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