The Ghost Goes West

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

Director: Rene Clair
Writers: Eric Keown, Rene Clair, Geoffrey Kerr, Robert E. Sherwood

  • Robert Donat — Murdoch Glourie
  • Robert Donat — Donald Glourie
  • Ralph Bunker — Ed Bigelow
  • Everley Gregg — Mrs. Martin
  • Patricia Hilliard — shepherdess
  • Elsa Lanchester — Miss Shepperton
  • Eugene Pallette — Mr. Martin
  • Jean Parker — Mary Martin
  • Hay Petrie — The McLaggen
  • Morton Selten — The Glourie

Alexander Korda Films, 1936
black & white

82 minutes December 2008


The Ghost Goes West (small) The Ghost Goes West is a memorable favorite of mine since childhood, a classic romantic comedy. The core of the idea: an impoverished but sturdy British castle, haunted by a ghost for several centuries, is sold across sea. As has befallen some real Old World buildings, this Glourie Castle is disassembled stone by stone and shipped to America for reassembly. The not-too-scary Ghost, however, is not thereby released from the fate that binds him to his family castle.

The basis of the film is the short story "Sir Tristram Goes West" by Eric Keown. For our introduction to Glourie Castle and the situation, the story's time is shifted forward about a century for the movie, from a battle in the English Civil War to a Scots-English battle around 1748. In this battle Murdoch Glourie behaves in such a manner that chance and the family honor misfavors him with the status of Ghost, doomed to haunt Glourie Castle until he can undo his stain upon the family's honor.

Robert Donat does a fine job acting as both feckless Murdoch Glourie and his struggling descendant Donald Glourie. Sometimes both of him are on screen at once, a trick which is always fun.

An American businessman develops an interest in the castle as a family and business showplace, while his daughter is developing an interest in Donald Glourie. But then there's the Ghost, to complicate every stage of the proceedings.

A nicely literate touch is the multiple pun in the title of The Ghost Goes West, of which the possibility of the Ghost going over sea is only one.

The film is a neat blend of light history with honor and ghostliness, with trans-Atlantic manners and romantic comedy.


© 2008 Robert Wilfred Franson

The basis story "Sir Tristram Goes West" has been reprinted several times; most interestingly, along with a discussion of the film, in —

Successful Film Writing:
As Illustrated by 'The Ghost Goes West'
edited by Seton Margrave


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