Blithe Spirit (2020) – Just 1930s Eye Candy

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Is Blithe Spirit (2020) a great movie or even a decent adaption of the Noël Coward play? Not really. But is it a gorgeously costumed and art-directed frothy excursion into the 1930s? Hells yeah. This is an Art Deco confection, top to bottom, from the very first scene to the last, so if that’s your jam, you will want to watch it and ogle all the pretty. I mean, 1930s isn’t even my jam but I was engrossed in the interior design of the main house that’s the setting of the story and all the wardrobe details of the main characters. Yeah, it’s that good.

Set in England 1937, the story begins with mystery writer Charles (Dan Stevens) suffering from writer’s block and being a jerk to everyone around him, especially his second wife, Ruth (Isla Fisher). He gets an idea to have a spiritualist, Madame Arcati (Judi Dench) performa a seance as inspiration for his writing. This accidentally conjures up the ghost of his first wife, Elvira (Leslie Mann).

But whatever, let’s just look at this gorgeous flick! Much of it was filmed at Joldwynds, a modernist-style home built in 1932 that had previously been used for several episodes of Poirot.

Joldwynds - Blithe Spirit - photo by Location Works.

Joldwynds, photo by Location Works.

The interior is FILLED with drool-worthy period furniture.

Blithe Spirit (2020)

That bar cart! The pink living room!

Blithe Spirit (2020)

That lamp! And Ruth’s pink robe pops against the green room!

OK, some minor costumes…

Blithe Spirit (2020)

Windowpane check suit, pinstripe shirt, dotted tie, checked waistcoat. Nice.

Blithe Spirit (2020)

The spiritualist in a bohemian mish-mash.

Even the extras / minor characters have smart ensembles:

Blithe Spirit (2020)

The couple meet this actress on-set. Love her dramatic, yet sporty, checked cape with trousers.

Blithe Spirit (2020)

Pointy lapels.

Blithe Spirit (2020)

Swingy cape.

Elvira is the real clothes-horse, even though she’s a ghost.

Blithe Spirit (2020)

She died in a riding accident, so she first returns in jodhpurs & with a riding crop.

Another great costume and interior pairing:

Blithe Spirit (2020)

Charles being smug in this blue-on-blue stripe dining room.

Blithe Spirit (2020)

Elvira in a print blouse & grey trousers with a wonderful china hutch. #FurniturePorn

Blithe Spirit (2020)

She wears a lot of red. Also, this boat is so posh.

Blithe Spirit (2020)

I love a well-coordinated outfit!

At the garden party, all the ladies are in florals…

Blithe Spirit (2020)

Mrs. Bradman is in blue. The whole movie, I thought Dr. Bradman was played by the same actor who played Sir Anthony in Downton Abbey, the one who jilted Lady Edith at the altar. But he’s not!

Blithe Spirit (2020)

Ruth is in pink floral.

Blithe Spirit (2020)

And Elvira shows up in black & red floral, always standing out, even if only Charles can see her. Notice how she coordinates with those flowers, art direction on point.

Blithe Spirit (2020)

Perhaps her most dramatic outfit.

Blithe Spirit (2020)

Elegant red pants!

Blithe Spirit (2020)

The contrasting embroidery on the hat & blouse are fantastic.

 

Do you love 1930s fashion or interior design? Will you give Blithe Spirit a whirl?

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About the author

Trystan L. Bass

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A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. Her costuming adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also ran a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

19 Responses

  1. Orian Hutton

    Dr Bradman is played by Julian Rind-Tutt, one of those actors who seems to pass beneath most people’s radar. Not mine. Loved him in ‘Banished’ and ‘Wipers Times’. He appears in a lot of period dramas in film (‘The Madness of King George’, ‘Les Miserables’) and on television (‘Britannia’, a couple of Agatha Christie’s episodes), but I think you would be hard pressed to find images of him.

    Reply
  2. Constance

    Am so-so on 1930’s but always enjoyed Poiret’s apartment building and the houses though comic and ghosts really not my thing…

    Reply
  3. florenceandtheai

    Later Art Deco is my happy place. I grew up watching the Masterpiece Poirot adaptations with my mom. If I can find it streaming, I’d like this one.

    Reply
  4. Janet

    Robert Bathurst is the (64 yr. old!!) British actor who played the “lame” Sir Anthony Strallan in ‘Downton Abbey’.
    The suave “blond” gentleman, sitting in that particular picture, is (53 yr.) strawberry blond British actor Julian Rhind-Tutt. Who played Marquess of Blayne in (2017-2019) ‘Harlots’.
    And who I hope: one day will be deserving of a ManCandyMonday, with 24 F.F. roles to his name.
    From ‘The Madnes of King George’ (1994) to ‘Blandings’ (2013-2014) and everything in-between.
    I fell for him as Dr. Macartney in sureal British hospital sketch-comedy-drama ‘Greenwings’ (2004-2007).

    Reply
    • Gill

      Anyone who didn’t love J R-T in Green Wing needs to give themselves a good talking-to.

      Reply
  5. Leslie Spilman

    This looks lush! The Art Deco period came to my attention in the film ‘Victor, Victoria’ with Julie Andrews back in 1982. Loved the sets of that one as well.

    Reply
  6. Frances Germeshausen

    Yes to gorgeous clothes. Yes to a stunning home inside and out, but there was something . . . off about the production itself. Not, for lack of a better word, frothy enough. But if I consider it my Deco shopping list, oh heck yeah!

    Reply
    • MrsC (Maryanne)

      Frances it was terrible that’s why! ;-) I love Blithe Spirit the play even though it is pretty dated. I’ve seen two very different productions on stage, one in the West end where Hermione Norris played Ruth and Alison Steadman (the one true Mrs Bennett) played Madame Arcata. It isn’t anywhere near as camp as this film makes out and the characters, while hardly deep, have a lot more structure than the ones in the film.
      It was like watching a frothy musical without music!
      but i absolutely agree that is was a feast for the eyes.

      Reply
  7. m

    Sure. I saw Katy Kendall do it at the Golders Green Hippodrome, many moons ago and have always enjoyed it.

    Reply
  8. Gill

    It looks gorgeous, but what is the point of rewriting Noel Coward? He did the script for the original Rex Harrison film, after all.

    Also, setting it two years before the War and four years before it was written is just ridiculous. Coward was bombed out of his home, then the hotel he moved to while writing it. It’s deliberate fluff to raise morale, but it’s also very much about the concerns of its time – as in the 14-18 War, seances and contacting the dead were ideas much in vogue when people were losing so much so routinely.

    And I love Dame Judi. But nobody can really replace the superb Maragaret Rutherford.

    Reply
  9. Beck Laxton

    I’m just in my way home from a new production in London! Really well done – Jennifer Saunders excellent as Madam Arcati, and my fave Geoffrey Streatfeild as Charles. Coward is so easy to do badly.

    Reply

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