THE SMILING GHOST (1941) Reviews and overview

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The Smiling Ghost is a 1941 American comedy horror film directed by Lewis Seiler from a screenplay by Kenneth Gamet based on a story by Stuart Palmer. This Warner Bros. production stars Wayne Morris, Alexis Smith, Alan Hale, Brenda Marshall and Willie Best.


Elderly Mrs Bentley and her lawyer see a newspaper ad from an unemployed and unmarried engineer seeking work doing “anything legal.” The lawyer calls the engineer, Alexander “Lucky” Downing, and sets up a meeting, during which Lucky is offered $1000 to feign an engagement to Mrs Bentley’s granddaughter Elinor Bentley Fairchild for one month. Lucky considers it a strange offer, but he needs the money so he takes the job.

What Downing doesn’t know is that Elinor’s three former fiancés have met horrible ends. The first, Johnny Eggleston, mysteriously drowned. The second, Paul Myron, was paralyzed when his car rolled over and has been confined to an iron lung ever since. The third, Alan Winters, died by snakebite while on the 18th floor of a Boston hotel.

The Smiling Ghost seems reluctant to crack a smile…

Given the fate of her former beaus, there are those who believe Elinor is the victim of the “Smiling Ghost,” and she has been dubbed the “Kiss of Death Girl” by the local newspapers. Lil Barstow, a reporter who has followed the case closely, has been in touch with Myron, who persuades her to talk Downing out of the engagement before he too becomes a victim of the ghost…


“Not all the humor is slapstick. The sets, for the most part, are not on the standard (and by 1941, totally played out) spooky house model. The script displays some hints of imagination and credits the audience with more intelligence than was generally assumed by the writers of cheap 40’s horror films.” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting

“There’s sliding panels, secret passageways, and a masked killer roaming around, all the ingredients necessary for “old, dark house” fun. The script by Kenneth Garrett and Stuart Palmer is geared more towards humor than horror, though there are a few atmospheric scenes staged by director Lewis Seiler, including one in a fog-shrouded graveyard.” Cracked Rear Viewer

The Smiling GHost

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“The Smiling Ghost is an above-average example of the old-dark-house brand of comedy-horror-mystery with an obvious plot, breathless pacing, wacky personalities, and myriad character players. The grinning villain is the missing link between The Man Who Laughs and Mr. Sardonicus. Brenda Marshall and Alexis Smith are a sassy pair of dueling love interests for the dull hero.” Pop Matters

Cast and characters:

Wayne Morris … Lucky Downing
Brenda Marshall … Lil Barstow
Alexis Smith … Elinor Bentley Fairchild
Alan Hale … Norton – the Butler
Lee Patrick … Rose Fairchild
David Bruce … Paul Myron
Helen Westley … Grandmother Bentley
Willie Best … Clarence
Charles Halton … Great Uncle Ames Bentley
Richard Ainley … Cousin Tennant Bentley
Roland Drew … Uncle Hilton Fairchild
George Meader … Mr Dinwiddie
Clem Bevans … Sexton – Cemetery Caretaker
Arthur Aylesworth … Justice of the Peace (as Arthur Aylsworth)

Technical details:

71 minutes
Black and white
Aspect ratio: 1.37: 1
Audio: Mono (RCA Sound System)



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