A locked room. The scent of mimosa. An unpleasant chill. Nighttime crying … Windward House is haunted by a malignant presence, but London-based composer Roderick and his sister Pamela aren’t to know that after their dog Bobby chases a squirrel in the front door of this abandoned marvel which they purchase in this 1930s-set tale of the afterlife.
Dorothy Macardle’s wartime novel Uneasy Freehold was a bestseller which soon attracted Hollywood studio attention. Released in 1944, this supernatural chiller still has an eerie quality which clearly derives from its Rebecca-like origins in a Cornish clifftop house, wonderful cinematography by Charles Lang, and a clear Lesbian subtext in the Mrs Danvers-esque person of sanatorium proprietress Miss Holloway (Cornelia Otis Skinner), seated beneath a portrait of Mary Meredith, her idol, and the monstrous mother who dominates the pages of the original book and the life of her putative daughter Stella, in a touching performance by the tragic Gail Russell. Paramount Studios included special effects to enhance the film’s visual impact but these were removed for distribution in the United Kingdom version.
‘Stella By Starlight’ would be a hit – even bigger than the film, and a lasting tribute to a film of authentic feeling and mood.