Today is the birthday of television and film actress Hope Lange (1933-2003). Already I hear you saying, “Good God, man, have you gone insane? How does television and film actress Hope Lange rate a post on this excellent blog?!” Well, first she already has. She was in the Elvis movie Wild in the Country, which we blogged about here. Plus, her father was Flo Ziegfeld’s musical director! But secondly. as the title indicates, she starred in the short-lived tv sit-com, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1968-1970).
The show was based on the eponymous 1947 film which had starred Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison and was in turn based on a 1945 novel by R.A. Dick. The show is interesting in being a sort gender reversal of the usual magic fantasy formula we associate with Bewitched, I Dream of Jeanie and Nanny and the Professor. Much like Doris Day in her sit-com (which launched the same year) Lange played a widow and mother…only this one is haunted by a 19th century Maine sea captain (Edward Mulhare). As in the other magical shows, there is some romantic tension of a sort, with the family-friendly time-space barrier preventing any consummation…at least in this world. To properly update this series I’m afraid the producers of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir would have to go here.
But they didn’t. And despite two Emmy awards for Lange (and the presence of Charles Nelson Reilly), the series didn’t click with audiences. NBC cancelled it after its first season. ABC picked it up and then cancelled it again after its second season. And then, much like the ghost of Captain Gregg, it lived on…in re-runs, which is how I first saw it a few years later.