The Haunting Melody of the Uninvited

The Uninvited Starring Ray Milland, music by Victor Young There are a ton of classic movies that remain unavailable on DVD and Blu-ray. For film fans, this is frustrating to say the least. While these gems have yet to be freed from the vaults, we can still voice our appreciation for them…even if we can’t watch them! Today’s guest post by The Lady Eve looks at the music of one of these favorites:

The Uninvited, from Paramount Pictures in 1944, is an elegantly spooky Rebecca-esque romance with more than one haunting quality. Yes, Windward House, the sea cliff-situated home central to the story, is haunted by a malevolent woman’s ghost, but the film’s music is equally haunting (though not at all spooky).

Victor Young (who composed the film’s Rachmaninoff-influenced score) and his orchestra introduced “Stella by Starlight” in The Uninvited. The melody is a thematic refrain throughout, but takes center stage in a romantic scene between Roderick Fitzgerald (Ray Milland) and Stella Meredith (Gail Russell). The pair is spending an evening together at Windward House and Rick begins to play the music, which he has written, on his grand piano:

Victor Young wasn’t Academy Award-nominated for his rhapsodic score for The Uninvited, but did garner 22 Oscar nominations over his prolific career. He was nominated for as many as four films in a single year, but his only win came posthumously, for Around the World in 80 Days (1956). His scores for Golden Boy (1939) and Written on the Wind (1956) were among many nominated for the gold statuette – and he also scored The Palm Beach Story (1942), Shane (1953), Johnny Guitar (1954) and The Country Girl (1954). Young died in 1956 with hundreds of film credits to his name.

As with Laura, another notable film of 1944 with an evocative musical theme, song lyrics were composed for “Stella by Starlight” after The Uninvited was released and became a popular movie. In 1946, Oscar-winning lyricist Ned Washington (“When You Wish Upon a Star”/Pinocchio and “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin’”/High Noon) created lyrics to accompany the music.

In 1947, two versions of “Stella by Starlight”–one recorded by Frank Sinatra, the other by The Harry James Orchestra–climbed the pop charts. In 1952, iconic saxophonist Charlie Parker made the first jazz recording of the tune; the song remains both a popular standard and jazz standard today.

The Lady Eve lives in Northern California and works in TV. Her blog posts have won CiMBA Awards from the Classic Movie Blog Association and been reprinted in newspapers and magazines. She is currently hosting “A Month of VERTIGO,” an event in which 11 bloggers are taking turns blogging on Hitchcock’s masterpiece, at http://eves-reel-life.blogspot.com.

 

 

  • John George

    Nice article about one of my favorite films and songs. There is good news, though. You CAN get a DVD of “The Univited”. It is available through a company called Media Asia Archives. I bought one through a company/distributor on Amazon.com. The quality is quite good and is far better than the quality of the VHS version of the film. It is also in English and there are no subtitles, etc. Check it out. You won’t be disappointed. It’s the best bet until the film eventually (hopefully) will be released and re-mastered in the future.

  • Martin Stumacher

    It was a beautiful melody! You’re right. There are so many sountrack musical scores that have never been released. You have to look hard for them. It took me two years to find Hugo Friedhofer’s brilliant score for The Best Years of Our Lives. Film Score Monthly had a listing for a London Orchestra that took Friehofer’s original score and reproduced a CD with each of the beautiful compositions.

  • JIM RICK

    THIS IS INDEED A HAUNTING SONG…HOW IRONIC THAT THIS WAS GAIL RUSSELL’S FIRST FILM AND SHE DIED SO TRAGICALLY OF ALCHOLISM IN THE SIXTIES…HAD A BAD MARRIAGE TO GUY MADISON THAT COULD HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO HER EARLY DEMISE….

  • The Lady Eve

    Not long after posting on “Stella by Starlight” from THE UNINVITED, I posted a longer piece on THE UNINVITED itself titled “A Chill in the Air, Part II” (Part I is about REBECCA). Here are links for those interested:

    http://eves-reel-life.blogspot.com/2011/11/chill-in-air-part-ii.html

    http://eves-reel-life.blogspot.com/2011/11/chill-in-air-part-i.html

  • Blair Kramer.

    Jerry Lewis used an instrumental, up-tempo, big band version of “Stella By Starlight” as the opening theme for his 1963 classic, “The Nutty Professor.” It remains one of my favorite versions of that tune. Since Stella Stevens, the female lead in the film, played a character who was also named Stella, it seems appropriate. By the way… The passage of time hasn’t diminished the power of “The Uninvited.” Exactly like “The Haunting,” it’s as scary as ever!

  • Virginia Houston

    The Uninvited is one of my favourite movies (I have many, and fortunately slowly one-by-one they are being released, and I am always so grateful to finally get them!) I LOVE The Uninvited — the beautiful music, the wonderful story, not to mention the stars that bring the story to life!!
    Am still looking for “Mother Wore Tights” with Betty Grable and Dan Dailey. Now there’s another one to treasure!!

  • Stephen J. Scola

    The Uninvited is a great film…I have on VHS.I’d like to get it on DVD…is it no longer available?

  • Gord Jackson

    To me, Gail Russell was one of the screen’s most beautiful women. Her sad, short life was tragic to say the least altho I don’t think the marriage to Guy Madison had as much to do with it as the personal insecurities and demons she seems to have possessed pre-Guy Madison.

  • becky

    I liked the Uninvited very much. Some very good music and pretty darn good acting. From what I understand Gail Russell (who played Stella) led a troubled life. I guess sometime after she made the movie she would call the radio station and request Stella by Starlight. I thought she was quite beautiful and even in Angel and the Badman she showed her acting talent!!!

  • Robin

    The Uninvited will be released on DVD in a few weeks time in the United Kingdom.

  • Carla Jean

    I first encountered this great ghost story as a young teen, when my mother lent me her copy of Dorothy Macardle’s book The Uninvited, written in 1942. I had just finished reading all of the Nancy Drew series, and found this “adult” fiction to be so much more satisfying! (And I quickly went in search of mimosa perfume!)
    I didn’t know about (or see) the movie until I was in college, and saw a rerun on the television. The movie does justice to the book, and I would recommend reading the original book for all lovers of ghost stories.
    As a side note, I somehow have a copy of the movie on DVD, but there are no references to indicate where I got it. But the music is really wonderful!

  • Rick

    One of the BEST “ghost stories” ever made in Hollywood. (Modern writers please take note.) Gail Russell was a classic beauty whose acting really enriched that beautiful music. Nice to see a young Ray Milland in the romantic lead too. An under appreciated actor I think. For more Gail, check out one of my favorite John Wayne movies, The Wake of the Red Witch.She absolutely steals the scenery in those beautiful gowns and off the shoulder outfits. This is also one of Wayne’s best characters outside of a western! Check it out!

  • Judy

    The Uninvited is one of my favorites too. Thanks for posting Sinatra’s version of the theme song, Stella By Starlight. I’ve never heard the lyrics and love Sinatra.
    It’s a shame that some really good movies aren’t available on DVD. Another one I’ve been looking for that also stars Ray Milland is Ministry of Fear.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/GQGWNPE5GC7XFWVNR6CUSSRFNM Virginia Noyes

    One of the best ‘ghost’ films ever – with lots of ‘facts’ regarding spirits.  I was able to purchase it from a website in the UK – I googled the movie and found a number of sights – but there is just this one that released it.  I do not remember the name of the sight but try googling it and see if you can get it.  It’s a small shipping fee and the film was very reasonably priced!   I put this one on often throughout the year, the music is fabulous and all of the actors are top notch.  Stella by Starlight was a pretty big hit in it’s day.   Gail Russell was a great actress but her life was not a happy one – seems that is a pattern in a lot of the Hollywood stars lives. 

  • Gaillaursen

    I love this movie.  I also read the book first and thought it was very good.  Every time this movie is onTCM I make sure I watch it.  And it is not on often enough.  I would rather see a good ghost story than just a monster movie.  Gail Russell was a beauty.  And Ray Milland was the perfect, handsome, come-to-the-rescue boyfriend.  Love it. Love it. Love it.