Ghost (1990 film)
|Directed by||Jerry Zucker|
|Written by||Bruce Joel Rubin|
|Produced by||Lisa Weinstein|
|Edited by||Walter Murch|
|Music by||Maurice Jarre|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$505.7 million|
Ghost is a 1990 American romantic fantasy film directed by Jerry Zucker from a screenplay by Bruce Joel Rubin, and starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg, Tony Goldwyn, Vincent Schiavelli and Rick Aviles. The plot centers on Sam Wheat (Swayze), a murdered banker, whose ghost sets out to save his girlfriend, Molly Jensen (Moore), from the person who killed him – through the help of the psychic Oda Mae Brown (Goldberg).
Ghost was theatrically released on July 13, 1990, to commercial success, grossing $505 million against a budget of $22–23 million and emerging as the highest-grossing film of 1990 and at the time of its release, was the third-highest-grossing film of all time. The film received positive reviews from critics, with particular praise going towards the score and performances of the cast. Ghost earned five nominations at the 63rd Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Original Score, Best Film Editing, and winning Best Supporting Actress for Goldberg and Best Original Screenplay for Rubin.
Sam Wheat, a banker, and his girlfriend Molly Jensen, an artist, renovate and move into an apartment in Manhattan with the help of Sam's friend and co-worker Carl Bruner. One afternoon, Sam confides in Carl about his discovery of unusually high balances in obscure bank accounts. He decides to investigate the matter himself, declining Carl's offer of assistance. That night, Sam and Molly are attacked by a mugger who shoots and kills Sam in a scuffle before stealing his wallet. Sam sees Molly crying over his body and discovers he is now a ghost, invisible and seemingly unable to interact with the mortal world.
Molly is distraught in the days after Sam's death, as Sam remains close to her. Carl comes over and suggests she take a walk with him; Sam, unable to follow through the locked door, stays behind. Moments later, the mugger enters the apartment in search of something. When Molly returns, Sam scares their cat into attacking the thug, who flees. He follows the mugger to his Brooklyn apartment, learning that the man, Willie Lopez, was sent by an unknown party.
After leaving Willie's residence, Sam happens upon the parlor of psychic Oda Mae Brown, a charlatan pretending to commune with spirits of the dead who is shocked to discover her true psychic gift when she can hear Sam speaking. Sam persuades her to warn Molly that she is in danger. To allay Molly's skepticism, Oda Mae relays information that only Sam could know. Molly later gives Willie's address to Carl, who volunteers to investigate. She then goes to the police, who have no file for Willie but they show her Oda Mae's lengthy one as a forger and con artist.
Meanwhile, Sam follows Carl and is devastated to learn he and Willie are working together. Carl is laundering money for drug dealers and had Willie rob Sam to obtain his book of passwords. After getting the book himself from the apartment, Carl transfers the money into a single account under the fictitious name "Rita Miller".
Determined to protect Molly, Sam learns from a violent poltergeist haunting the subway system how to channel emotion in order to move solid objects. He then enlists Oda Mae to help him thwart Carl by impersonating Rita Miller and withdrawing the laundered money totaling $4 million, which she later reluctantly donates to some nuns which Sam insists. As Carl desperately searches for the money, Sam reveals his presence by typing his name on the computer keyboard. Carl goes to Molly, who reveals she spotted Oda Mae closing an account at the bank.
Carl and Willie go to Oda Mae's but Sam warns her and her sisters to take shelter. When Willie arrives, Sam spooks him as revenge, causing him to flee into the street in a fit of panic before being struck and killed by an oncoming car. Shadowy demons emerge from the darkness to drag Willie's ghost down to Hell.
Sam and Oda Mae return to the apartment, whereby levitating a penny into Molly's hand—he convinces Molly that Oda Mae is telling the truth about him. Oda Mae allows Sam to possess her body so he and Molly can share a slow dance. Carl breaks into the apartment but Sam is too exhausted from the possession to fight Carl. The women take the fire escape to a loft under construction, but Carl catches Oda Mae and holds her at gunpoint, demanding the check.
Sam recovers and pushes Carl off her, prompting Carl to take Molly hostage and plead with Sam for the check. Sam disarms him, attacking him again. Carl tries to escape through a window and tosses a suspended hook at Sam, but the hook swings back, shattering the window and causing it to slide down, fatally impaling Carl with a glass shard. The shadowy demons who came for Willie return to claim Carl's ghost, dragging him to Hell.
Sam asks if the women are all right. Molly is now able to hear him and a heavenly light shines in the room, illuminating Sam's presence. Realizing that it is time for him to go with his task now completed, he and Molly share a tearful goodbye and one final kiss, finally having proper closure between them. Sam thanks Oda Mae for her help and then walks into the light and onward to Heaven.
- Patrick Swayze as Sam Wheat
- Demi Moore as Molly Jensen
- Whoopi Goldberg as Oda Mae Brown
- Tony Goldwyn as Carl Bruner
- Rick Aviles as Willie Lopez
- Vincent Schiavelli as Subway Ghost
- Gail Boggs as Oda Mae's Sister, Louise
- Armelia McQueen as Oda Mae's Sister, Clara
- Phil Leeds as Emergency Room Ghost
- Augie Blunt as Orlando
- Stephen Root as Police Sgt
- Bruce Jarchow as Lyle Ferguson
Background and filming
Ghost was the first film Jerry Zucker directed on his own. He had previously been part of the Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker directing team, known for their screwball comedies. Zucker stated that his decision to direct Ghost was not made to distance himself from comedies or to mark a new chapter in his career, but was merely “just looking for a good film to direct."
Harrison Ford, Michael J. Fox, Paul Hogan, Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Kevin Kline, Alec Baldwin and Tom Cruise were considered for the role of Sam Wheat. Bruce Willis turned down the role of Sam Wheat as he did not understand the script and later called himself a "knucklehead" for turning it down. Michelle Pfeiffer, Molly Ringwald, Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman were considered for the role of Molly Jensen. Tina Turner and Oprah Winfrey auditioned for the role of Oda Mae Brown.
Rubin noted that he "wanted to tell a ghost story from the ghost's perspective": “One day, I was watching a production of Hamlet, which begins with the ghost of Hamlet's father saying, ‘Revenge my death,’” he recalled. “I thought, ‘Wow, let's transpose that into the 20th century; it'd be an interesting story.’ And the idea hit me.”
Filming for Ghost began shooting in July 1989. Most of the interior scenes were shot at Paramount in Los Angeles while the exterior scenes were shot in New York City, particularly in Bedford–Stuyvesant, Soho, and Wall Street, for about five weeks. The film features about 100 special effects shots. Demi Moore's famous 'boy cut' in the movie was designed by Manhattan hair stylist John Sahag.
The music for Ghost was written by veteran French composer Maurice Jarre, whose work was nominated for the 1990 Academy Award for Best Original Score (won by John Barry for Dances with Wolves). The soundtrack also featured the 1955 song "Unchained Melody", composed by Alex North with lyrics by Hy Zaret. This was originally written for the film Unchained – a very different, low-budget movie about prison life. In Ghost, the song appears both in instrumental and vocal form, the latter being the version recorded by Bobby Hatfield of The Righteous Brothers in 1965.
The soundtrack album was issued worldwide on Milan Records, but licensed to Varèse Sarabande in North America. It was reissued with two extra tracks in 1995, and later as part of Milan's Silver Screen Edition series with the extra tracks and an interview with Maurice Jarre.
Releases and sales
The film became an unexpected box-office success, grossing $505.7 million on a budget of between $22–23 million. It was the highest-grossing film of 1990. Box Office Mojo estimates that the film sold over 51.46 million tickets in the US. It spent eight consecutive weeks at number one at the UK box office and became the highest-grossing film of all-time in the UK surpassing E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial with a gross of £23.3 million. That record would last for three years before getting surpassed by Jurassic Park in 1993. It was also the highest-grossing film in Indonesia at the time with a gross of $3.6 million and the highest-grossing foreign film in the Philippines.
The film was released on video and LaserDisc in the United States on March 21, 1991 and sold a record 646,000 videos for rental, breaking the record set by Die Hard 2, and a record 66,040 LaserDiscs. The rentals generated a gross of $40 million for Paramount. The video went on sale in the fall and generated sales of $25 million.
Ghost has an approval rating of 75% based on 75 professional reviews on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 6.9/10. Its critical consensus reads, "Ghost offers viewers a poignant romance while blending elements of comedy, horror, and mystery, all adding up to one of the more enduringly watchable hits of its era." Metacritic (which uses a weighted average) assigned Ghost a score of 52 out of 100 based on 17 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.
Roger Ebert gave Ghost two-and-a-half out of four stars in his review for the Chicago Sun-Times, regarding the film as "no worse an offender than most ghost movies, I suppose. It assumes that even after death we devote most of our attention to unfinished business here on Earth, and that danger to a loved one is more important to a ghost than the infinity it now inhabits." He was also critical of the film's "obligatory action climax", the "ridiculous visitation from the demons of hell", the "slow study" of the Molly character, and the "single best scene" in which Sam overtakes Oda Mae's body to caress Molly: "In strict logic, this should involve us seeing Goldberg kissing Moore, but of course the movie compromises and shows us Swayze holding her - too bad, because the logical version would actually have been more spiritual and moving."
David Ansen of Newsweek, despite finding the ending too sentimental, praised the film as "a zippy pastiche that somehow manages to seem fresh even though it's built entirely out of borrowed parts." Variety magazine called the film "an odd creation – at times nearly smothering in arty somberness, at others veering into good, wacky fun." Goldberg received considerable praise for her performance. In a review for The New York Times, Janet Maslin comments "Ms. Goldberg plays the character's amazement, irritation and great gift for back talk to the hilt. This is one of those rare occasions on which the uncategorizable Ms. Goldberg has found a film role that really suits her, and she makes the most of it." Even some writers who gave negative reviews of Ghost extended praise to Goldberg's work in the film.
The pottery wheel scene became widely known, and has been cited as "one of the most iconic moments of '90s cinema." It has also frequently been parodied, such as in The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (of which Jerry Zucker served as an executive producer; it was directed by his brother David Zucker), the short British animated film Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death and US TV series Two and a Half Men.
The film inspired a musical stage version, Ghost: The Musical. The show had its world premiere in Manchester, UK, in March 2011 before transferring to London from June 2011 and having its premiere on July 19, 2011. On November 13, 2010, Paramount and Shochiku released a Japanese remake of Ghost, titled Ghost: In Your Arms Again (ゴースト もういちど抱きしめたい, Gōsuto Mouichido Dakishimetai). The remake stars Nanako Matsushima, South Korean actor Song Seung-heon, and veteran actress Kirin Kiki. In this film, the ghost is a woman, played by Matsushima.
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