Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, December 13, 2018


Louis Hayward
THE SEARCH FOR BRIDEY MURPHY (1956).  Director: Noel Langley.

Morey Bernstein (Louis Hayward) becomes fascinated by the practice of hypnotism. First he delves into the life and work of alleged "psychic" Edgar Cayce, then practises his hypnotism on a neighbor, Ruth Simmons (Teresa Wright). During one of their sessions, when Morey regresses Ruth back and farther back in time, he apparently discovers that she had a former life as an Irish woman named Bridey Murphy. Morey and his publisher try to find out what the facts are, and if Bridey even existed, while Ruth gives up more details of the woman's life, death, and after-life under hypnosis.

Hayward with Teresa Wright
The Search for Bridey Murphy was based on a popular non-fiction book of the same name, and the author, of course, was Morey Bernstein. After the book's publication it developed that there were all sorts of holes in Ruth's story (Ruth was actually a woman named Virginia Tighe), and eventually it was discovered that Bridey Murphy was actually the name of a woman who lived across from Virginia when she was a child. Having more or less been proven that the whole reincarnation story was so much b.s. -- Cayce was similarly discredited in later years --  the film proceeds almost like a documentary, and ends with Morey/Hayward admitting that reincarnation has not been proven, certainly not in this case. However, Hayward tells the audience that the most important thing they can take with them is that hypnotism is real and that it can offer genuine help to people in need.

Wright with Kenneth Tobey
So while The Search for Bridey Murphy can't be taken as a true tale of past lives, it is still a surprisingly entertaining picture, and the credit has to go almost entirely to the excellent performances of Louis Hayward and Teresa Wright. The scenes when Ruth tells of what the after-life, a kind of purgatory, is like are interesting if for no other reason that it's about time that someone in a movie asks a "dead" person exactly what things are like on the "other side." There is also an excellent and tense scene when a near-panicked Morey has trouble bringing Ruth out of her trance, afraid she may remain as "Murphy" forever. The two leads have good support from Nancy Gates [World Without End] as Morey's wife; Kenneth Tobey as Ruth's husband; and Richard Anderson as Dr. Deering. Other movies with the theme of reincarnation include I've Lived Before and The Reincarnation of Peter Proud.

Verdict: Despite the basic phoniness of the whole premise, this is more absorbing than you might imagine. Two talented leads help a lot. ***. 


angelman66 said...

I love this theme and Teresa Wright is always good--and one of Wright's last appearances was in the time travel classic Somewhere in Time with Chris Reeve and Jane Seymour...
Recently watched Peter Proud on YouTube and enjoyed it too...

William said...

Yes, I remember Wright in "Somewhere in Time" as the old lady who tells Reeve to "come back to me." Reincarnation will always be a popular theme even if a purely fictional one, but who knows?