The Ghost Breakers

The Ghost Breakers

Infobox Film
name = The Ghost Breakers

caption =
director = George Marshall
producer = Arthur Hornblow, Jr.
writer = Walter de Leon
narrator =
starring = Bob Hope
Paulette Goddard
Richard Carlson
Paul Lukas
music = Ernst Toch
cinematography = Charles B. Lang
editing = Ellsworth Hoagland
distributor = Paramount Pictures
released = June 21, 1940
runtime = 83 min.
country = USA
language = English
budget =
preceded_by =
followed_by =
website =
amg_id = 1:19629
imdb_id = 0032520

"The Ghost Breakers" is a 1940 comedy film directed by George Marshall and starring Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard. The movie was adapted by Walter DeLeon from the play "The Ghost Breaker" by Paul Dickey and Charles W. Goddard. [ A History of Horror [] ] Turner Classic Movies [] ]


The film opens in a Manhattan radio studio during a broadcast by crime reporter Lawrence Lawrence (Bob Hope) -- “Larry” to his friends, as well as his enemies, who are many in number among the local underworld.

Listening in on the broadcast is pretty brunette Mary Carter (Paulette Goddard), whose high-rise apartment goes dark as a violent thunderstorm causes a city-wide blackout. In the near darkness, a knock comes at her door. It is Mr. Parada (Paul Lukas), a suave, vaguely sinister solicitor attached to the Cuban consulate. He informs her that she has inherited a plantation and mansion, “Castillo Maldito,” on a small island off the coast of Cuba. Despite Parada’s discouragement, she impulsively decides to travel to Cuba by ship to inspect her new property.

Shortly after Parada’s departure, Mary receives another visitor-- Mr. Mederes (Anthony Quinn), an even more sinister gent who extends an offer to purchase the newly inherited property. Despite his insistence, Mary declines.

Meanwhile, after Larry Lawrence has finished broadcasting the evening’s exposé of a local crime boss, he is met by a pair of henchmen and kidnapped. The crime boss, Frenchy Duval (Paul Fix), makes it plain to Larry that the attention isn’t welcome, and it would be “healthier” for Lawrence to cease and desist.

Coincidentally, this exchange takes place within the same apartment house where Mary Carter lives. In a mix-up in the still-darkened building, Larry accidentally fires a gun and believes he’s killed one of Duval’s henchmen. In the confusion, he escapes Duval’s apartment and finds himself in the rooms of Mary Carter, who is already busy packing for her journey. Believing that he is being pursued by Duval’s men, Larry hides in Mary’s large open trunk. Unaware of Larry’s presence, Mary locks the trunk and arranges for its transport to the harbor.

Later at the dock, Larry’s valet Alex (Willie Best) searches among the luggage bound for loading and finds Larry among them. Although not in time to prevent the trunk’s transfer to the ship’s hold, Alex manages to get on board, hoping to extricate his employer before the ship sails.

Once in her stateroom, Mary is shocked to unpack Larry along with the rest of her belongings. Just as he tries to explain his situation, a knife is thrown through an open porthole in Mary’s cabin, narrowly missing her and Larry, and embedding itself in the cabin door. Attached to the knife is a note, warning Mary to stay away from the island plantation. Larry and Alex decide to remain on board, partly to act as bodyguards to the plucky beauty, but also to keep out of Frenchy Duval’s reach.

As Larry and Mary strike up a flirtation, they run into an acquaintance of Mary's, Geoff Montgomery (Richard Carlson), a young professorial type who regales them with tales of the local superstitions of their destination, particularly voodoo, ghosts and zombies. Impressed by his knowledge, Mary invites Geoff to accompany them to the plantation once they arrive.

Upon reaching port in Havana, Mary, Larry, Alex and Geoff are ferried to the island. En route they find a shack occupied by an old woman (Virginia Brissac) and her catatonic son (Noble Johnson), who she explains is a zombie. Despite Geoff’s skepticism, the group is unnerved by the cadaverous appearance of the “zombie.”

The imposing plantation manor proves to be a spooky edifice indeed. The quartet begins to explore the long-abandoned, cobweb-ridden mansion, and discover a large portrait of a woman who is nearly an exact likeness of Mary-- most certainly an ancestor.

Soon the quartet is terrorized by the appearance of a ghost, and the reappearance of the zombie. Are these real, or are they a ruse to frighten Mary away from her inheritance?

Various versions

The Dickey and Goddard play "The Ghost Breaker" was filmed twice previously by Paramount. It was first made in 1914 by Cecil B. DeMille, with stars H. B. Warner and Rita Stanwood, and again in 1922 by director Alfred E. Green, with Wallace Reid and Lila Lee starring. Both these silent films are presumed lost. [ [ lost films index] ]

George Marshall, director of the 1940 version, remade "The Ghost Breakers" in 1953 as "Scared Stiff", featuring Martin and Lewis (Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis). The remake featured cameos not only from Hope, but also from Bing Crosby. A year before "Scared Stiff", Martin and Lewis appeared in the Crosby/Hope film "Road to Bali".

The film was adapted for radio on "Screen Director's Playhouse" on April 4, 1949 with Bob Hope re-creating his film role and Shirley Mitchell as Mary.


"The Ghost Breakers" was a sequel of sorts to Paramount’s 1939 hit "The Cat and the Canary", also starring Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard. Paramount teamed the pair again, along with costar Willie Best, in "Nothing But the Truth" (1941).

Cinematographer Charles Lang would go on to earn an Academy Award nomination for his work on another spook-filled Paramount release, "The Uninvited" (1944).

"The Ghost Breakers", along with "The Cat and the Canary", was an inspiration to Walt Disney for his Haunted Mansion attraction at Disneyland. [ Jim Hill Media [] ]

Robert Ryan appears as an ambulance driver in the opening of the film.


*Bob Hope as Larry Lawrence
*Paulette Goddard as Mary Carter
*Richard Carlson as Geoff Montgomery
*Paul Lukas as Parada
*Willie Best as Alex
*Pedro de Cordoba as Havez (as Pedro De Cordoba)
*Virginia Brissac as Mother Zombie
*Noble Johnson as The Zombie
*Anthony Quinn as Ramon Mederes/Francisco Mederes
*Tom Dugan as Raspy Kelly
*Paul Fix as Frenchy Duval
*Lloyd Corrigan as Martin


External links

* [ "The Ghost Breakers"] at the Internet Movie Database

*"New York Times" review of July 4, 1940 (requires registration) []
* [ Clip] of Bob Hope and Richard Carlson from "The Ghost Breakers."
* [ "The Ghost Breakers"] at

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