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The Ghost Comes Home (1940)

Passed | | Comedy, Drama, Romance | 8 March 1940 (USA)
Mild mannered Vern runs a pet store that seems to gather more pets than he sells. One day he receives a telephone call from John 'old fishface' Thomas in Australia. He wants to leave a ... See full summary »


Wilhelm Thiele (as William Thiele)


Richard Maibaum (screen play), Harry Ruskin (screen play) | 1 more credit »


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Complete credited cast:
Frank Morgan ... Vern Adams
Billie Burke ... Cora Adams
Ann Rutherford ... Billie Adams
John Shelton ... Lanny Shea
Reginald Owen ... Hemingway
Donald Meek ... Mortimer Hopkins, Sr.
Nat Pendleton ... Roscoe
Frank Albertson ... Ernest
Harold Huber ... Tony
Hobart Cavanaugh ... Ambrose Bundy
Ann Morriss ... Myra
Don Castle ... 'Spig'
Tom Rutherford ... Mortimer Hopkins, Jr.
Renie Riano ... Sarah Osborn
Richard Carle ... John Reed Thomas


Mild mannered Vern runs a pet store that seems to gather more pets than he sells. One day he receives a telephone call from John 'old fishface' Thomas in Australia. He wants to leave a considerable amount to the town and Vern is to come down and help him decide where it should go. Vern goes to the Inter Pacific Steam Lines to catch the ship and with hours until sailing, heads to a nightclub to hear his favorite band. Vern winds up doing 60 days in jail. When he gets out, he goes home to find that the 'Mariluna' had sunk with all hands and that the family has already spent the travel insurance money. So Vern hides out to keep everyone from going to jail for fraud. But mild mannered Vern soon becomes a tiger and he and Lanny need to figure a way out of his predicament. Written by Tony Fontana <tony.fontana@spacebbs.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Drama | Romance


Passed | See all certifications »






Release Date:

8 March 1940 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Hooray, I'm Alive See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


A great amount of footage of Pookey the Parrot had to be removed because he imitated the "Cut!" command of director Wilhelm Thiele and often screamed it in the middle of a scene. See more »


The entire premise is wrong. He would have to be missing for 7 years to be proclaimed dead. No insurance company would pay without an investigation and after the death certificate is issued. See more »


Remake of Hurra! Ich lebe! (1928) See more »


The Old Oaken Bucket
Sung a cappella by Hobart Cavanaugh
See more »

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User Reviews

Probably made as a star vehicle for John Shelton...
1 May 2019 | by AlsExGalSee all my reviews

... and if you've never heard of him then you know how well that went. Well, not everybody could be Van Johnson!

MGM certainly put a pretty good effort into this one, putting their better character actors and actresses in leading roles here, and in 1940 MGM had some of the best supporting actors around. It is all about a hapless pet shop owner, Vern Adams, who actually buys more animals than he sells who has an opportunity to sail to Australia and help an old friend divvy up half a million dollars for the town he is from. Before he leaves, he is talked into buying ten thousand dollars in travel insurance from one of his boarders.

Well, Vern is as bad a traveler as he is a businessman, and he winds up in jail in New York City for two months through a series of unfortunate events and never gets to travel to Australia. In the meantime the rich friend dies without making provisions for the town, but worse, the ship Vern was going to sail on sinks with no survivors. Vern's family naturally thinks he died and cashes in the life insurance policy, which certainly improves their lives - this was like two hundred thousand dollars back in 1940. But then "the ghost comes home" and the family realizes the insurance company will want their money back and they've already spent it. How does this work out? Watch and find out.

This has a fairly clever plot and pretty good acting. If you are a fan of the MGM formula and MGM stars - even the smaller ones - it is probably worth your time. Morgan is great as always as the befuddled "ghost" and Billie Burke excels as his dizzy but disappointed wife. Ann Rutherford is the Adams' daughter who fears she may have to marry the son of the town banker if she wants to get dad out of this insurance mess, and John Shelton plays the guy she really loves and the one who saves the day.

The problem is, Shelton just has no screen presence, nothing to make you remember him because he is oh so good or oh so bad. In the looks department he is dead average. Because he is at the center of the plot, I think he sinks the film by at least a star. You give the same role to every man James Stewart, and this film would have worked, but by 1940 Stewart was too big of a star to be in a B film like this. With Donald Meek in an uncharacteristically sinister role that is truly a delight.

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