Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964): British Drama, Starring Kim Stanley in Oscar Nominated Performance and Richard Attenborough

Kim Stanley received a well deserved Best Actress Oscar nomination in Séance on a Wet Afternoon for her performance as Myra Savage, a lonely, middle-aged, highly disturbed woman, who conspires with her weak and submissive husband (Richard Attenborough) into kidnapping a little girl.

Séance on a Wet Afternoon
"Seance on a Wet Afternoon" (1964 film).jpg

1964 lobby card


Grade: B

Myra Savage is a practicing medium, holding afternoon séances in the shabby Victorian villa. She is able to connect with the other side through Arthur, her late, stillborn child.  Unlike most stories about kidnapping, the goal is not just ransom money, but also (or mostly) honor, the chance to prove her skills to the police, and thus win the respect she thinks she has always deserved.

Utilizing simple but effective means, the suspense is sustained throughout the duration of this eerie tale by director Bryan Forbes, who adapted to the screen the novel by Mark McShane, even though “Séance on a Wet Afternoon” is not exactly a thriller.

The movie unfolds as a bleakly atmospheric domestic melodrama about a stagnant and stifling marriage between two deluded, co-dependent individuals.

Despite critical acclaim by both British and American reviewers, the movie was a commercial failure.

Attenborough, who later on became a famous, Oscar-winning director (“Gandhi” in 1982, “Cry Freedom” in 1987) is heartbreaking as a weakling, a man who knows that his troubled wife walks a very fine line between sanity and madness, but out of love and devotion succumbs to her demands.

Kim Stanley, a Method actress and graduate of the Actors Studio, fulfills the promise she had shown in her very first film, “The Goddess,” in 1958.  Stanley didn’t work in movies again for nearly two decades, but had a successful comeback in the early 1980s, received a second, this time Supporting Oscar nod, for the biopic, Frances, as Jessica Lange’s disturbed mother.

Japanese Remake

The tale was remade, with significant changes, by Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa as “Séance” (aka “Korei”) in 2000.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Best Actress: Kim Stanley

 Oscar Awards: None

 Oscar Context:

The winner of the Best Actress Oscar was Julie Andrews for “Mary Poppins.”

Kim Stanley as Myra Savage
Richard Attenborough as Billy Savage
Nanette Newman as Mrs. Clayton
Mark Eden as Charles Clayton
Patrick Magee as Superintendent Walsh
Gerald Sim as Detective Sergeant Beedle
Judith Donner as Amanda Clayton
Margaret Lacey as Woman at first Séance
Marie Burke as Woman at first Séance



Produced by Richard Attenborough

Written and directed by Bryan Forbes, based on the n novel by Mark McShane

Camera; Gerry Turpin

Editor: Derek York

Music: John Barry

Art Design: Ray Simm


Running time: 115 Minutes

Production company: Allied Film Makers

Distributed by Rank Organization (UK), Artixo Productions (US)

Release date:  June 20, 1964 (UK);  November 5, 1964 (US)