Gordon Lightfoot lyric question?

In Gordon Lightfoot's lyric from the song, If You Could Read My Mind, he mentions a movie about a ghost from a wishing well. Is this a reference from a actual movie? What's the movie?

6 Answers

  • Mettle
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Hm... I don't know if this is true or not, but the only information I could find draws a line from that line in Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind" to (of all things) an old Abbott and Costello movie from 1946 called THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES:


    The Time Of Their Lives (1946) Universal, Produced by Val Burton, Directed by Charles Barton, Scenario by Val Burton, Walter DeLeon, Bradford Ropes, and John Grant, Music by Milton Rosen.

    With Bud Abbott & Lou Costello, Marjorie Reynolds, Binnie Barnes, John Shelton, Gale Sondergaard, Lynn Baggett, Jess Barker, Donald MacBride, William Hall, Robert H. Barret, Rex Lease.

    Do you remember a Gordon Lightfoot lyric “...just like an old-time movie, ‘bout a ghost from a wishing well” and have you wondered what movie it was referring to?

    Here it is, a most unusual and imaginative comedy for Abbott and Costello. Lou and Reynolds are killed as traitors during Revolutionary times, and their ghosts haunt a country estate where Bud and friends come to live.



    Apparently Lou (who plays a tinker) is considered a traitor and is sentenced to live in a well until he as a ghost can prove his innocence. He haunts Bud, who plays a great great grandson of the man who betrayed Lou. Lou's haunts until Bud until Bud finally helps him clear his name.


  • dilley
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    Gordon Lightfoot Lyrics

  • Anonymous
    6 years ago

    Actually there is a movie, owned by Disney, called Child of Glass about the ghost of a little French girl who sings a riddle to two modern children who must unravel the mystery to let the ghost rest in peace. The little French girl had been murdered. I saw this as a child and could never remember the name until I just researched it. A very eeriee movie with the girl singing Frere Jaques is what I remember. This is the movie Lightfoot is singing about, it has to be it is such a touching film.

  • 1 decade ago

    There was a British movie....

    Charles Laughton was in it.

    Been a long time...

    something about American GI in England ...WW2......ancestral estate.....

    ghost of ancestor resides....someone with family name must perform act of Bravery to set ghost free....something like that.

    wishing well figures into.

    I do quick search on....

    The name of the movie is

    The Canterville Ghost(1944)


    plot synopsis

    In the 1600s, cowardly Sir Simon of Canterville flees a duel and seeks solace in the family castle. His ashamed father seals him in the room where he is hiding and dooms him to life as a ghost until one of his descendants performs a brave deed. Simon believes he may be saved when he meets Cuffy Williams, an American kinsman stationed with a troop of soldiers at the castle in 1943. Will this blood relative save the family honor, or will his blood be as yellow as the rest of the Cantervilles?


  • How do you think about the answers? You can sign in to vote the answer.
  • 1 decade ago

    Just like an old time movie

    bout a ghost from a wishin well

    In a castle dark or a fortress strong

    With chains upon my feet

    You know that ghost is me

    It is not a literal movie. He is using this as a metaphor for himself being a ghost in her life. This is about losing love.

  • If You Could Read My Mind

    Gordon Lightfoot

    The song begins with the title, "If you could read my mind, love" which implies that the object to whom the song is written does not have the instinctive insight to know what is going on with the thoughts of the singer. Such lack of communication can be found at the basis of most every failed relationship. This is further supported by the next line which says "What a tale my thoughts could tell." This untold tale of the singer should have been known long ago. He failed to tell it, and she failed to search for it.

    The singer then compares his untold tale to an "old-time movie about a ghost from a wishing well, in a castle dark, or a fortress strong, with chains upon my feet. You know that ghost is me." In the movie "The Canterville Ghost"(1944), the ghost in question is doomed to an existence in the ancient family castle, after his cowardice gets the better of him and he flees from a duel. This metaphor from the singer is comparing his own cowardice of being unable to confront his lover about issues which will cause confrontation, thereby putting the chains upon his own feet. The ghost in the movie cannot be set free until one of his descendants does a brave deed. Likewise, the singer states he "will never be set free, as long as I'm a ghost that you can see." This is a play on the long-standing belief that ghosts are mostly invisible, and some certain condition makes them visible to certain persons. The singer is simply stating that he will remain in these trapped conditions "with chains upon his feet" as long as he is visible to her. He is unable to do his own brave deed to set himself free.

    The writer then turns the tables on himself with the beginning of the second verse by stating "If I could read your mind, love, what a tale your thoughts could tell." It is now he that lacks the instinctive insight to know what is going on with her thoughts. However, he takes a swipe at her be classifying her thoughts as "just like a paperback novel, the kind that drug stores sell." In the contrast of comparing his thoughts to a classic Hollywood movie with distinctive stars and a high-quality story line, he compares her thoughts to the cheesy and sometimes sleazy story lines which fill cheap novels, none of which would ever garner any literary award.

    The writer then tells his lover that "when you reach the part where the heartaches start, the hero would be me." He obviously considers himself a hero of sorts from her past, saving her from toxic relationships before she fell for him. Then suddenly, he adds a dose of reality and humility to his boasting as her hero by saying "and heroes often fail." The writer then completes the second verse by predicting the end of the relationship between him and her with the line "And you won't read that book again because the ending's just too hard to take."

    As the bridge of the song begins, the singer now has demonstrated many of his emotions including fondness, discernment, nostalgia, futility, timidity, anger, boastfulness, humility, and frustration. In the bridge he states "I walk away, like a movie star, who gets burned in a three-way script." He was suppose to be the star, he was supposed to be at the center of the screen. But, a third person has "burned" him, or bumped him out of the scene, and "enter number two" is his admission that this third person is no longer the third person, but has become number two to her. She is now "a movie queen to play the scene of bringing all the good things out in me." He is implying that her actions and emotions towards him are not real, and are only part of her plot to soften him to her blows by bring his best attributes to light. However, he sees through all of that by using the line "But for now love, let's be real."

    The singer then pulls out of his metaphors and sings the first of two lines which are grounded in his reality, "I never thought I could act this way and I've got to say that I just don't get it. I don't know where we went wrong, but the feeling's gone and I just can't get it back." He didn't see it coming. He didn't feel the changes as they took place. He thought that everything was just fine, and that it always would be that way. Then one day, it all fell apart. He saw her behaviors. He saw her changes. He felt his own self becoming somebody he never thought he would be. And finally, his love for her was gone, and he knew hers for him was gone also. It will never be the same, it will never be what it was. It will never be.

    The singer next repeats his first verse to emphasize his trapped feelings even more, but to the line that "the story always ends." Futility. Despair. He cannot go on from here, and he wants her to know that he still cannot bring himself to consciously say what he really is feeling. "And if you read between the lines you'll know that I'm just trying to understand the feelings that you lack." Finally, in his second of two lines grounded in reality, he sings "I never thought I could feel this way and I got to say that I just don't get it. I don't know where we went wrong but the feeling's gone and I just can't get it back." Not only has this failure affected his actions, but also his feelings to the point that he has no control over either, and the inevitable end of the relationship then fades away as the last two bars of the song are gently picked on his guitar in a slowing, softening, descending melancholy which leaves her, and the listener as well, drifting away into thoughts of what might have been. The ghost is now set free from the fortress, only to eternally exist in the song.

    When I was twelve, I didn't understand it. Forty-four years later, after living it, it remains the most haunting of songs from my early years. Thanks Gordon for creating a masterful story.

Still have questions? Get your answers by asking now.