Today I went back to the Warner Bros. Archive to watch a movie that I had wanted to see for a long time, “The Canterville Ghost“. When I was young my only exposure to the story was in the 1986 TV version, which I enjoyed. But I remember when it was on, getting an earful from my Mother about how much better the original was. Well Ma’, I finally got to see the original and I have to agree with you.
“The Canterville Ghost” is a fantasy/comedy film directed by Jules Dassin that was released in 1944. It is loosely based on the short story of the same name by Oscar Wilde and the film stars the imitable Charles Laughton as the ghost of Sir Simon de Canterville, who is doomed to haunt an English castle, Margaret O’ Brien as the castle’s six year old owner and Robert Young as Cuffy Williams (a possible descendant as Sir Simon).
The plot is pretty great. The specter of Sir Simon de Canterville has haunted Canterville Castle for 300 years, ever since he was walled up alive for cowardice and only a daring deed by a kinsman will free his spirit. Unfortunately, the Cantervilles are a timorous lot and Simon is out of luck. Then World War II GIs are billeted at the castle and among them is Canterville descendant Cuffy Williams. But could Cuffy be cursed with the family lily liver?
Child star Margaret O’Brien gives a solid performance as the young heiress to the castle, and Robert Young tears his way through the script with remarkable charisma. The greatest treat of course is Charles Laughton as the ghost. Who is absolutely delightful in the titular role. Even though the word ghost appears in the film’s title, the film anything but a horror film, but is instead an expertly done comedy. Now I know this film may never appear on the AFI’s list of the greatest films of all time, but it is a solid comedy that deserves its due.
The Canterville Ghost (DVD or Digital Download) [@] Warner Bros. Archive