The Canterville Ghost


1h 36m 1944
The Canterville Ghost

Brief Synopsis

A ghost who died a coward tries to inspire U.S. GIs to become heroes.

Photos & Videos

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Fantasy
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jul 1944
Premiere Information
New York opening: 28 Jul 1944
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "The Canterville Ghost" by Oscar Wilde in Court and Society Review (1887).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 36m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,574ft (9 reels)

Synopsis

In 1634, in England, Sir Simon de Canterville agrees to take his wounded brother Anthony's place in a duel with the diminutive Sir Valentine Williams. The portly Simon demands that the duel be fought with lances, but to his horror, Sir Valentine also claims injury and sends his enormous cousin to the duel in his stead. After the first pass, a terrified Simon flees on his horse and hides in an alcove in the Canterville castle. Valentine pursues him there, but Simon's proud father, Lord Canterville, insists that his son would not tarnish the family name by hiding. As proof of Simon's courage, Lord Canterville agrees to have the alcove bricked up and, despite Simon's pleas, condemns him to die in the tomb and walk the castle's halls until a Canterville descendent commits a brave act while wearing Simon's signet ring. In 1943, the now-deserted Canterville castle, with its infamous ghost, Simon, is besieged by a platoon of American soldiers, who are to be billeted there. The castle's current owner, the precocious six-year-old Lady Jessica de Canterville, who lives nearby with her aunt, Mrs. Polverdine, greets the soldiers and tells them about the castle's haunting. The men, led by Sergeant Benson, are at first skeptical of Jessica's claims, but change their minds when Simon appears before them that night, moaning and striking ghastly poses. When one cocky soldier, Cuffy Williams, decides to scare the ghost back by chasing it in a sheet and gas mask, Simon disappears up a chimney. The next morning, the soldiers, exhausted from their previous night's activities, are reprimanded by their commander, Lt. John Kane, who refuses to believe their ghost tales. Seeing that Cuffy is limping, Kane orders him to clean the castle, while the rest of the platoon drills in the surrounding woods. Cuffy is soon joined by Jessica and insists on introducing her to Simon. After overcoming her fears, Jessica talks openly to Simon, who reveals his father's curse and bemoans his lonely entrapment, which has been prolonged because all of his descendents have been cowards. Jessica then notices that Cuffy has the Canterville birthmark on his neck and speculates that Cuffy is a Canterville and is brave enough to break the curse. That night, Jessica and Simon question a bemused Cuffy about his English ancestors and confirm their suspicions that he is a descendent of Simon's nephew. Simon then asks Cuffy, whom he calls "nephew," to wear his signet ring into battle, and Cuffy agrees. Later, at a party hosted by Mrs. Polverdine, Cuffy, who is proud of his newly discovered noble heritage, overhears some locals laughing about the Canterville family and questions Simon about it. Taking Cuffy to the castle's portrait gallery, Simon sadly explains that whenever one of his Canterville descendents faced a life-threatening situation, he would grow scared and run. Cuffy assures Simon that he will not let him down, and the following day, the platoon is called to duty. The platoon's assignment is to blow up a refinery on enemy soil, and Cuffy's job is to defend against German counterattacks. As Cuffy nervously awaits the explosion, Simon realizes that Cuffy forgot his ring and materializes with it on the battlefield. Cuffy accepts the ring just before the bomb blast and, while Simon watches from the bushes, joins his partner, Trigger, at a machine gun. After Trigger is killed by a German, Cuffy tries to take over the machine gun, but becomes paralyzed with fear and is replaced. Later, the platoon returns to Canterville castle, and Cuffy learns that he is being transferred. A depressed Cuffy then informs Jessica, who had been praying for his success, that he is a coward like all the other Cantervilles. As Jessica walks home in tears, however, she sees a parachute falling to the ground and runs to tell Cuffy and Simon. Jessica leads Cuffy to the parachute, which turns out to be carrying a large German bomb. Realizing that if the bomb explodes, the platoon, which is drilling in the woods, will be destroyed, Cuffy starts to attach it to his jeep. Once again, Cuffy becomes overwhelmed by fear, but overcomes his terror when an hysterical Jessica begins to kick the bomb. As Simon rides on top of it, Cuffy races the bomb away from the woods and jumps from his jeep just before it explodes into the castle. His brave deed finally accomplished, Simon thanks his "nephew" and "niece" and disappears into a peaceful eternity. Later, at Simon's newly constructed gravesite, Jessica confesses to Cuffy that she will soon be turning seven.

Photo Collections

The Canterville Ghost - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for MGM's The Canterville Ghost (1944), starring Charles Laughton and Margaret O'Brien. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Fantasy
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jul 1944
Premiere Information
New York opening: 28 Jul 1944
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "The Canterville Ghost" by Oscar Wilde in Court and Society Review (1887).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 36m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,574ft (9 reels)

Articles

The Canterville Ghost


Charles Laughton was heavily criticized in England for spending the World War II years in the U.S. The charges were unfair. Like many in Hollywood's British colony, he spent most of those years making films that helped the Allies' propaganda effort, including The Canterville Ghost (1944), a rather unlikely adaptation of an Oscar Wilde short story.

Wilde's story focused on a cowardly ghost forced to haunt the family manse until someone in his family became a hero. But where the original story played up the hypocrisy of an American minister who buys the Canterville castle, MGM turned the film into a flag-waving effort in which the ghost is confronted with a troop of American soldiers stationed in his ancestral home. Released a month before the D-Day invasion, it was one of many popular films designed to foster good relations between the U.S. and Great Britain. With Laughton as the lovable specter and Margaret O'Brien, the studio's top child actor of the 1940s, as the castle's modern-day owner, it couldn't help but generate good will, along with some impressive box-office returns.

Laughton had signed with MGM, at an impressive $100,000 a film, to work with production chief Irving G. Thalberg. With Thalberg's untimely death, however, he found few productions of any interest at the studio until this one came along. But during the first week of shooting, he had a major problem with director Norman Z. McLeod. Although McLeod had an impressive record working on comedy - having worked with the Marx Brothers on Monkey Business (1931) and Horse Feathers (1932) and W.C. Fields on It's a Gift (1934) - Laughton didn't think he had the right approach and insisted he be replaced.

Fortunately, MGM had a young director under contract who had already worked well with Laughton as an assistant on They Knew What They Wanted (1940). So Jules Dassin, who had only recently graduated from shorts to feature films, got his first shot at an "A" film with The Canterville Ghost. After all his trouble with McLeod, Laughton was totally accommodating of Dassin. He offered the young director all the insight he could, but always did it in private, never contradicting him or offering suggestions in front of the crew. Dassin would go on to successes in the film noir genre, most notably the prison drama Brute Force (1947) and the police thriller The Naked City (1948). When the blacklist cut his Hollywood career short, he would move to Europe and resurface as the director of such international hits as Never on Sunday (1960) and Topkapi (1964), both starring his wife, Melina Mercouri.

Laughton had no problems with the rest of the cast. Old friend Reginald Owen played his father, who in the film's prologue walls him up to die after an act of cowardice. And he found child star Margaret O'Brien enchanting. Some biographers have suggested that his warm on and off-screen relationships with such young actresses as O'Brien, Maureen O'Sullivan (The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1939) and Deanna Durbin (It Started With Eve, 1941) reflected his frustration at not having a daughter of his own. (On learning that he was homosexual, Laughton's wife, Elsa Lanchester, decided not to have any children - something he resented all his life). But he was also clearly enthralled by the pint-sized star's talent. According to Lanchester's memoirs (Elsa Lanchester Herself, Michael Joseph: London, 1983), "He thought she must have been a changeling, somehow descended from royalty; perhaps, kidnapped from a Persian king."

Producer: Arthur L. Field
Director: Jules Dassin
Screenplay: Edwin Harvey Blum
Based on the Short Story by Oscar Wilde
Cinematography: Robert Planck
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Edward Carfagno
Music: George Bassman
Principal Cast: Charles Laughton (Sir Simon de Canterville/The Ghost), Robert Young (Cuffy Williams), Margaret O'Brien (Lady Jessica de Canterville), William Gargan (Sgt. Benson), Reginald Owen (Lord Canterville), Rags Ragland (Big Harry), Una O'Connor (Mrs. Umney), Frank Faylen (Lt. Kane), Mike Mazurki (Metropolus), Peter Lawford (Anthony de Canterville).
BW-96m. Closed captioning.

by Frank Miller

The Canterville Ghost

The Canterville Ghost

Charles Laughton was heavily criticized in England for spending the World War II years in the U.S. The charges were unfair. Like many in Hollywood's British colony, he spent most of those years making films that helped the Allies' propaganda effort, including The Canterville Ghost (1944), a rather unlikely adaptation of an Oscar Wilde short story. Wilde's story focused on a cowardly ghost forced to haunt the family manse until someone in his family became a hero. But where the original story played up the hypocrisy of an American minister who buys the Canterville castle, MGM turned the film into a flag-waving effort in which the ghost is confronted with a troop of American soldiers stationed in his ancestral home. Released a month before the D-Day invasion, it was one of many popular films designed to foster good relations between the U.S. and Great Britain. With Laughton as the lovable specter and Margaret O'Brien, the studio's top child actor of the 1940s, as the castle's modern-day owner, it couldn't help but generate good will, along with some impressive box-office returns. Laughton had signed with MGM, at an impressive $100,000 a film, to work with production chief Irving G. Thalberg. With Thalberg's untimely death, however, he found few productions of any interest at the studio until this one came along. But during the first week of shooting, he had a major problem with director Norman Z. McLeod. Although McLeod had an impressive record working on comedy - having worked with the Marx Brothers on Monkey Business (1931) and Horse Feathers (1932) and W.C. Fields on It's a Gift (1934) - Laughton didn't think he had the right approach and insisted he be replaced. Fortunately, MGM had a young director under contract who had already worked well with Laughton as an assistant on They Knew What They Wanted (1940). So Jules Dassin, who had only recently graduated from shorts to feature films, got his first shot at an "A" film with The Canterville Ghost. After all his trouble with McLeod, Laughton was totally accommodating of Dassin. He offered the young director all the insight he could, but always did it in private, never contradicting him or offering suggestions in front of the crew. Dassin would go on to successes in the film noir genre, most notably the prison drama Brute Force (1947) and the police thriller The Naked City (1948). When the blacklist cut his Hollywood career short, he would move to Europe and resurface as the director of such international hits as Never on Sunday (1960) and Topkapi (1964), both starring his wife, Melina Mercouri. Laughton had no problems with the rest of the cast. Old friend Reginald Owen played his father, who in the film's prologue walls him up to die after an act of cowardice. And he found child star Margaret O'Brien enchanting. Some biographers have suggested that his warm on and off-screen relationships with such young actresses as O'Brien, Maureen O'Sullivan (The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1939) and Deanna Durbin (It Started With Eve, 1941) reflected his frustration at not having a daughter of his own. (On learning that he was homosexual, Laughton's wife, Elsa Lanchester, decided not to have any children - something he resented all his life). But he was also clearly enthralled by the pint-sized star's talent. According to Lanchester's memoirs (Elsa Lanchester Herself, Michael Joseph: London, 1983), "He thought she must have been a changeling, somehow descended from royalty; perhaps, kidnapped from a Persian king." Producer: Arthur L. Field Director: Jules Dassin Screenplay: Edwin Harvey Blum Based on the Short Story by Oscar Wilde Cinematography: Robert Planck Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Edward Carfagno Music: George Bassman Principal Cast: Charles Laughton (Sir Simon de Canterville/The Ghost), Robert Young (Cuffy Williams), Margaret O'Brien (Lady Jessica de Canterville), William Gargan (Sgt. Benson), Reginald Owen (Lord Canterville), Rags Ragland (Big Harry), Una O'Connor (Mrs. Umney), Frank Faylen (Lt. Kane), Mike Mazurki (Metropolus), Peter Lawford (Anthony de Canterville). BW-96m. Closed captioning. by Frank Miller

Jules Dassin (1911-2008) - TCM Schedule Change for Director Jules Dassin Memorial Tribute on Friday, April 20th


In Tribute to director Jules Dassin, who died Monday, March 31st, at age 96, TCM is changing its evening programming on Sunday, April 20th to honor the actor with a double-feature salute.

Sunday, April 20th
8:00 PM Naked City
9:45 PM Topkapi


TCM REMEMBERS JULES DASSIN (1911-2008)

Jules Dassin gained experience in theater and radio in New York before going to work in Hollywood in 1940, first with RKO (as assistant director) and then with MGM. Dassin hit his stride in the late 1940s with such dynamic (and still well-regarded) film noir melodramas as "Brute Force" (1947), "The Naked City" (1948), "Thieves' Highway" (1949) and "Night and the City" (1950), starring Richard Widmark who died this past Monday, March 24th.

After being blacklisted he moved to Europe, where he scored his greatest international successes with the French-produced "Rififi" (1955) and the then-scandalous "Never on Sunday" (1959), starring his second wife Melina Mercouri. For the most part, his later films--such as "Up Tight" (1968), an ill-conceived black remake of John Ford's 1935 classic "The Informer"--have been disappointing and inconclusive. Dassin, however, maintained that among his own films, his personal preference was "He Who Must Die" (1958), starring his wife Melina Mercouri. It is one of his least known films and is rarely screened today but here is a description of it: "Greece, in the 1920's, is occupied by the Turks. The country is in turmoil with entire villages uprooted. The site of the movie is a Greek village that conducts a passion play each year. The leading citizens of the town, under the auspices of the Patriarch, choose those that will play the parts in the Passion. A stuttering shepherd is chosen to play Jesus. The town butcher (who wanted to be Jesus) is chosen as Judas. The town prostitute is chosen as Mary Magdalene. The rest of the disciples are also chosen. As the movie unfolds, the Passion Play becomes a reality. A group of villagers, uprooted by the war and impoverished, arrive at the village led by their priest. The wealthier citizens of the town want nothing with these people and manipulate a massacre. In the context of the 1920's each of the characters plays out their biblical role in actuality."

Family

DAUGHTER: Julie Dassin. Actor. Mother, Beatrice Launer.
SON: Joey Dassin. Mother, Beatrice Launer.
SON: Rickey Dassin. Mother, Beatrice Launer.

Companion
WIFE: Beatrice Launer. Former concert violinist. Married in 1933; divorced in 1962.
WIFE: Melina Mercouri. Actor, politician. Born c. 1923; Greek; together from 1959; married from 1966 until her death on March 6, 1994.

Milestone

1936: First role on New York stage (Yiddish Theater)

1940: First film as assistant director Directed first stage play, "The Medicine Show 1941: Directed first short film, "The Tell-Tale Heart"

1942: Feature directing debut, "Nazi Agent/Salute to Courage"

Jules Dassin (1911-2008) - TCM Schedule Change for Director Jules Dassin Memorial Tribute on Friday, April 20th

In Tribute to director Jules Dassin, who died Monday, March 31st, at age 96, TCM is changing its evening programming on Sunday, April 20th to honor the actor with a double-feature salute. Sunday, April 20th 8:00 PM Naked City 9:45 PM Topkapi TCM REMEMBERS JULES DASSIN (1911-2008) Jules Dassin gained experience in theater and radio in New York before going to work in Hollywood in 1940, first with RKO (as assistant director) and then with MGM. Dassin hit his stride in the late 1940s with such dynamic (and still well-regarded) film noir melodramas as "Brute Force" (1947), "The Naked City" (1948), "Thieves' Highway" (1949) and "Night and the City" (1950), starring Richard Widmark who died this past Monday, March 24th. After being blacklisted he moved to Europe, where he scored his greatest international successes with the French-produced "Rififi" (1955) and the then-scandalous "Never on Sunday" (1959), starring his second wife Melina Mercouri. For the most part, his later films--such as "Up Tight" (1968), an ill-conceived black remake of John Ford's 1935 classic "The Informer"--have been disappointing and inconclusive. Dassin, however, maintained that among his own films, his personal preference was "He Who Must Die" (1958), starring his wife Melina Mercouri. It is one of his least known films and is rarely screened today but here is a description of it: "Greece, in the 1920's, is occupied by the Turks. The country is in turmoil with entire villages uprooted. The site of the movie is a Greek village that conducts a passion play each year. The leading citizens of the town, under the auspices of the Patriarch, choose those that will play the parts in the Passion. A stuttering shepherd is chosen to play Jesus. The town butcher (who wanted to be Jesus) is chosen as Judas. The town prostitute is chosen as Mary Magdalene. The rest of the disciples are also chosen. As the movie unfolds, the Passion Play becomes a reality. A group of villagers, uprooted by the war and impoverished, arrive at the village led by their priest. The wealthier citizens of the town want nothing with these people and manipulate a massacre. In the context of the 1920's each of the characters plays out their biblical role in actuality." Family DAUGHTER: Julie Dassin. Actor. Mother, Beatrice Launer. SON: Joey Dassin. Mother, Beatrice Launer. SON: Rickey Dassin. Mother, Beatrice Launer. Companion WIFE: Beatrice Launer. Former concert violinist. Married in 1933; divorced in 1962. WIFE: Melina Mercouri. Actor, politician. Born c. 1923; Greek; together from 1959; married from 1966 until her death on March 6, 1994. Milestone 1936: First role on New York stage (Yiddish Theater) 1940: First film as assistant director Directed first stage play, "The Medicine Show 1941: Directed first short film, "The Tell-Tale Heart" 1942: Feature directing debut, "Nazi Agent/Salute to Courage"

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The film opens with a brief prologue in which an offscreen narrator discusses "Simon de Canterville" as one of the "famous ghosts of England." Hollywood Reporter news items and production charts add the following information about the production: M-G-M purchased Oscar Wilde's story in August 1939 as a vehicle for Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart. (In the Wilde story, "Lady Jessica," the part played by child star Margaret O'Brien, was an older character.) In 1943, after 38 days of shooting, Norman Z. McLeod was replaced as director by Jules Dassin. Hollywood Reporter reported that McLeod was leaving due to a "difference of opinion;" modern sources state that McLeod was fired on the insistence of star Charles Laughton. Robert Planck replaced William Daniels as director of photography when McLeod left the production. Bob Crosby was scheduled to perform in a non-singing role in the film, but did not appear. Although Mary McLeod, Will Stanton, Ethel Griffies and Jack Lambert were listed as cast members in Hollywood Reporter news items and production charts, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. In addition, Hollywood Reporter announced that former M-G-M grip Fred Beckner was to make his screen acting debut playing a "Ranger" in the picture, but his participation in the completed film has not been confirmed. Some scenes were shot at Busch Gardens in Pasadena, CA. The Canterville Ghost marked the reunion of Robert Young and O'Brien, who had appeared together in the popular 1942 M-G-M film Journey for Margaret . The film was to be shown to overseas forces prior to its U.S. release. In January 1945, Randall Faye filed a $100,000 lawsuit against M-G-M, alleging that the studio plagiarized his story "You Belong to Me," which he claimed to have submitted to M-G-M in 1943, when it made The Canterville Ghost. The disposition of that suit is not known.
       Among the many other adaptations of Oscar Wilde's story are the following television versions, all titled The Canterville Ghost: On September 28, 1949, the ABC network broadcast a version directed by Fred Carr and starring Wendy Barrie and Edward Ashley; the NBC network broadcast a version on November 20, 1950, starring Cecil Parker and Margaret O'Brien, as part of its Robert Montgomery Presents Your Lucky Strike Theatre program; on April 12, 1951, the Du Mont network broadcast a version directed by Frank Wisbar and starring Lois Hall, Reginald Sheffield and Bruce Lester; in May 1953, Ziv TV produced a syndicated version, directed by Sobey Martin and starring John Qualen and Connie Marshall; a musicalized adaptation, written and produced by Burt Shevelove and starring Michael Redgrave, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Peter Noone, was broadcast on the ABC network on November 9, 1966; and on October 15, 1986, Paul Bogart directed John Gielgud, Ted Wass and Andrea Marcovicci in another syndicated version.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Summer July 1944

Released in United States Summer July 1944