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The Canterville Ghost

The Canterville Ghost title card

Year - 1944
Studio - MGM
Stars - Charles Laughton, Robert Young, Margaret O'Brien, William Gargan, Reginald Owen, "Rags" Ragland, Una O'Connor
Director - Jules Dassin
Writing Credits - Edward Harvey Blum (screenplay), Oscar Wilde (story)
Music - George Bassman


In the 1600s, Sir Simon of Canterville (Charles Laughton) is called upon by his brother to defend the family honor in a jousting match, but he runs away and hides in a room in the family castle. His shamed father has the door to the room bricked over, and declares that Sir Simon's spirit will remain in the castle until a descendant performs a heroic deed in his name.

In 1943. the castle is owned by a 6 year old family descendant, Lady Jessica de Canterville (Margaret O'Brien) who lives with her aunt. They have allowed a platoon of American soldiers, an Army Ranger unit, to stay in the castle as they prepare for war with the Nazis. Simon's ghost soon appears to the soldiers who are, at first, frightened, but then aggressively chase him shoot at him, and attempt to photograph him.

Canterville Ghost poster

Lady Jessica becomes close with one of the soldiers, Cuffy Williams (Robert Young), especially when she discovers that he has a birthmark on the back of his neck that identifies him as a Canterville descendant. Sir Simon shows Cuffy portraits of other Canterville descendants, all of whom were cowards in battle. He begs Cuffy to perform a heroic deed so that his curse may be lifted, and Cuffy assures him that he will. But when the platoon is sent off to a battle, Cuffy freezes in fear and is unable to take the place at the machine gun of a fallen comrade.

The commanding officer tells a forlorn Cuffy that he will be sent back to his old unit because of his failure. Jessica sees something parachuting from the sky and warns Cuffy. He finds that it is a large German bomb set to detonate at any time. Knowing that the Rangers are about to return, he connects the bomb to a jeep, and speeds toward a cliff, jumping out at the last second. The bomb explodes harmlessly below, and Cuffy returns to the castle where Sir Simon's spirit is finally freed from its earthly confinement.

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