The Canterville Ghost (1944)

95-96 mins | Comedy, Fantasy | July 1944

Writer:

Edwin Blum

Producer:

Arthur L. Field

Cinematographers:

Robert Planck, William Daniels

Production Designers:

Cedric Gibbons, Edward Carfagno

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

The film opens with a brief prologue in which an offscreen narrator discusses "Simon de Canterville" as one of the "famous ghosts of England." HR news items and production charts add the following information about the production: M-G-M purchased Oscar Wilde's story in Aug 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. HR 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 HR news items and production charts, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. In addition, HR 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 (See Entry). The film was to be shown to overseas forces prior ... More Less

The film opens with a brief prologue in which an offscreen narrator discusses "Simon de Canterville" as one of the "famous ghosts of England." HR news items and production charts add the following information about the production: M-G-M purchased Oscar Wilde's story in Aug 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. HR 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 HR news items and production charts, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. In addition, HR 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 (See Entry). The film was to be shown to overseas forces prior to its U.S. release. In Jan 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 28 Sep 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 20 Nov 1950, starring Cecil Parker and Margaret O'Brien, as part of its Robert Montgomery Presents Your Lucky Strike Theatre program; on 12 Apr 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 9 Nov 1966; and on 15 Oct 1986, Paul Bogart directed John Gielgud, Ted Wass and Andrea Marcovicci in another syndicated version. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
3 Jun 1944.
---
Daily Variety
26 May 44
p. 3.
Film Daily
31 May 43
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Aug 39
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jul 43
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Aug 43
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Aug 43
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Aug 43
p. 4, 10
Hollywood Reporter
30 Aug 43
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Sep 43
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Sep 43
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Sep 43
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Oct 43
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Dec 43
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Dec 43
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Apr 44
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
18 May 44
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
26 May 44
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jun 44
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Aug 44
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jan 45
p. 5.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
20 Nov 43
p. 1635.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
27 May 44
p. 1909.
New York Times
29 Jul 44
p. 16.
Variety
31 May 44
p. 20.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost supv
Men's cost
MUSIC
Mus score
SOUND
Rec dir
VISUAL EFFECTS
Ghost spec eff
Spec eff cam
DANCE
Dance dir
MAKEUP
Makeup created by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the short story "The Canterville Ghost" by Oscar Wilde in Court and Society Review (1887).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Gertie from Bizerte," words and music by James Cavanaugh, Walter Kent and Bob Cutter.
DETAILS
Release Date:
July 1944
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 28 July 1944
Production Date:
21 August--6 December 1943
addl scenes spring 1944
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
29 May 1944
Copyright Number:
LP176
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
95-96
Length(in feet):
8,574
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
PCA No:
9781
Passed by NBR:
Yes
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 ... +


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. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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