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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Is this a faithful adaptation of the Oscar Wilde classic? Don't know,
never read it. This is though, a silly and entertaining movie that can
be enjoyed by the whole family.
This was my first introduction to Margaret O'Brien and she won me over with her sweet charm. As a platoon of U.S. soldiers hold up in the haunted Canterville castle, they are excited by the news that they are to be welcomed by Lady Jessica de Canterville herself. The boys are surprised when Lady Jessica happens to be a 3-1/2' tall 6-year-old. She plays hostess to the GI's and tells them of the residing ghost. Their disbelief is soon tested by the late night antics of Sir Simon (Charles Laughton), who has inhabited the castle in his ghostly form for over 300 years. He has been condemned to this state of purgatory for his cowardice which can only be relieved by a blood descendant performing an act of bravery in his stead.
Having seen Charles Laughton in 'The Private Life of Henry VIII', 'Mutiny on the Bounty' and 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame', I was surprised to see him in this role as a clumsy, silly ghost. As usual, he is wonderful. A master thespian who can handle comedy as well as drama.
I highly recommend this film to anyone young or old who just wants an hour and a half of amusement.
I don't know what rating to rate my movie for 9.5 or 10.0 it was a just too great of a fantasy movie for me to rate such a low rating. Margaret O'Brien was charming, adorable, and a nice little treat to watch even though she is not in the movie all the time, but still, she was nice with the crying and the acting that I'll will just wait a ten for. She was great in Meet me in St. Louis and she was great in this one. I would really desire for this movie to be released on DVD in Amazon or something because 3-4 weeks ago, I have just finished this movie on VHS tape and I thought it was a really good movie to recommend to old movie fans. I would have to say Margaret O'Brien is probably great in all her movies although I haven't seen all of them yet, but I am looking forward to checking all of her child stars movies out before checking her when she was older like The secret garden-older. Margaret O'Brien has just been great acting like every time she cried, I started tearing up and started sobbing a little like MMISL she was really great playing "Tootie" and her little cry at the end. Margaret O'Brien is just a great character to adore as much as little Bailee Madison or Judith Barsi. They were really close to tearing up the audience near Margaret O'Brien but if Judith Barsi was still here, I would be very happy about that that she will be great as an Adult and teenanger.
Jules Dassin directed this adaptation of Oscar Wilde's story, a charming fantasy about the ghost of a coward haunting an English castle, aided by a relative who must perform a heroic deed to save the spirit from eternal misery. Despite a reportedly troubled production, the cast (including big scene-stealer Charles Laughton and little scene-stealer Margaret O'Brien) glides through it blithely, and Dassin's handling of the material is efficient, if perhaps a tad colorless. Robert Young and Peter Lawford are interchangeably bland, but there are some pleasurable moments. Perhaps not the most memorable apparition-laden comedy, but an enjoyable entry in the genre. **1/2 from ****
I don't blame the folks involved in this junk version of Oscar Wilde's
The Canterville Ghost. It was, after all, typical of the propaganda of
But I too was always a non-fan of Margaret O'Brien (as well as Robert Young) even when I was a child and the idea of revising the story to take place during WW2 turned me off completely. I wonder why Charles Laughton who is still considered a major stage and film actor of his time got roped into it but I suppose he considered it "fun". And, as usual for most actors, after a while they will seemingly do anything for a buck.
I still cringe when I think about this film and the awful (supposedly naughty!) song about "Gertie from Bizertie" which was more acceptable, I suppose, than "Madamoiselle from Armentières".
Still one of the worst!
I cringe when I read all these comments gushing over little MARGARET
O'BRIEN, as if she was a thespian of great talent when she was six or
seven years old. Personally, I never got her charm as a child actress,
but I am willing to say that she is at her most tolerable in THE
CANTERVILLE GHOST. But still, her acting always seemed stilted and
self-conscious, like a little girl who knew she was good at reciting
lines and making them sound reasonably convincing.
However, nothing she can do to distract me is really worth commenting on because the film belongs almost exclusively to a mostly delightful script (except for the last sequence) that gives CHARLES LAUGHTON the chance to play--with his usual gusto--the role of a cowardly ghost who has been haunting a castle in England for over 300 years and must keep on doing so until a distant relative can redeem him by a single act of bravery.
ROBERT YOUNG is that relative and he's genuinely attractive and amusing in a role that is less bland than usual for Young. He does show a nice bit of chemistry with his little co-star. A bunch of American soldiers, in 1943, are well cast with RAGS RAGLAND doing most of the funny business while other soldiers like WILLIAM GARGAN and FRANK FAYLEN do their best to give the cast some class. All of the scenes involving the antics of these servicemen--including a fun party scene featuring the jitterbug dance of two soldiers--are pleasant to watch.
For light entertainment with an unusual slant, this is one of the better vehicles MGM found for Margaret O'Brien and her particular brand of child actress. As stated above, I found her more tolerable than usual in this one.
I don't know that I will even give a movie a 10 out of 10, but this movie has "haunted" (in a wonderful way) my life since my childhood! Not only do the great actors of those days and the screen writing teach us what real life, courtesy, care, concern and speech are like, they can still flood our minds with hope! Not to say that good movies aren't still made, because they are! And not say that everyone was rosy and good then, either. But this movie still retains a way, and tugs on our minds and hearts, to still be good people, to not give in to the epithets of the present U.S. culture of 2007. It only takes honesty, care, understanding, concern and kindred souls to realize that we all are one on this planet, and may more planets than just this one. And actors such as Charles Laughton, Margaret O'Brien, Robert Young, Rags Ragland, Una O'Connor, Reginald Owen, and so many more, continue to teach us in ways that many of our present day actors will never be able to. And I'm not sure why!?! And isn't it interesting that 2 GIs can dance together, and do it wonderfully well, and it IS art!! And yet done today, people would look at all of that and make lurid judgments!! And a 7 year old could act with the likes of a Charles Laughton and we don't jump to all kinds of disreputable conclusions, at might happen today. I am thankful for movies and stories such as this. I am thankful for people such as Oscar Wilde, Edmin Blum and Jules Dassin. Unfortunately, the telling of the realities of war, though, although not as graphic then as now, (maybe that's not a bad thing), are still as haunting today as back then. But rather than end on a sad note, I say, let us all raise a glass to the hope that is part of the movies of such as the like as Charles Laughton, and to the hope that will continue in many ways in today's movies. I know they are there. I watch too many not to understand that. It's just that times were different. But people usually still fight for good and noble causes today as ever before, and isn't that what this movie is about?!!!
What a pleasant surprise. I usually don't watch too many movies like this, or comedies in general. I'm glad i watched this one. Charles Laughton, Robert Young, and Margart O'Brien are all good. You should watch it, it's pretty good.
I can't say for sure how faithful The Canterville Ghost is to Oscar Wilde's story as it's been a while since I read it. What's for sure though is that I have always really liked this film. The story is slight and may get a little too schmaltzy at times, however much more than makes up for it. The costumes and sets are simply beautiful and lovingly photographed and directed, while the music is fitting with the film and story's mood. The script is on the whole delightful, piling it on with the fun and charm. And I can say little wrong about the performances either. Charles Laughton plays the title role with real gusto, and Margaret O'Brien is suitably cute as a button and exuberant. They are well supported by the amiable, charming Robert Young, the characterful Reginald Owen and the suave Peter Lawford. All in all, a lot of good fun. 8/10 Bethany Cox
After watching it recently, my reaction to the film is mixed at best. On the plus side are the setting and atmosphere, the cast and acting - primarily of the three main characters Sir Simon - the Ghost, Lady Jessica and Cuffy). On the minus side - and to me it is a big minus, is the total departure from Wilde's original story. Even a film made during war era need not necessarily have soldiers and flag-waving. In the film, the only result of these departures, combined with the artificial ups and downs in Cuffy's behaviour, is to destroy the charm of the original story and convert it into an inane potboiler. However, the atmosphere and the acting do rescue it to some extent and make it possible to enjoy the film - though only after one decides to forget about Wilde.
This is a most accomplished movie and haunting. From the first moments
of bricking in to the final absolution of the ghost it follows a poetic
course and is one of the greatest of redemption movies. But it's not
available as DVD in UK and I doubt it's been shown on UK TV in the last
30 years. Is there a copyright problem with it? One would have thought
not. Have the producers of the later movie buried it? Surely not.
Charles Laughton's role here is deeply affecting - and given knowledge
of his homosexuality, the portrayal of the failed knight unable to
compete in the jousts and ostracised by his community and family
becomes even more affecting. His equivalent is the poor lion in the
Wizard of Oz.
His redemption comes of course with the arrival of the unflappable American family and especially their loving daughter who sees qualities in the poor knight that were never seen before. This is a lovely film that needs to be seen more often.
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