When a teenaged girl moves to England, with her brothers and parents into the ancient Canterville Hall, she's not at all happy. Especially as there's a ghost and a mysterious re-appearing bloodstain on the hearth. She campaigns to go back home, and her dad, believing the ghost's pranks are Ginny's, is ready to send her back. But then Ginny actually meets the elusive 17th-century Sir Simon de Canterville (not to mention the cute teenaged duke next door), and she sets her hand to the task of freeing Sir Simon from his curse. Written by
Virginia 'Ginny' Otis:
When a gentle girl can win a prayer from out the lips of sin/when a child gives up tears and the barren almond bears/when the silent chapel bell sounds the ghostly sinners knell/then shall all the house be still, and peace shall come to Canterville.
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This is a classic story in true Oscar Wilde wit and flair. It's both hautning and funny. It's a fairy tale for all ages. In this story a young American girl helps to free the tormented spirit that haunts an old English castle. It's very well written and a beautiful tale for all ages.
Let me start by saying I LOVE Oscar Wilde. I LOVE his work. Love it. I've even pre-ordered the British DVD of Dorian Gray with Ben Barnes since it never had a US release and I trained my computer to be able to play region 2 DVDs. I know it's not very faithful to the books but it has to be better than the 2006 version that was badly acted and made Basil a woman and set it in the 1960s.
My two favourite works by Oscar Wilde are The Picture of Dorian Gray and the novella, The Canterville Ghost.
The plot of The Canterville Ghost is pretty straight forward. A very theatrical old ghost haunts a castle in rural England. Turns out he murdered his wife so he was starved to death and cursed. An American family moves into the castle and the story becomes a funny spoof of British propriety and American commercialism as the American family annoys the Hell out of the ghost trying to scare them away. The ghost ends up befriending the teenage daughter of the family, fifteen-year-old, Virginia Otis. A prophecy is discovered:
'When a gentle girl can win Prayer from out the lips of sin, When a child gives up tears And the barren almond bears, When the silent chapel bell Sounds the ghostly sinner's knell Then shall the house be still And peace shall come to Canterville.'
And needless to say Virginia helps the ghost, Sir Simon de Canterville, to move on. There's also a sweet little subplot where she ends up with the young duke whom lives near by. This subplot is expanded in the 1996 film adaptation. Many films leave it out all together. It's a simple story and very sweet though I do actually feel Patrick Stewart's version is a lot more sympathetic than his own book counter part whom at points didn't seem to regret killing his wife at all really and was a bit petty too. Though I do still love the book I ust feel Patrick Stewart added something to the character of Sir Simon de Cantervllle that originally wasn't there.
This is probably the best adaptation of the story you are liable to see.
My least favourite version of The Canterville Ghost is the 1940s movie version which made it about an American soldier having to prove his bravery by killing a Nazi. That had nothing, and I mean NOTHING, to do with the original story. Even the ghost's cause of death was drastically changed for this so-called comedy (it was the bleakest version I had ever seen). They had the poor ghost (when he was alive) walled up for refusing to fight in a duel that was originally intended for his brother but the brother was hurt and couldn't fight. Since the ghost 'died a coward' his American descendant had to 'prove his bravery' by killing a Nazi. The ghost even begs the father that killed him for this 'cowardice' for forgiveness. This is awful! I HATE that version of The Canterville Ghost. How is it the forties version of The Picture of Dorian Gray was so true to the novel but The Canterville Ghost had nothing to do with it's book? They even added a Shirley Temple style little girl. The Otis family and fifteen-year-old Virginia were not existent in this version. A seven or eight year old girl owns a castle ...for some reason and American soldiers are staying it. One soldier happens to be related to the 'cowardly' ghost and he has to prove himself against Nazi for the ghost to move on. I can't wrap my mind around why this ghost would need to be forgiven for being starved to death for refusing to fight in a duel that was not his own. What the Hell!? It was pretty much all World War 2 propaganda. Oscar Wilde would have been rolling over in his grave, especially considering his original novella was written decades before the first World War and had nothing to do with soldiers or Nazis. If this film had just been retitled with a new name for the ghost I would not have even guessed it was an adaptation of The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde.
Now for my favourite film version of The Canterville Ghost:
My favourite adaptation of The Canterville Ghost is the 1996 movie with Neve Campbell as Virginia Otis and Patrick Stewart as the ghost. I actually like this incarnation of the ghost more than the version in the actual book though I LOATHE Virginia's obnoxious father in this film adaptation. His character was over the top annoying. This, in my opinion, is the best film version of The Canterville Ghost. If you haven't seen it, it sells for about six dollars on amazon or you can find it on youtube broken into six parts as Patrick Stewart as a ghost (with a subsequent number after each piece). This version is modernized but The Canterville Ghost lends itself well to modernization.
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