A film with Charles Laughton and Margaret O’Brien can’t be too bad. This wartime fantasy was a tad too predictable for my tastes though.
Oscar Wilde’s source material has clearly been heavily edited. In the 16th Century, Sir Simon de Canterville pledges to duel on behalf of an injured kinsman then flees in terror when his opponent is changed. Sir Simon’s heartless father bricks him up in the alcove where he takes refuge, cursing him to haunt the house until a kinsman will fight bravely on behalf of Sir Simon. Through the years, all kinsmen have proved as cowardly as Simon himself.
During World War II, a platoon of American Rangers are billeted at the Canterville manse. The head of the Canterville clan at the moment is Lady Jessica (Margaret O’Brien), just six years old. The ghost does his best to scare the wits out of the men but when challenged turns out to be just as cowardly as ever.
The ghost and Lady Jessica get very chummy with GI Cuffy Williams (Robert Young). Lady Jessica deduces that Cuffy is a long lost relative by a characteristic birthmark he bears. Now it is up to Cuffy to break the curse so Sir Simon can at last rest in peace. With Una O’Connor as a housekeeper, Reginald Owen as Lord Canterville, Peter Lawford as a kinsman, and Frank Faylen and Mike Mazurki as American soldiers.
This was kind of a disappointment. Laughton is fine but his relationship with O’Brien and O’Brien herself are somewhat syrupy. The rest of the film contains no surprises, other than my puzzlement about why these soldiers were suddenly sent off to Germany and then returned to England.