Canterville, Ghost, The: Jules Dassin’s Fantasy-Comedy, Starring Charles Laughton, Robert Young, Margaret O’Brien

Jules Dassin directed The Canterville Ghost, a fantasy-comedy loosely based on Oscar Wilde’s short story.

The Canterville Ghost

The feature starred Charles Laughton as a ghost haunting an English castle, and Robert Young as his American relative tasked to redeem him.

It was remade as a TV movie in 1986 and again in 1996.

In the seventeenth century, Sir Simon de Canterville (Laughton) is forced by the Code of Chivalry to engage in a duel on behalf of his brother, but flees to the family castle when his opponent is substituted for a giant, the Bold Sir Guy (uncredited Tor Johnson). His proud father, Lord Canterville (Reginald Owen), refuses to acknowledge that his son has disgraced the family.

During World War II, US Army Rangers are in a castle owned by Lady Jessica de Canterville (Margaret O’Brien), who is 6 year old.  One of the men is Cuffy Williams (Robert Young).

When the Rangers encounter Sir Simon, rather than being terrorized, they humiliate the ghost with a mock haunting. With Cuffy’s help, Jessica overcomes her own fear.  She discovers that Cuffy is a Canterville by distinctive birthmark. Together, the two meet and learn the fate of their ghostly ancestor.

One night, Simon takes Cuffy on a tour of the family portrait gallery, recounting the cowardly act of each descendant. Cuffy scoffs at Simon’s misgivings and boasts that he is different.

Disgraced and leaving the Rangers, Cuffy is faced with an unexploded parachute mine threatening his platoon with destruction. However, when Lady Jessica inadvertently activates the mine trying to inspire him, Cuffy hitches the bomb and steers it into a ravine. His courageous act finally frees Sir Simon from centuries of bondage.

Charles Laughton as Sir Simon de Canterville
Robert Young as Cuffy Williams
Margaret O’Brien as Lady Jessica de Canterville
William Gargan as Sergeant Benson
Reginald Owen as Lord Canterville
Rags Ragland as Big Harry
Una O’Connor as Mrs. Umney
Donald Stuart as Sir Valentine Williams
Elisabeth Risdon as Mrs. Polverdine
Frank Faylen as Lieutenant Kane
Lumsden Hare as Mr. Potts
Mike Mazurki as Metropolus

Peter Lawford as Anthony de Canterville


Directed by Jules Dassin, Norman Z. McLeod (uncredited)
Produced by Arthur Field
Screenplay by Edwin Blum, based on “The Canterville Ghost,” 1887 short story by Oscar Wilde
Music by George Bassman
Cinematography Robert Planck, William H. Daniels (uncredited)
Edited by Chester Schaeffer
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Release date: July 28, 1944 (New York City)

Running time: 95 minutes


I m grateful to TCM for showing the film December 18, 2019.