Bil’s rating (out of 5): B. USA, 1944. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Screenplay by Edwin Blum, based on the story by Oscar Wilde. Cinematography by Robert H. Planck. Produced by Arthur Field. Music by George Bassman. Production Design by Edward C. Carfagno, Cedric Gibbons. Costume Design by Valles. Film Editing by Chester W. Schaeffer.
This film has very little to do with the original Oscar Wilde story aside from its barest premise. The heiress to the Canterville estate is a precocious little girl (Margaret O’Brien) who is thrilled when she discovers that a group of American soldiers are coming to rent her castle before heading for the continent. Among the group waiting to go fight Hitler is a kindly sergeant (Robert Young) who turns out to be her long-lost relative, and possibly the key to solving a great problem for the Canterville line: the ghost of a long-dead relative (Charles Laughton), killed for his cowardice, roams the halls of the castle until someone in his family can save him through bravery. Terribly written and directed (by Jules Dassin no less), the film is clunky and stupid, totally ignoring the thematic principles of Wilde’s story and making it a tale about bullshit machismo instead.