The Canterville Ghost | MGM | Jules Dassin | 1944
The irresistible prospect of Charles Laughton doing Oscar Wilde, bulldozed and pasteurized into…WWII propaganda? MGM, at its worst, was pestilential, a plague of sugar-stuffed locusts on the most promising material. Peter Lawford’s screech-voice opens the picture before passing the baton to Laughton’s blubbery sub-Ray Bolger antics. Robert Young’s trademarked personality-lessness wants to foil against but instead just droopily overlays the rest of his army cornballs to castrate and fabulize the very idea of military combat/heroism/existence so that it becomes the stuff of cozy fireside yuk-yuks. Margaret O’Brien is the majestically infantilized proxy for the solipsistic audience who wants to believe in this no man’s fantasy land. Who was the genius who came up with “Oscar Wilde–but for kids!….and with Nazis?” Thanks be to God I quickly washed the taste out with Night and Fog in Japan!