“There isn’t a ghost here or anywhere else, because ghosts simply don’t exist outside of mystery stories!”
The daughter (Jean Parker) of an American businessman (Eugene Pallette) falls in love with the destitute owner (Robert Donat) of a Scottish castle, which is haunted by Donat’s doomed ancestor (also Donat).
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Cross-Class Romance
- Elsa Lanchester Films
- Jean Parker Films
- Mistaken Identities
- Rene Clair Films
- Robert Donat Films
Rene Clair’s first English-language film (produced by Alexander Korda) was the highest grossing film of the year in Great Britain, and received glowing reviews from the New York Times, which labeled it “gay, urbane and brilliantly funny”. These days, however, it pales somewhat in comparison with Jules Dassin’s superior The Canterville Ghost (1944) — also about a ghost doomed to haunt his castle until he’s able to commit a specific deed. In this case, Donat’s “Murdoch Glourie” — killed while kissing a lass rather than paying attention to a battle — must avenge his family’s honor against a rival clansman; meanwhile, Jean Parker’s sweet Peggy Martin falls for the modern-day (“real”) Donat, though mistaken-identity plot complications ensue (naturally) when Parker believes the ghostly Murdoch is merely Donat dressing up.
The script also incorporates some rather pointed barbs about American mores, as Pallette’s blustery millionaire arranges to have Donat’s castle shipped over to America brick by brick (!), and engages in petty one-upmanship with a business rival over “ownership” of the castle’s ghost.
Donat — whose Scottish accent noticeably slips in and out — is appropriately handsome and charming as the lady-loving Murdoch, but rather bland and forgettable when playing his modern-day heir, Donald; Murdoch should have been given more screentime. While it holds some historical interest given its enormous popularity, this one is no longer must-see viewing for all film fanatics.
Note: Elsa Lanchester is sadly underused in a tiny role as a paranormal enthusiast showing up for dinner during the film’s final climactic scene. Was this meant merely as a cameo?
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Robert Donat as Murdoch Glourie
- Atmospheric sets
No, unless you’re a fan of the ghostly genre.