Review: The Importance of Being Earnest
Blu-ray: The Importance of Being Ernest (1952)
The film opens and closes with a brief ‘reminder’ that we are in a theatre watching a production of the play – and not a film. Based on Oscar Wilde’s final play (the initial production in the late 1800’s of which was infamously sabotaged by allegations of Wilde’s homosexuality by the father of his toyboy lover The Marquis of Queensbury…he intended to give Wilde a bouquet of rotten veg for ruining his son) and Wilde’s subsequent jailing and ruin, it has been adapted for screen numerous times (including a very boring 2002 version co-starring Reese Witherspoon), but this earlier 1952 film by director Anthony Asquith is the most faithful and definitive version of Wilde’s play. Asquith’s straightforward adaptation allows the audience to bask in comedy, and importantly comedy that spans the ages.
Starring a wonderful Michael Redgrave as Jack/Ernest and Michael Denison is perfectly cast as his roguish friend Algernon. Dorothy Tutin made her screen debut as Cecily, and is suitably youthful and naively manipulative, while Joan Greenwood sexily purrrrs her way through a supporting performance as Redgrave’s betrothed.
The film’s most famous performance, however, is given by Dame Edith Evans, who played the role of Lady Bracknell for several decades on stage, and whose incredulous and sonorous performance of such magic lines as ‘A handbag?!’ and ‘To lose one parent, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.’ Are hilarious.
This new Blu-ray released by Network is pin sharp and shows how delightfully florid the dresses and hats worn by the various women in the cast wore. A fantastic film.
Booklet by Professor Neil Sinyard
A Profile of The Importance of Being Earnest featurette
Extensive image galleries
Promotional material PDFs
Review by Tina (co-host of 60 Minutes With) from a disc kindly supplied by Network on Air.