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Mrs Erlynne, the mother of Lady Windermere - her daughter does not know about her - wants to be introduced in society, so that she can marry Lord Augustus Lorton. Lord Windermere, who helped her with a cheque, invites her to his wifes birthday-party, but Lady Windermere thinks, she has reason to be jealous, so she decides to leave her husband and go to Lord Darlington, who is pining for her. Mrs Erlynne finds this out and tries to prevent her of this mistake, but her daughter leaves her fan in Lord Darlingtons residence. Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <email@example.com>
At first it might not seem as if the combination of Ernst Lubitsch and Oscar Wilde would work very well, but this silent-screen adaptation of Wilde's "Lady Windermere's Fan" is both enjoyable and well-crafted. Instead of clashing, Lubitsch's stylish, mischievous approach and Wilde's perceptive cynicism complement each other. The characters and the story are Wilde's, the acting and the style are Lubitsch's.
Although the material is heavily re-worked from the original play, Lubitsch's decisions all seem to work pretty well. Wilde's witty and resourceful dialogue is gone, but his insightful portrayals of human nature remain. Lubitsch also makes good use of the camera to bring off some shots that could not have worked on the stage. In particular, at times he makes the fateful fan seem almost a full-fledged part of the cast.
This movie version features solid performances by May McAvoy and Bert Lytell as the Windermeres, with a youngish-looking Ronald Colman suitably ingratiating as Lord Darlington. But Irene Rich has the most interesting character, and as Mrs. Erlynne she also gives a fine performance that particularly stands out in her scenes with the other characters. She and Lubitsch both capture the nature of her unpopular but admirable character, while carefully setting up the contrasts and conflicts between her and the other characters, who are in general more socially acceptable but far less worthy.
This also works well simply as an entertaining, often very amusing, and sometimes dramatically compelling story. For most silent film fans, it would definitely be worth tracking down and watching.
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