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Oscar Wilde (1960)

 -  Biography | Drama | History  -  May 1960 (UK)
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Title: Oscar Wilde (1960)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Phyllis Calvert ...
Sir Edgar Clarke
Edward Chapman ...
Martin Benson ...
George Alexander
Robert Harris ...
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Henry Oscar ...
William Devlin ...
Stephen Dartnell ...
Ronald Leigh-Hunt ...
Lionel Johnson
Martin Boddey ...
Insp. Richards
Leonard Sachs ...
Richard Legallienne


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Release Date:

May 1960 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Forbidden Passion  »

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Technical Specs


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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Robert Morley made his name on the stage playing Oscar Wilde at the London Gate Theatre in 1936. The play was a success despite being banned from major London theatres because of its theme of homosexuality, and was later produced in America with Morely making his Broadway debut in the part on October 10, 1938. The play was a hit in New York and ran 247 performances, a substantial run at the time for a straight play. See more »

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User Reviews

"Oh, he was too ugly to kiss..."
2 April 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Oscar Wilde reputation is set for all time. He was a brilliant, witty writer of graceful style. He was also a bi-sexual, whose affair with Lord Alfred Douglas led to a tragic final fall when exposed in court. What most people forget is that the trial where he was exposed was a libel suit against Lord Alfred's brutal and mad father the Marquess of Queensbury (the one who gave us the rules for boxing). Queensbury hated his sons and their mother, and his antics helped lead to the suicide of one of the sons (the private secretary of Prime Minister, Lord Roseberry). Queensbury disliked Wilde for his influence over Lord Alfred and his unspeakable homosexual affair with his son. He sent him a note on a card, "To Oscar Wilde, disguised as a "somdomite"." The Marquess presumed that by misspelling sodomite he was protecting himself but smearing Wilde. Wilde had an opportunity then to ignore the slur and go abroad for awhile (which most men in his position would have done). He decided to sue - goaded into it by Lord Alfred (who saw this as a safe opportunity to hit at his father). Never has such a critically important legal decision been made on such a stupid basis.

The barrister for Queensbury was Edward Carson, one of England's greatest lawyers. He is the model for the barrister played by Robert Donat in "The Winslow Boy" (based on Carson's defense of young Archer-Shee in the 1911 legal action). Carson was a master of cross-examination, and he had plenty of information that Queensbury (and Wilde's many enemies) had gathered about his sexual activities. But Wilde was able to fend off the attack for hours, until he reached a series of questions about a telegraph boy who was available for sex for hire. Carson had been unable to make a dent into Wilde's hide so far, and then out of sheer desperation asked, "Did you kiss him?" Wilde was amazed - the question did throw him. "Did I kiss him?", he repeated. "Yes", answered Carson with a lack of real interest. Wilde had been trumping Carson with one-liners that left the court in stitches. Instead of saying, "Of course not!" or "How dare you!", which would have helped, Wilde quipped the sentence in the summary line above. And Carson saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Wilde never recovered after that.

The jury was able to absolve Queensbury of libel (after all, it was shown that Wilde was homosexual). The authorities now held back for nearly twelve hours from going after Wilde. They simply hoped he would flee to the continent. Instead, Wilde decided to stay and fight. It is the second trial that really demolished him. He was now on trial of committing sodomy, and the evidence was too overwhelming. Found guilty, he was sentenced to three years in prison. He left prison and lived in France until he died in Paris, a broken, impoverished wreck, in 1900.

If you are a homosexual, Wilde is one of the great martyr's to the cause. If you love good writing his end is a dismal tragedy. All the films of his life retell it's denouement. It never gets any better in the retelling - there is no repaired last act. Even (historically) a "reformed", right-wing supporting Lord Alfred rejected the image of his "Bosie" period in later years - claiming he never was a homosexual. One ends just pitying Wilde, unless one is just a reactionary type or a mindless idiot like Queensbury.

Robert Morley never gave a better dramatic performance on film (as opposed to his comic performances) than in this film. Witness his moment on the witness stand, when he realizes the result of his blunder. The cast of John Neville, Ralph Richardson, Edward Chapman, and Dennis Price do equally well in this tale of talent that was shot down so stupidly. I certainly recommend watching it...and then reading "Dorian Gray", "The Importance of Being Earnest", "Salome", "The Ballad of the Reading Gaol", to get a glimmer of the talent that was smashed beyond repair.

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