At the height of his fame (his plays being much celebrated in London in the 1890's), Oscar Wilde angers the Lord Queensbury by having what is whispered and gossiped as a romantic ... See full summary »
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At the height of his fame (his plays being much celebrated in London in the 1890's), Oscar Wilde angers the Lord Queensbury by having what is whispered and gossiped as a romantic relationship with Queensbury's son, twenty years Wilde's junior. When Queensbury slanders Wilde, the arrogant artist decides to take the matter to court, and brings about his own downfall. Written by
Gary Dickerson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
John Gielgud wrote that he was originally offered the role of Wilde, having had major successes directing Wilde's plays "Lady Windemere's Fan" and "The Importance of Being Earnest" (the latter also being one of Gielgud's most famous non-Shakespearean acting roles). He turned the film down, writing "no one could look less like Wilde than I do, not even Peter Finch." See more »
Queensberry leaves Wilde a card accusing him of "posing as a sodomite". The real Queensberry misspelled the word as "somdomite"; presumably this was changed for clarity's sake. See more »
[the Marquis of Queensbury hands an insulting bouquet of vegetables to Oscar Wilde]
How charming. Every time I smell them I shall think of you, Lord Queensbury.
See more »
Lillie Langtry's name is misspelled "Lily." See more »
Ken Hughes film 'The Trials of Oscar Wilde' may at first appear to be one of those cheesy Technicolor costume dramas when in fact it is a gripping and finely acted account of the appalling treatment Oscar Wilde received at the hands of the English justice system at the end of the 19th century.
Peter Finch is superb as the eponymous hero and is totally committed to the role and turns in one of his best performances on screen. The supporting cast is also quite good if more generalized in their characterizations, more a fault of the screenplay than the performers. There is one especially fine supporting performance from Lionel Jeffries as the maniacal Lord Queensbury. Jeffries plays Queensbury as a crazed brute, a type of man we can no longer countenance in these days, though I suspect they are still out there waiting for their chance to pounce on those who they fear and do not understand.
Sonia Dresdel is Lady Wilde, Oscar's dotty mother at the end of her life. It's a small part but is quietly powerful. Other people in Wilde's life, Constance, his wife, and Ada Leverson, his stalwart friend and life-long supporter, are tantalizingly glimpsed but little is revealed of their inner workings. But this isn't a film about them but about the actual trials and much of the film is spent in courtrooms. This might sound boring but it isn't.
James Mason appears in the first trial as the defending witness, for Lord Queensbury, and a more vicious, narrow-minded lawyer could hardly be found, even these days.
The technical credits are competent if nothing special; the music, melodramatic in a soap-opera-ish way, the sets plush and too clean. But somehow the power and tragedy of Wilde's story comes through all the gilding of the script, peppered with some of Wilde's wiser quotes, well-placed, naturally, in the text. There is nothing preachy or moralistic which is a relief, compared to the highly politicized scripts being written since this film was made.
It is interesting to note Nicholas Roeg as the camera operator. He wasn't the cinematographer but I detected a few Roeg-ish touches in a couple of the more meditative scenes.
This is not a film to be sluffed off as old-fashioned simply because there are no sex scenes or vulgar language or violence. The psychic violence suffered by Oscar Wilde was quite sufficient enough and this is a memorable film, worth having in the collection.
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