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Lady Windermere's Fan (1925)

Approved | | Comedy | 6 January 1926 (Canada)
A society woman believes her husband is having an affair, a misconception which may have dire personal consequences for all involved.

Director:

Ernst Lubitsch

Writers:

Oscar Wilde (by), Julien Josephson (adapted to the screen by) | 2 more credits »
Reviews
1 win. See more awards »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Ronald Colman ... Lord Darlington
May McAvoy ... Lady Windermere
Bert Lytell ... Lord Windermere
Irene Rich ... Mrs. Erlynne
Edward Martindel ... Lord Augustus Lorton (as Edw. Martindel)
Carrie Daumery ... The Duchess of Berwick (as Mme. Daumery)
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Storyline

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 <eichenbe@fak-cbg.tu-muenchen.de>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The super-sensation of the Screen-the crowning achievement of the foremost Motion Picture Director in the world today- Ernst Lubitsch (Print Ad- Greenfield Recorder, ((Greenfield, Mass.)) 9 January 1926)

Genres:

Comedy

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

On 28 March 2008, composer Yati Durant premiered a new score for clarinet, piano, string quartet and electronics at the Cologne Philharmonic in Cologne, Germany. The composition was commissioned by the Cologne Philharmonic and the U.S. Consulate General. See more »

Quotes

Opening title card: Lady Windermere faced the grave problem of seating her dinner guests.
See more »

Connections

Version of Lady Windermere's Fan (1916) See more »

User Reviews

 
Silence, Please, No Epigrams
15 September 2018 | by CineanalystSee all my reviews

"Lady Windermere's Fan" is a master class in silent film adaptation by Ernst Lubitsch of Oscar Wilde's play of the same name. Bringing one of Wilde's works, which are justifiably renowned for their clever word play, especially the epigrams, to the silent screen seems an act of folly, but no filmmaker at the time, and perhaps since, had a better sense of visual wit than Lubitsch--an appreciation that extended to the entire withdrawal of Wilde's epigrams from this adaptation, to be replaced largely by the sort of amusing visual gags and situations of the sophisticated romantic comedy, which was then just emerging in cinema, such as in Lubitsch's prior "The Marriage Circle" (1924), and, more specifically, that evolved into the comedy of remarriage genre.

Despite Wilde's caustic wit putting high society in its place, so to speak, the resolution of the play was a product of the Victorian morals and age in which it was written, especially in regards to the role of women as faithful wives and mothers and nothing else. Not only did Lubitsch update it to the modern Roaring Twenties in the sense that there were now automobiles instead of horse-drawn carriages, but he likewise updated its lapses into moralism with a farce that's playful to the end. Additionally, instead of preserving the play's not-so-surprising revelation that Mrs. Erlynne is Lady Windermere's mother, it announces this in Edith Erlynne's first scene; consequently, allowing for much of the humor and intrigue to be restructured around the dramatic irony of the spectator knowing what the characters do not. The updating also remakes Edith into something of a vamp or a flapper, including her wardrobe distinguishing her from the high-society clique. And, although she wishes to join their ranks, so as to marry, she also seems to relish the attention her appearance as a deviant brings her, especially from the opposite sex. I also find it amusing how she recklessly tosses her cigarettes aside rather than placing them in the ashtrays that are always nearby (two subsequent adaptations, "The Fan" (1949) and "A Good Woman" (2004), contain more obvious jokes based on Mrs. Erlynne's smoking). Although Irene Rich as Edith appears fourth in the credits, including below the star-in-the-making Ronald Colman as Lord Darlington, the play's cad, this is Rich's picture. Behind the screen, they must've known this, too, as she steals the show down to the delightfully-altered ending, although the supporting cast is quite amusing, too.

While having the unduplicated distinction of being the most prestigious director in two nations, Germany and, then, the U.S., and in both the silent and sound eras, both critically and in terms of studio clout, it doesn't seem that Lubitsch receives as much appreciation nowadays as do some other filmmakers of his era. Regardless, his "touch" is evident here, from the smart adaptation, well-crafted pacing, grand set design and the peerless comedic timing. And, this was Lubitsch's picture, as Warner Bros. gave him the rare artistic freedom for studio productions, from story selection to final cut. The original racetrack scene is a brilliant series of looks, of binocular-masked point-of-view shots and reverse angles, as Lubitsch parodies society's busybodies cackling over the sight of Edith. Throughout the picture, this system of looks is repeated in scenes where characters peer out windows. At the end of the racetrack scene, there's also a creative shot of Edith passing an "Exit" sign, as Lord Lorton follows her and a wipe closes out the scene just at the right point. Another shot relies for its comedic effect on no camera movement or editing and entirely upon how Lady Windermere re-enters the shot as she debates whether to search her husband's desk drawer.

This would be a rich film to study for its more technical aspects alone: the editing, camera placement, production design, blocking. The garden scene in the party sequence is another good example of this--how the obscuring of the spectator's view of Lady Windermere and Lord Darlington's interaction adds comedic effect while that of Edith's interaction as witnessed by Lady Windermere compounds the dramatic irony. Additionally, Lubitsch was once derisively called the "director of doors" by Mary Pickford, due to their contentious collaboration on "Rosita" (1923), and there's good, if at first seemingly puzzling, reason for the moniker. I believe his emphasis on doors is the backbone of the films' pacing, the movement of the characters and the edits. Even though he insisted on always showing characters enter and exit every door, this film has a decent average shot length of 7.4 seconds, which is also surely helped by the sparing use of intertitles. And those title cards tend to add to the farce, such as the scene focusing on the relation of a gentleman to a lady being indicated by the manner in which he rings her doorbell, which is doubly humorous when considering the director's already-established fascination with the entryways, that he now is diving into their detail with doorbells. Even when a shot seems at first to linger needlessly on the sight of a door being opened and closed, such as when Lady Windermere leaves the garden, it serves a purpose; in that case, it anticipates Edith's following her. It also helps that the doors tend to be absurdly gigantic, with doorknobs sometimes reaching near faces. The enormous sets in general, when aided by well-timed long-shot framings, add literalism to the satirical smallness of the characters amid high-handed society and personal shortcomings.

It's also notable that Lubitsch and company also adapted a 1916 version of the same story and reworked some of its alterations in "opening up" what was originally a three-sets and four-acts play. Film historian Charles Musser goes into some detail comparing the two in the essay, "The Hidden and the Unspeakable: On Theatrical Culture, Oscar Wilde and Ernst Lubitsch's Lady Windermere's Fan." The 1916 film, however, is primitively filmed from distant camera positions, bogged down by wordy title cards, with histrionic acting and more moralizing than even in Wilde's original, but without the satire. This 1925 iteration improves on all of this: an intricate use of the camera based on looks--what characters see and misbelieve they see--, nuanced performances that are allowed to display the registering of character thoughts though a more intimate camera and a pacing that is patient and yet remains energetic, lush settings and aided by the translating of the written witticisms into visual wit.


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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

6 January 1926 (Canada) See more »

Also Known As:

Hans største fristelse See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$320,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

(2004 National Film Preservation Foundation print)

Sound Mix:

Silent

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

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