When Algernon discovers that his friend, Ernest, has created a fictional brother for whenever he needs a reason to escape dull country life, Algernon poses as the brother, resulting in ever increasing confusion.
Algernon "Algy" Moncrieff (Rupert Frazer) and Jack Worthing (Paul McGann) discover that they have been "Bunberrying", that is, assuming different identities in order to enjoy themselves in ... See full summary »
Charles (Sir Rex Harrison) and his second wife, Ruth (Constance Cummings), are haunted by the spirit of his first wife, Elvira (Kay Hammond). Medium Madame Arcati (Dame Margaret Rutherford) tries to help things out by contacting the ghost.
Henry Hobson (Charles Laughton) is a successful bootmaker, a widower and a tyrannical father of three daughters. The girls each want to leave their father by getting married, but Henry refuses because marriage traditions require him to pay out settlements.
Brenda de Banzie
In 1875 London, young Wheeler (who lives by scavenging) finds a cameo of Queen Victoria, which he thinks so beautiful, he risks his life to save it. Possessed of a desire to see the Queen, ... See full summary »
The very model of wit and whimsy, the likes of which we do not see often enough any more
In the country, Jack has a large home, an 18-year-old ward, Cecily, to look after and is very serious. But in the city he is Earnest a young wag with a dastardly reputation and a good friend in the shape of fellow bachelor Algy. However when he wants to marry his urban love Gwendolen he meets opposition from her guardian Lady Bracknell. Jack tells Gwendolen where his rural home is and Algy overhears. Enticed by Jack's description of his ward Cecily, Algy travels to Jack's home and poses as his made up brother Earnest. However the arrival of Gwendolen puts the cat among the pigeons in a most frightful way that can only be resolved with delightful charm and wit (and some good fortune).
On the very day of Wilde's 150th birthday I decided that it seemed a perfectly reasonable time to rewatch one of his most famous works and sat to watch the most famous film version of Earnest. From the stage bound set up, this film opens up into proper sets, but it is not the background that opens up the film but the light and wonderful dialogue. I will not go into any more detail on the quality of the script because that stands for itself that, well over 100 years later, I can still watch it and laugh is testament to its quality. The delivery of the film does it justice, even if (ironically enough) the film does feel rather stuck on a stage certainly in comparison to the 2002 remake. This is understandable given the film's age but it does make the film feel a little constrained, but fortunately the wonderful dialogue gives it wings. Of course some people will not like the film for this reason as they prefer their humour to be more of the American Pie variety (nothing wrong with that) but for me I love the wit and fun it delivers.
Of course the cast is a major part of the delivery and the majority of them really do well with their roles. Redgrave is enjoyable and delivers his lines well even if he has the least colourful of the main characters. Denison is much more colourful and enjoys his smooth and rather caddish role with some relish and is enjoyable in support. Evans provides a most memorable character and also has some of the most celebrated lines (including the immortal and well-delivered 'a handbag?'). Of course stealing the film is usually the job of Margaret Rutherford, but she doesn't do that here despite still playing to her usual form. Greenwood and Tutin are OK and have plenty of good lines between them; they are little stilted at times but in some regards this is part of who they are very proper and slightly absurd characters.
Overall this is a wonderfully light little film but one that would sadly struggle to make an impact at the box office if it were to be re-released today. Many will find the lack of big obvious belly laughs to be a problem but if you do then I would simply say you're watching the wrong movie and should try something you're more accustom to. For me the script is a classic foundation for some nice direction (despite the set bound production) and some great delivery from a talented cast all combine to make this the very model of wit and whimsy, the likes of which we do not see often enough any more.
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