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Ernst sein ist alles (1952) Online

Ernst sein ist alles (1952) Online
Original Title :
The Importance of Being Earnest
Genre :
Movie / Comedy / Drama
Year :
Directror :
Anthony Asquith
Cast :
Michael Redgrave,Richard Wattis,Michael Denison
Type :
Time :
1h 35min
Rating :
Ernst sein ist alles (1952) Online

Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff are two men that are both pretending to be someone they are not.
Complete credited cast:
Michael Redgrave Michael Redgrave - Ernest Worthing
Richard Wattis Richard Wattis - Seton
Michael Denison Michael Denison - Algernon Moncrieff
Walter Hudd Walter Hudd - Lane
Edith Evans Edith Evans - Lady Bracknell
Joan Greenwood Joan Greenwood - Gwendolen Fairfax (Her Daughter)
Dorothy Tutin Dorothy Tutin - Cecily Cardew
Margaret Rutherford Margaret Rutherford - Miss Prism
Miles Malleson Miles Malleson - Canon Chasuble
Aubrey Mather Aubrey Mather - Merriman

The director, Anthony Asquith, was the son of H.H. Asquith who, as Home Secretary, brought the charges of immorality which led to Wilde's imprisonment.

In keeping with the film's theatrical origins, Anthony Asquith shot it mostly in sequence and used long takes to let the actors develop the rhythms of Oscar Wilde's dialogue.

Edith Evans had problems adjusting to film acting, particularly when it came to hitting her marks on the floor. She finally told Anthony Asquith, "I always feel the camera should come to me instead of me go to the camera."

John Gielgud was offered the role of Jack Worthing in this film. Even though it was one of his signature roles on stage, he turned it down because he disliked filming.

Insecure in her first film, Dorothy Tutin kept requesting retakes until producer Teddy Baird told her how much each new take cost.

To maintain the play's theatricality, Anthony Asquith opened his film version by having a couple enter a theatre box. Their programs were used to display the film's opening credits, and the curtain rose on the rest of the film.

The Importance of Being Earnest opened at the Lyceum Theater (New York City) on April 22, 1895 and ran for 12 performances and has been revived in New York City eight times since as of 2008.

The film takes on February 14, 1895.

Margaret Rutherford (Miss Prism) previously played Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest (1946).

The on-screen credits order is in order of appearance, not in order of importance.

Opening credits: All characters and events in this film are fictitious. Any similarity to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Anthony Asquith's first film in colour.

This film begins with a scene in Ernest Worthing's flat in the Albany. In the script of the stage play (from which all the dialogue is taken), Jack and Algy appear first in Algy's flat, not in the Albany, and Seton does not even appear.

This film is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #158.

User reviews

Zeks Horde

Zeks Horde

Oscar Wilde's language is exquisitely spoken by the English cast that made, what should be considered, the definitive version of the play. The most important thing is the poetry all these actors were able to bring to the film, which reflects a bygone era; it is music to one's ears.

Anthony Asquith directed and adapted the play in ways that it never feels it's filmed theater. The director achieves a coup in casting Dame Edith Evans as Lady Bracknell, in one of her best appearances on the screen. Her Augusta is just what one expects a Victorian English lady to be like. Although Ms. Evans is not on screen all the time, she completely dominates the action. Even if one knows Ms. Evans is giving an exaggerated portrait of a society lady, she is delightful to watch as one stays riveted to her movements, facial expressions in making this woman come alive for us.

Michael Redgrave and Michael Denison, two dashing young actors, at the time, are a joy to see. The fastidious Jack, and his friend, Algenon, have excellent opportunities in which to shine. The same goes for the two female leads, Joan Greenwood and Dorothy Tutin, are perfectly cast as Gwendoline and Cecily, the love interests of Jack and Algenon. The redoubtable Margaret Rutherford is seen as Miss Prism, who is the key to solving the mystery in the plot.

"The Importance of Being Earnest" is a classic that was made at the legendary Pinewood studios and it shows the British cinema at its best.


This is a tremendous movie based on a tremendous play. Oscar Wilde, despite his personal quirks, or maybe because of them, was a master of wit and language. When he wished to be serious, his works are also well written.

This movie, and others based upon his works (The Picture of Dorian Gray, etc.) are all masterpieces of art.

The Importance of being Earnest has been remade successfully, the dialog cannot be better. The situation, while complicated, is hysterical, and everything fits into place, especially at the end. In the 1952 version the play by Wilde was well adapted by writer/director Anthony Asquith. The portrayals of all the case, of Redgrave, as Redgrave as Jack, of Evans as Lady Bracknell, even that of Malleson as Canon Chasuble are sparkling, and the movie could not have been more enjoyable.

Recent remakes of Wilde's movies, including that of The Importance of Being Earnest, are well done. This original movie, however, should be seen by anyone appreciating comedy, and want to watch a great film.


Oscar Wilde's most famous play is given an extremely stage-bound reading in this colour adaptation by Anthony Asquith. It evens starts and ends with the raising and lowering of a theatre curtain!

That aside this is probably the essential Wilde movie – not only do we get the main four role perfectly cast (Michael Redgrave as Jack, Michael Denison as Algy, Dorothy Tutin as Cecily, Joan Greenwood as Gwendolen), we also have two of the most delightfully eccentric portrayals in the history of cinema with Margaret Rutherford as Miss Prism, and, of course, Edith Evans as Lady Bracknell. Who could resist the way Dame Edith says ‘a handbag!'

A hugely enjoyable movie which makes sure none of the wit is lost in unnecessary padding or setting – something the makers of the recent remake could learn from.


Oscar Wilde's celebrated masterpiece is a comedy on three levels. First there is the denotative level, one might say, the level in which the bourgeois are entertained après dîner. It is on this level that Oscar Wilde follows the great theatrical tradition of comedy from the time of the Greeks through Shakespeare and French farce into the twentieth century to the musical comedy of the London and New York stage. His play on this level is a comedy of manners, pleasant, charming and very clever. The class conscious jokes about the lower orders and the servants are double-edged and add just a touch of squirm to the laughter of the not completely discerning audience. It is on the second level that The Importance of Being Earnest becomes one of the greatest plays ever written. On this level, the comedy is a full blown satire of Victorian society, and in particular of its audience. Wilde had the very great pleasure of flattering and making fun of the audience while being applauded for doing so. His subtitle for the play, "A Trivial Comedy for Serious People" is an allusion to these two levels. It is on this second level that Wilde speaks through the voice of Lady Bracknell (and sometimes Algernon), whose ironic and unself-conscious cynicism is so like his own. It is on this level that all the fun is made of the hypocrisy of marriage and its mercenary nature, at least as practiced by the petite bourgeoisie of London town, circa 1895. But there is a third level, a level known of course to the cognoscenti of the time and to modern audiences, but for the most part never dreamed of by the London theater-goers of the day. In this regard I have recently read that "Earnest" was a slang euphemism for being gay, and I suspect this is true. Indeed, I can imagine a whole world of witticism based on being "earnest" and being "Ernest," a world now (perhaps charitably) forgotten. Certainly this knowledge sheds some light on Jack's invention of his invalid friend "Bunbury," whom he finds he must visit to escape unwanted social engagements.

One of the best things about this great play is one can appreciate it on any one of the three levels and find delight on that level alone. One can see Worthy as John Worthy, or as Jack Worthy, or as Ernest Worthy, however one likes. This adaptation, starring the incomparable Dame Edith Evans as Lady Bracknell, and Michael Redgrave (father of Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave) as John Worthy is of course the justly celebrated, clearly definitive screen adaptation. It should be noted, however, that Lady Bracknell is the real star of the show, and when she enters a scene, she steals it. Edith Evans was brilliant and unforgettable and obviously having a wonderful time. Margaret Rutherford is a scream as Miss Prism and Miles Malleson as Chasuble is just, shall I say, darling. I should note that both the male leads were a touch too old for their parts. Redgrave was 42 and Michael Denison, who played Algernon, was 37 when the movie was released in 1952. Yet I think Oscar Wilde would have approved of the casting, probably finding it admirable and fitting that these two men about town would have avoided marriage for so many years. (I won't mention the ages of the actresses.) Joan Greenwood as Gwendolyn achieves just the right amount of flaky innocence and calculated whimsy, while Dorothy Tutin is the very definition of the spoiled, sweet and adorable, man-hunting Cecily Cardew. The direction by Anthony Asquith is unnecessarily directive in the sense that he moved some scenes around, but is essentially without harm.

The best way to appreciate this play, and to pick up all the nuances, and there are nuances aplenty--and jokes upon jokes, sharp social and political observations, and witticisms within prevarications, and lies that are truths and vice-versa--is to view the video, just appreciating it on one level, then read the script, and then view the video again. You're in for a treat.

(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)


The most recent version of The Importance of Being Ernest changed the script! Whoever thought that they could write better than Wilde was sorely mistaken. This version, however, is superb! Not only is the full text in tact, but Sir Michael Redgrave, known for his serious Shakespeare stage performances, shows how farce is best done when done "seriously". I love this version, and am ecstatic that it is now available on DVD. BRAVO!


I haven't yet seen the 2002 theatrical film version of Wilde's classic, perhaps because I can't see how anyone, not even Judi Dench, could improve upon Dame Edith Evans's immortal portrayal of that deathless battle-axe, Lady Bracknell. And then there's Margaret Rutherford and Miles Malleson wittily playing characters that fitted them to a "T." Not to mention the unctuously delicious Joan Greenwood, whose line readings caress one's ears like the aural equivalent of a framboise liqueur. Dorothy Tutin was a perfect wise-for-her-young-years ingenue. But the men, in my view, were merely serviceable, with Michael Denison, especially, somewhat of an annoyance. The Technicolor mounting, deliberately stagey, was eye candy of the best sort, like an extravagantly decorated old-fashioned box containing the sort of confections one would savor to the very last morsel. Great fun!


Irish-born Oscar Wilde, who managed to die in Paris at only 46 years of age, formed part of that school of renegé novelists and poets from the Emerald Isle which included James Joyce. Indeed, these and other Irish writers were banned from publication in England and I seem to remember that James Joyce's earlier works were actually published in French before being allowed into print in English in the U.K.

Tut, tut, such piquant and avant-garde ideas would be too much for the genteel Victorian aristocracy living safely tucked up in hypocracy-ladened gallantry. Fortunately, for the colony-enriched classes, the `plebianism' of Charles Dickens was too long ago for their short memories, or never made it onto their bookshelves. Notwithstanding, from such gentlemanly proceedings such wit is born and which was soon to become one of the outstanding achievements of finest British humour: the ability to laugh at one's own foibles.

To this effect we must be, in great part, indebted to Mr. Wilde in general, and to `The Importance of Being Earnest' in particular. No other play of this genre has been so enacted and so many times converted into film and in so many languages as this classic of upper-crust comportment. Among the numerous versions available on film, this one by the irreplaceable Dame Edith Evans goes down as being the model from which any other readings must inevitably be taken. Dame Edith Evans IS Lady Bracknell; even Judy Dench is only playing the rôle in comparison.

The rising and setting of the curtain at the beginning and end of the film makes it totally clear that the play is to be seen on film but as if we – the spectators – were in the theatre. And so it should be: any free hand at getting away from such concept might well be unstomacheable, as well as irritating to admirers of the classics or simply people like myself who try not to be too pedantic. There are plenty of modern examples of William Shakespeare's plays on film which faithfully adhere to the original concepts and which do not lose anything in the telling. In this respect we can say that this version of the play is on target: what might seem exaggerated portrayals of the characters – especially Dame Edith Evan's reading of Lady Bracknell – indeed to my mind fulfills precisely what Oscar Wilde intended. Nobody else can ejaculate `F….o….u….n….d?' in five syllables as Dame Edith Evans does.

Fifty years on, this is still the version from which any other attempts will be judged. I hope I am not being earnest in excess…….


I watched this film adaptation (and Oliver Parker's 2002 version as well) of Oscar Wilde's classic play The Importance of Being Earnest to complement my study of it for a 19th century English drama course. First I want to say, no matter what version(s) you choose to see, I strongly suggest you read the play first (its not that long). In some cases, the casting in the later film (specifically Reese Witherspoon as Cecily and Rupert Everett as Algy), made fifty(!) years later to be exact, seemed more appropriate but in my opinion Asquith's version captured the spirit of the text more succinctly. I must also say as well, however that since Asquith's version is essentially a staged play, there is little in the form of visual dynamism from the camera; in other words the film rests almost entirely on the strength of the performances. Happily, they do not disappoint.


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.


An hour and a half of sheer delightful Wildean wit and word play. Lush Technicolor, brilliant acting. Edith Evans steals the show by going over the top by carrying her 19th century style of stage acting just as far as it can go, i.e., to the point of parody. I haven't yet seen the 2002 version, but i don't see how it can compare.


Delightful film adaptation of Oscar Wilde's superb play about Victorian-era English manners and mix-ups. The play and performances are so close to Mr. Wilde's original words, you really can't go wrong; although, on close inspection, there are clearly some logistical problems. For example, it is shot beautifully, but without a flourish or imagination worthy of Wilde. And, cameras emphasize things that wouldn't have mattered with the otherwise marvelous cast on stage. To be fair, the film acknowledges this in its execution.

Everyone is exemplary, but elderly Aunt Edith Evans really demands to be seen. She possess the role of "Lady Augusta Bracknell" for all eternity, and would be famous for merely uttering the two words "A handbag?" but, every word and phoneme slips sardonically from the mind of Oscar Wilde to dame Edith's tongue. Ms. Evans should have received some "Best Supporting Actress" notice, but this was released in 1952, not 1948, and American voters were favoring homegrown material.


******** The Importance of Being Earnest (6/2/52) Anthony Asquith ~ Michael Redgrave, Michael Denison, Edith Evans, Joan Greenwood


This "Importance of Being Earnest" is a funny movie derived from Oscar Wilde's best play. There are no clunkers in the cast and hardly a wrong step is made, even when Wilde is altered.

Dame Edith Evans did not make her stage debut until fifteen years after "Earnest" first premiered, so Oscar Wilde could not have had her in mind when he created the role of Lady Bracknell; but she is so perfect it becomes difficult to imagine anyone else in the part, ever. She manages to squeeze every note of the music of human language into simple words like "found" and "handbag."

Margaret Rutherford and Miles Malleson, two famous and prolific actors of the "British dotty school" come very close to being ideal for their more minor parts of (respectfully) Miss Prism and Dr. Chasuble.

For the young lovers, the women are well chosen and make a fine contrast. Sultry-voiced Joan Greenwood has had a solid film career to this point (including the Alec Guiness classic "Man in a White Suit") and she knows how to deliver a comic line. Then new-comer Dorthy Tutin is so good with her lines, you'd think she was an old-hand, rather than a fresh-faced, twenty-two year old newcomer making her first major film appearance.

The "young men" are sometimes thought of as more problematic. Michael Redgrave (unfortunately known these days more for being the father of Vanessa and Lynn than for his great acting) was in his forties. Mainly stage-bound actor Michael Denison was in his thirties. Denison wonderfully limns the all-important character of Algernon Moncrieff. He's young-looking and exuberant and delivers his lines with great care and consideration (Algernon is an easy character to go hammy with and Denison avoids that trap).

For his part, Redgrave compensates for his age by an exquisitely-honed performance. Not only is his delivery spot-on, he practically gives a workshop on how to get a laugh with a slight twitch of a mustache or the roll of an eye. Redgrave and Denison seem to be having a high old time with their roles, while taking them seriously and never overacting.

Also, be on the look-out for long-time supporting actor Richard Wattis as "Seton." Blink, and you'll miss him, as he flits in to raise a supercilious eyebrow or two.

Some Wilde purists may object to the expurgation of lines. Many of the lines cut are the sort of thing that probably just struck Wilde as "a good idea at the time" and no one will miss them. Other lines may have been cut to keep this movie short, light and frothy. Wilde could be very funny, but he could also be unnecessarily cruel. I don't think he would have been a nice man to know, the way he could sling around hurtful lines to humorous effect. All his characters have been accused of "talking like Wilde" -- which is true to different degrees. A few of the missing lines were genuine, polished gems and it was a pity they weren't included. Also, the sub-plot of Grisby, which only appears in longer versions of the play, does not rear its ugly head in this short version (and good riddance). I, for one, am glad they kept the movie light and without a mean bone in its body.

The movie has also been changed subtly from the stage. The stage version has the action taking place on a minimum of sets. The movie remains bound to the sound-stage and never really ventures out of doors (even in the outdoors scenes) but it adds a few more sets and more mobility. For instance, it begins in Jack's flat rather than in Algernon's. For me, this works even better than the stage version and gives Jack a good reason to throw one of Algernon's lines back in his face.

So, you have a good play shorn of overmuch dialogue and a solid cast acting their hearts out. I don't know why I call it "Almost Perfect."


Dodgson's Chapel

I've finally come around to this film of the famous play. The 2002 version wasn't done well and was the subject of one of my very first IMDb comments. The problem there was that the movie tried to be a movie instead of a play, and failed. This one tries only to be a non- distracting film of a play. In fact, I suppose the script is precisely that of the play with no muddling.

It works marvelously and in the process becomes more of a workable movie than the later project which tried so hard.

I think the reason is simple. The play had a coherent soul. (Oh, how I wonder how rare it is that we have someone that can do this, and what a tragedy that we torture them for being "deviant." Or whether certain types or art demand this on both sides.)

That soul is placed in the heart of language, not situation. Its the words that matter, in fact it is the word/name "earnest," and the delicious notion that a baby can be mistaken for a book, in "moment of mental abstraction."

Much of the humor or words reflected against contemporary society is based on oblivious extension of phrases and is directly influenced by Lewis Carroll, a somewhat older member of the Oxford community. Its rather wonderful seeing how this meme evolved on the stage, jumping from one clever writer to another until being extinguished by silent films. Its far more interesting than Uranian matters.

But we have it here again, unsullied. The speech of Lady Bracknell has to be one of the funniest and sharpest sequence of words ever woven.

I should mention a device. The play starts as a play. We see the audience, who looks much like the characters. The curtain goes up and the reality moves to the stage.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.


In January 1895 two plays were produced in London's West End, and the reactions of the theater going public was marked in both cases. The first was GUY DOMVILLE, a historical drama that was written by Henry James. James had spent the better part of a year writing this play, and it was to establish him (he hoped) as a great dramatist. It has never been revived (as far as I know) but it's opening night was a disaster. Despite being put into the hands of a leading actor manager (George Alexander), the play was considered so static and feeble that the audience was laughing at the actors throughout the performance. James, a nervous man, did not show up until the curtain was closing. In a moment of anger and meanness, Alexander (who had gotten his share of jeers that night) signaled the audience to be quiet, and said that it was his pleasure to introduce the author of the play. Poor James walked over to Alexander, imagining he would receive kudos of applause for brilliant work. Instead the audience jeered and laughed at him - and he fled the theater (and London). He never wrote another commercial play.

A few weeks later Alexander regained his audience by appearing as Jack Worthing in the second play of that month: Oscar Wilde's THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST. It was a hit comedy since that night, and though Wilde's personal disaster caused it to be closed prematurely it has remained (with LADY WINDEMERE'S FAN) permanently in world repertoire. But Wilde too, due to his legal disaster, never wrote another play for the British theater - he did write SALOME for foreign performances.

Due to the Wilde Scandal of 1895 his stories and plays were not performed on stage or in the movies in Britain for years. It was different in the U.S. THE CANTERVILLE GHOST (brought up to date) was a successful film with Charles Laughton, Robert Young, and Margaret O'Brien during the war. In the film FLESH AND FANTASY a version of LORD ARTHUR SAVILE'S CRIME was in one of the episodes with Edward G. Robinson, Sir C. Aubrey Smith, and Thomas Mitchell. And finally (in 1945) a film version of Oscar's sole novel, THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY, popped up with Hurd Hatfield, George Sanders, and Angela Lansbury.

Inevitably there was a softening of the censor rules for Wilde's comedies. And in 1952 Anthony Asquith did a lovely colored version of THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST. I think Asquith was copying the way he presented the film from Olivier's earlier HISTORY OF KING HENRY V (1944), where we see the production at the Globe Theater in the 1590s transformed into the actual locals in England and France (actually Ireland). Here we see a wealthy couple sitting in a theater box in London, and looking at the program, and the curtain rises. But the scene immediately is more like John Worthing's rooms at "the Albany" hotel in London, with his servants giving him a bath. Then the scene changes as we meet Worthing's friend Algy Moncrieff in the dining room.

Michael Redgrave is Jack, which is worth noting because Redgrave's film roles were usually dramatic parts, not comic ones. He is not the assured snob that John Gielgud played on stage (opposite Edith Evans), which one can still catch on recordings of his performance. But he is deft in his part, as the ultimate gentleman who is tragically bereft of normal parentage because he can only trace his ancestry to the handbag that he was abandoned in at Victoria Station.

Evans is the perfect Lady Bracknell (a "gorgon without a myth, which is quite sad", as Jack says). She is eminently supportive of the current status quo, willing to refuse Jack's desire to marry her daughter Gwendolyn (Joan Greenwood), while willing to accept his ward Cecily (Dorothy Tutin) for her relative Algy, as Cecily has a fortune of 130,000 pounds coming to her. Lady B is a snob, but a pragmatist. When asking Jack about his politics, he says he is a Liberal. She says that does not matter, at night she allows them to pretend they are Tories.

The two young woman are fine, especially in the scene where they think the other is trying to steal their boyfriend. Tutin's comments back at Greenwood are met with the approving gaze of the family butler (Aubrey Mather). But when both find their boyfriends are lying about their name, they suddenly reject both Jack and Algy, and call each other sister. Earlier Algernon had said that before women call each other sister they call each other by many other names - and he is shown to be right here.

One must also note the wonderful dual performance of Margaret Rutherford as Miss Prism and Miles Malleson as the diffident Canon Chausable. Both are past the age of real passion, but both are also attracted to each other - but their idea of a tryst is a walk in a garden, or Miss Prism going to the Vicarage. And Redgrave's final moments with Rutherford, when the mystery at the center of the play is almost solved, is a wonderful send-up of Victorian melodrama like EAST LYNNE about illegitimate children or shamed mothers.

An elegant, amusing trifle to this day - and a hint of what Wilde might have given us more of had he not been wrecked by the law and his lifestyle.


Anthony Asquith makes no attempt to 'open out' Oscar Wilde's great comedy of manners, (the best ever written in the English language), so essentially what we are seeing is about the best performance you could possibly have of a very great play due entirely to Asquith's understated direction and the consummate playing of his cast. Edith Evan's Lady Bracknell is already legendary, (a radical reinterpretation of the part is what is required if anyone else is to make an impression in the role), but so too are Michael Redgrave's Jack Worthing and Michael Denison's Algernon Moncrieff. (Redgrave is prissy and fey and very Wildean while Denison has a wonderfully easy-going loucheness about him). Nor can one fault Joan Greenwood as Gwendolen, (more tiger than kitten), or Dorothy Tutin as Cecily, (fresh faced innocence betraying a steely core), while Margaret Rutherford as Miss Prism wobbles that great chin of hers like a marshmallow on a low heat, (it may be her best and most undervalued performance). Hardly cinema in any traditional sense of the word, then, but it is to be treasured all the same.


The incarnation of perfection. It had been many, many years since I'd last seen this zenith, this quintessence of dramatic art and composition. Besides the handbag, I especially recalled the exquisite dialogue during the al fresco tea-party of the divine little sisters, and even more especially the immortal line: "I asked for bread-and-butter, and you have given me cake." Nothing since has ever come close to equalling that expression of reproach, tinged with pain and sorrow. Sixty years had passed, and I still remembered those uniquely thrilling tones of Greenwood, as they re-echoed in the ear of memory.

I was just about to express an opinion on this site, when I discovered that Youtube had posted the entire masterpiece, as recently as 27 May, this year as ever is! And I have now re-watched it, courtesy that tube, quite gratis, with immeasurable enjoyment.

It is laugh out loud funny, to use a vulgar modern term. I was frequently in stitches. Directed with an impeccably light touch by Asquith, it is a triumphant celebration of verbal fireworks. They coruscate and scintillate. The settings are matchless. This is a work in the tradition of sparkling English theatre, from Shakespeare, through Sheridan to the late C19th, after which, though briefly revived by Coward, it shrivels, droops and dies. It is quite incredible to me that anyone could be so deplorably dull as to award it fewer stars than any of the near-ubiquitous trash contained in the IMDb top 250 list. Compare it with Lump, Stump and Two Stinking Balderdashes, to see Britain's precipitous national decline


I first got into 'the Importance of being Earnest' last summer when my teacher cast me as Jack for my A-level exam production of it. Me and my classmate did the first scene with Jack and Algernon and we loved every bit of it. I read the whole play, loved it and then i hunted round looking for dvds of it. I first got the 2002 version of it which i enjoyed but i was disappointed that they had changed the script which i think is an insult. I should have expected it though, with American money invested it was inevitable. Relying on the reviews i had read of this old version, i went so far as to order it from Amazon as i was told all copies have sold in the UK and they aren't making any more. I was not disappointed with it at all, i loved every minute of it.

Directed by the great Anthony Asquith, this fantastic version stars Sir Michael Redgrave as Jack, Michael Dennison as Algernon, Dame Edith Evans as Lady Bracknell, Dame Margerate Rutherford as Miss Prism, Milles Malleson as Dr Chasuble, Joan Greenwood as Gwendolen and the lovely Dorothy Tutin as Cecily, this version is perfect.

Micheal Redgrave is the best Jack and Joan Greenwood captures one's heart with her plummy-voiced Gwendolen. Of course, stealing the show is Edith Evans as the tyrannical Lady Bracknell 'A HANDBAG!', Dame Judi dench was good in the role, but however she wasn't the Lady Bracknell i had pictured in my head, whereas Dame Edith was. And of course, nobody could ever forget the hilarious performance of Miss Prism by Magarate Rutherford. However, i did enjoy the new version's algernon (Ruppert Everrett), Dr Chasuble (Tom Wilkinson) and Lane (Edward Fox) a bit more than i did here. In a very short space of time, this has become one of my favourite films.


This is one of those very rare cases in which the entire production has a stamp of the definitive about it. Any other production you are ever to see on stage or screen will very likely pale in comparison. An exceptional cast was assembled from the cream of the British theater of the time and under Anthony Asquith's direction, they one and all deliver superb and definitive performances of Wilde's wittiest play. Pity the actor in future productions who has to obliterate the memory of this bunch.

Michael Redgrave and Michael Dennison share a delightful chemistry and Joan Greenwood with her uniquely dulcet tones and Dorothy Tutin are the ideal Gwendolen and Cecily. Margaret Rutherford is, as always, a delight and of course there's Dame Edith Evans.

Evans so totally embodies Lady Bracknell that even the likes of Judi Dench and Joan Plowwright, (particularly weak), were distinctly lacking in tackling the role. Evans' haughtiness betrays an occasional self knowing humorous twinkle of the eye. It's an hilarious and masterly performance and a treasure to behold.

A production Wilde himself would no doubt have adored.


Anthony Asquith's version for Rank announces its intentions right at the beginning, with a shot of an Edwardian-style theater and the curtain rising on a proscenium stage. The camera zooms in on the stage, and the action begins. From then on Asquith is determined to remind us of the material's stage-origins: most of the scenes are shot either in shot/reverse shot or two-shot sequences, focusing on the actors' expressions. His cast do not let him down: Michael Redgrave has a supreme range of facial expressions as he tries to deal with ever- changing (and often farcical) situations, contrasting starkly with Michael Denison's more laid-back Algernon Moncrieff, who views the entire action as a huge joke. The two younger women Gwendolyn (Joan Greenwood) and Cicely (Dorothy Tutin) are just wonderful; their cat- fight over Jack (Redgrave) contains several long takes, in which Asquith focuses as much on their reactions as their line-delivery; they try to sustain a veneer of politeness, when it is clear that they thoroughly dislike one another. Dame Edith Evans and Margaret Rutherford repeat the roles they already played in the classic stage productions in London during the 1930s and 1940s: Evans is thoroughly theatrical as Lady Bracknell, her line-delivery full of pregnant pauses and deliberate emphases "A HandBAAAAAg????" Rutherford is much less emphatic, her bird-like gestures and breathy delivery suggesting someone who has spent a lifetime repressing her feelings, but has at last discovered the capacity to love, as she has a (very polite) liaison with Dr. Chasuble (Miles Malleson). Mention must also be made of Yvonne Caffin's costume- designs; she uses a garish color palette (suggesting a lack of sophistication among the characters) and clothes the female characters in wonderfully overstated Victorian dresses. The size of Tutin's sleeves, contrasted with the shocking pink of Greenwood's parasol, is a wonder to behold. The sets (by Carmen Dillon) are equally vulgar, each nook and cranny being stuffed with things, showing the acquisitive nature of all the characters. While this version of THE IMPORTANCE might not work too well cinematically - it is best appreciated by those with a working knowledge of Wilde's text - it preserves for ever some performances which can only be described as definitive.


This is the kind of movie that has me laughing so hard I am in tears. Wilde's witty language is delivered beautifully by everyone in the movie. I've seen several versions of "Earnest" and I believe this one to be the best. Michael Redgrave has just the right attitude; the supporting cast is superb. Timing is excellent. Even the butler is great. This is British wit at its best!
The Sinners from Mitar

The Sinners from Mitar

I have seen the 2002 remake of "Earnest" (very good), I have seen it performed on the stage (also very good), but this 1952 film version is now my favorite. I saw it for the first time only last night. Wonderful performances all around, with Edith Evans' presence being especially commanding. It doesn't hurt one bit that both Joan Greenwood and Dorothy Tutin look almost impossibly beautiful. There is not one word of wasted dialog. I don't know if the film was remastered or otherwise reprocessed, but the colors and picture were sharp (via cable TV). It looks like a DVD that cleaned up the the original was made in 2002 - I may have to have that! If you get a chance to see a stage production of this, do so.


Returning to this classic 1952 version of Wilde's remarkable comedy of manners, and after viewing the new version with Dame Judy Dench, I was struck by how superior it is in every way to the newer version. Simply in terms of acting style alone, it cannot be faulted. According to the writer Sheridan Morley, Edith Evans' famous interpretation of Lady Bracknell was apparently developed in memory the many grand ladies that had kept her mother's family in domestic service for many years. One can well believe it. And director Anthony Asquith has not made the fatal error committed in many recent film versions of Wilde's plays, of 'inventing' extra material to take away their staginess. Their staginess is part of the way the pieces work. Now, all we need is a proper restoration of the Technicolor original and we'll all be happy.


This movie is a film of what has long been considered the definitive version of the Oscar Wilde play. Edith Evan's performance was celebrated and very famous in its day. The production has the look of a candy box, entirely appropriate to the plot, which serves mainly to support the bon mots peppered throughout the dialog. This movie gets better with every viewing. The more mature you are, the more you understand what's being said. The only possible criticism I have is that perhaps Michael Redgrave is a tad too old for his role, but it's MICHAEL REDGRAVE, so it's impossible to complain. The casting is perfect and the performances are flawless. This film is required viewing for anyone who claims to be civilized.


As with all categories of movies, and their many subgroups, satire isn't for everyone. And, judging from a few reviews on IMDb, if one doesn't get the satire, the humor may be lost as well. But many of us do relish satire – especially the wit and farcical spoofing in great works such as "The Importance of Being Earnest." So, the humor isn't lost on us in the satire, but is brought home boisterously and subtly, straightforward and by innuendo, in words and in looks.

Make no bones about it – this is a satire on high society of England in the late 19th century. The language, dress, customs and mores of the time are all part of the story. So, they are dated, as they should be. Any retelling of this work that eschews the time-specific of the story, will naturally lose the satire. For, placed in a modern setting, or otherwise changed, the satire of Wilde's play loses its bite and sarcasm; and the script then becomes just a running dialog of jokes or puns.

This 1952 rendition of Oscar Wilde's play is the best of any movie made for presenting this satire as one would hear and see it live on stage. I think the film even gives us an advantage over the stage. We can see actor's expressions quite vividly. Director Anthony Asquith uses his excellent camera work in many instances to show us close-ups of a range of expressions in the reactions between actors. These instances enhance the wit and humor of the barbs or bon mots just delivered.

All aspects of this 1952 film are superior. The screenplay, cinematography, costumes, makeup, sets, and directing and editing are superb. But most of all, this film has an outstanding cast of actors – from all the leads to the smallest supporting roles. Each person gives something special to his or her character.

The key focus of Wilde's satire here is in the person of Lady Bracknell. Edith Evans excels in the role of the domineering, nonsensical society matriarch. She gives hubris to the contemptible icon of high English society of the late 19th century. Her exaggerated portrayal fits well the obnoxious, autocrat that Wilde puts at the center of his mockery of upper English society of the time.

The Michaels – Redgrave and Dennison, excel in their roles as Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff. They play perfectly off each other throughout the film. It's with Redgrave especially, that the humor of some of the witty lines is made all the more laughable by the expressions we see on his face. Dennison adds a very pleasing bounciness that gives life to the otherwise idle lifestyle of Algy. But I think the ladies again steal center stage in this wonderful spoof. Joan Greenwood plays the best possible snobbish, pretentious, hilarious Gwendolen that I can imagine has ever been done live or on film. She is riotously funny as the snooty, arrogant and pompous object of Jack's romantic affections. And Dorothy Tutin gives an excellent portrayal of the demure, innocent but silly Cecily. She just isn't quite the snob, nor is she quite as pompous, for her youth and lack of experience that Gwendolen has had.

The wonderful Margaret Rutherford is Miss Prism. She brings smiles to our faces with her humorous lines and expressions. And Miles Malleson is a nice match for her as Canon Chasuble. Was Wilde giving us a touch of his wit also in the choice of some of the names of his characters? A chasuble is the outer vestment worn by clergy in the Anglican and Catholic churches. And a prism is a type of lens through which objects take on many different shapes and colors. The actors who play the butlers and man-servants are very funny in their roles as well.

One other thing that bears comment is Redgrave's age. A couple of reviewers said he was too old for the part – although they liked him in it. Modern movie buffs would do well to note that people – men, especially -- 100 and more years ago generally looked much older than they do today. Since the mid-20th century, the physical appearances of Western men have gotten younger. Look at old high school photos to see that most teenagers a century or more ago looked more mature than they do today. Most 65-year-old men today don't show as much age as did 50-year- old men in the past. So, the 44-year old Redgrave in 1952 could very likely pass for a man 28 or 35 in the previous century.

"The Importance of Being Earnest" is one of the finest satires on society ever written and put on film. And this 1952 movie is the best ever made of the great Oscar Wilde farce. It's a wonderful treat from start to finish. But I warn anyone who may not enjoy satire – you may find yourself laughing at lines you don't think should be funny.
furious ox

furious ox

This is, hands down, the definitive film version of Wilde's finest play rendering all others superfluous. Puffin Asquith made something of a specialty of adapting stage plays and his resume' includes Pygmalion, Quiet Wedding, Cottage To Let, French Without Tears, plus the definitive film version (the Albert Finney remake was a joke) of the finest One-Act play ever written, Terry Rattigan's The Browning Version, in which Asquith and Redgrave teamed up yet again. Michael Redgrave was the outstanding Stage actor of his generation despite strong competition from Ralph Richardson, Johhny Gielgud and the overrated Larry Olivier but for better or worse he was associated with 'weighty' roles, especially Shakespeare yet he possessed the lightest of touches when playing comedy as he demonstrates here where he leads a cast that would be difficult if not impossible to eclipse. From all accounts Edith Evans' Lady Bracknell was one or two notches below her stage version in the 'classic' John Gielgud version of the play some years earlier and if that is so then the stage performance may well have been out of this world. The other Michael in the cast (Dennison, as Algy) is not someone immediately linked with Wilde yet he brings it off exceptionally well which may be hardly surprising given it was his impetus that got the project off the ground. Miles Malleson and the 'amateur' (when Redgrave dared to praise her standout performance as Madame Arcati at an out-of-town preview of Blithe Spirit to the author, Noel Coward, he was taken aback when Coward seethed 'amateur' and changed the subject) Margaret Rutherford complement each other perfectly whilst Joan Greenford and newcomer (in her film debut) Dorothy Tutin round off a cast in which everyone has grasped the concept of speaking the Wildean epigrams with which it is studded as if they were the most banal clichés. Definitely one to savor.