The Importance of Being Earnest (1952)

"Excellent"

The Importance of Being Earnest (1952) Review


When the dust settles on humanity and its efforts in cinema, the original 1952 version of The Importance of Being Earnest will surely stand as the most important and most beloved film production of Oscar Wilde's play. (Coincidentally, it finds itself issued on DVD along with a new film version.)

The story remains a theatrical classic: two men fall for two women, but for one reason or another both of the men resort to using the name "Ernest" in their affairs. An elaborate comedy of errors and clever romantic twists, it's Wilde's most absurd and most amusing play, a story that demands attention to its byzantine plot structure and rewards the viewer with an abundance of laughs.

The 1952 version is a faithful-to-the-letter rendition of the play, with full period dress and sets and an all-Brit cast well-schooled in the parlor room and country house manners of its day. While Michael Redgrave and Michael Denison are stellar as the lead faux-Ernests, it's the women who steal the show, with Joan Greenwood's Gwendolyn evoking an early version of Kathleen Turner, and the incomparable Edith Evans, as Lady Bracknell (who gets in the way of just about everything), stands as one of the most memorable supporting characters on film.

The little touches of Earnest -- like Redgrave's Ernest taking notes on the cuff of his sleeve -- push it over the top. But in the end, of course, the play is really the thing.



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