The Importance of Being Earnest (1952) starring Michael Redgrave, Michael Denison, Edith Evans, Joan Greenwood, Dorothy Tutin, Margaret Rutherford directed by Anthony Asquith Movie Review

The Importance of Being Earnest (1952)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Michael Redgrave and Michael Denison in The Importance of Being Earnest (1952)

Earnest's a Jack the Lad

If you arrive here as a fan of Oscar Wilde and his play "The Importance of Being Earnest" looking for deep thought and information on the 1952 movie adaptation I warn you will not find it here. I say that because my only encounter with Wilde's popular play is this 1952 movie directed by Anthony Asquith and do not know how true to Wilde's original vision it is. What I will say it is a lot of fun with some joyous comical duplicity and some of Britain's finest actors delivering Wilde's witty banter in wonderfully clipped English which makes it all the more enjoyable.

John Worthing (Michael Redgrave - The Way to the Stars) or Uncle Jack is a man of duplicity because when he is in the country looking after his ward Cecily Cardew (Dorothy Tutin) he is responsible Uncle Jack but when he heads to the city he becomes his fake brother Earnest where he leads a bachelor life style. That is until his friend Algernon Moncrieff (Michael Denison) discovers that Earnest is leading a double life and intrigued to discover he is guardian to a young woman heads to his country home pretending to be Jack's brother Earnest. Meanwhile Earnest is wooing Gwendolen Fairfax (Joan Greenwood - Kind Hearts and Coronets) but finding his attempts to propose blocked by her aunt Lady Bracknell (Edith Evans). When Jack returns to his country home followed by Gwendolen and then Lady Bracknell only to find Algernon getting sweet with Cecily and getting close confusion abounds over who is dating Earnest and much more.

Dorothy Tutin and Joan Greenwood in The Importance of Being Earnest (1952)

So as to the opinion of someone who has only just discovered Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" via this movie I have to say it is a lot of fun, and a preposterous British farce. The irony of it is that the story is in fact quite simple and is a confusion comedy although I am sure the scholars who study Wilde will say there is a deeper context than that. But that is how it comes across with both Jack and Algernon becoming this fake brother called Earnest and the women in their life not knowing their real names. There is more to it than that as this confusion throws a semi surprise of a twist at the audience but I say again it is a simple confusion comedy, which is easy to understand and easily entertains.

But what makes it tick is the combination of Wilde's witty dialogue delivered by actors using clipped English accents. You end up laughing because of the way the dialogue bounces about especially in the quick fire banter between Jack and Algernon as Algernon winds him up. It does tend to slow down when the women are involved especially when it comes to Gwendolen but then you have the wonderful delivery from Lady Bracknell when she is surprised by something she hears.

And that brings me to the acting with Edith Evans making the movie so funny because of the sound of her indignance as Lady Bracknell. That doesn't take anything away from the rest of the cast as Michael Redgrave and Michael Denison spark off of each other brilliantly whilst both Joan Greenwood and Dorothy Tutin as Gwendolen and Cecily have some ripe lines. But it is Edith Evans who makes "The Importance of Being Earnest" memorable.

What this all boils down to is that for me, as a newbie to "The Importance of Being Earnest" it is a lot of fun, a sharp British farce with wonderful writing and brilliant performances. I am sure for fans of Wilde the love of it will be even greater but even if you are not into old movies it is worth a watch.