The Importance of Being Earnest (1952) Criterion Collection

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The Importance of Being Earnest (1952) Criterion Collection

Anthony Asquith directs the first screen adaptation of Oscar Wilde's classic comedy. Algernon Moncrieff (Michael Denison) has discovered that he has a secret in common with his friend Jack Worthing (Michael Redgrave) - they both use alter-egos when in a tight spot. However, when Algernon decides to pose as Jack's alter-ego - a brother from London - for a weekend in the country, he finds that Jack's cousin Cicely (Dorothy Tutin) has developed an infatuation with the mysterious brother; and now she can meet him. Meanwhile, Algernon's cousin Gwendolyne (Joan Greenwood) is also staying for the weekend and knows Jack as his alter-ego. Confused?

If you're looking for the definitive example of dry wit, look no further than this 1952 version of The Importance of Being Earnest. Of course, it helps to have Oscar Wilde's beloved play as source material, but this exquisite adaptation has a charmed life of its own, with a perfectly matched director and a once-in-a-lifetime cast. Mix these ingredients with Wilde's inimitable repartee, and you've got a comedic soufflé that's cooked to perfection. Opening with a proscenium nod to its theatrical origins, the film turns Wilde's comedy of clever deception and mixed identities into a cinematic treat, and while the 10-member cast is uniformly superb, special credit must be given to Dame Edith Evans, reprising her stage role as the imperiously stuffy Lady Bracknell. To hear her Wilde-ly hilarious inflections and elongated syllables is to witness British comedy in its purest form.

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!

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The Importance of Being Earnest (1952) Criterion Collection