Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
United Kingdom, 1952. Javelin Films, British Film-Makers. Screenplay by Anthony Asquith, based on the play by Oscar Wilde. Cinematography by Desmond Dickinson. Produced by Anthony Asquith, Teddy Baird. Music by Benjamin Frankel. Production Design by Carmen Dillon. Costume Design by Beatrice Dawson. Film Editing by John D. Guthridge.
This is the very best-ever adaptation of an Oscar Wilde play, mostly because of how little director Anthony Asquith interferes with the source material. The hilarious story, possibly the wittiest comedy ever written, features Michael Redgrave as a country gentleman who has invented a brother named Ernest as an excuse to spend time in London away from his young ward Cecily and her nurse Miss Avery. In London, he pretends to be his brother, and has fallen in love with the beautiful Gwendolyn, but her mother Lady Bracknell (the unforgettable Edith Evans) won’t allow them to marry because of “Ernest’s” humble origins. When best friend Algernon shows up in the country to woo young Cecily and tells them all that he is brother Ernest himself, all sorts of delightful complications are created, all of which are unraveled in one fell swoop in the film’s brilliant finale. Directed with energy and faithful dedication to Wilde’s unstoppable wit, this wonderful comedy is thrillingly funny and wonderfully acted.
The Criterion Collection: #158
Venice Film Festival: In Competition