The Importance of Being Earnest
The Importance of Being Earnest is a British film adaptation of the play by Oscar Wilde. It was directed by Anthony Asquith, who also adapted the screenplay.
Michael Redgrave, who plays John Worthing, was the patriarch of England’s most celebrated theatrical family.
He never knew his father Roy Redgrave, who left when Michael was 6 months old to pursue a career in Australian and went on to become an Australian silent movie legend
He was the father of Lynn Redgrave, Corin Redgrave, & Vanessa Redgrave, all renowned actresses. His grandchildren include Natasha Richardson, Joely Richardson, and Jemma Redgrave, who were also noted actresses.
His wife, Rachel Kempson was an accomplished stage and film actress in her own right but stepped out of the limelight after marrying Michael Redgrave in 1935.
She became Lady Redgrave when Sir Michael was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1959. In 1986, Lady Kempson wrote her autobiography Life Among the Redgraves in which she detailed her loving but difficult marriage with Sir Michael who was bisexual and had occasional discreet affairs.
Their marriage endured for almost 50 years until his death in 1985, four months before they would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.
Recently Redgrave’s granddaughter Natasha Ruchardson, who was married to Liam Neeson, died suddenly, after falling and receiving a head injury while skiing in Canada.
Edith Evans, playing Lady Augusta Bracknell, was generally regarded as the greatest actress on the English stage in the 20th century, performing on stage for over half-a-century.
And after making her silent movie debut in 1915, Evans didn’t appear in another film until 1949. And she was sixty-one when she made her first talking picture.
She won her first Oscar nomination for Tom Jones, and her second the following year for The Chalk Garden (1964).
After winning awards at the Golden Globes, the New York Film Critics award, the Berlin Film festival, the British equivalent of the Academy Award and an Oscar nomination for her role in The Whisperers in 1967, she was expected to win for Best Actress.
But she lost to Katharine Hepburn, who had recently lost her long-time lover Spencer Tracy and rode a wave of Hollywood sentiment to victory for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.
In this movie, Edith Evans's outraged delivery of the line "A handbag?" has become legendary. As actor Ian McKellen said, it is a performance "so acclaimed and strongly remembered that it inhibits audiences and actors years later" providing a challenge for any actress taking on the role of Lady Bracknell.
Margaret Taylor Rutherford, playing Miss Letitia Prism, had already performed the role in a 1946 BBC production. She was born in 1892 and just before her birth, her father suffered a mental breakdown.
He murdered his own father, Margaret’s grandfather and afterwards, tried to kill himself by cutting his throat. But survived and he was locked away in a lunatic asylum for the rest of his life.
Her mother died when she was three years old and she was raised by an aunt.
She went into acting later in life - making her stage debut 1925 at the age of thirty-three.
Ms. Rutherford is probably more familiar to everyone as Agatha Christie’s sleuth, Miss Jane Marple, a character she played in 4 films.
Her husband in real life, Stringer Davis, portrayed a Mr. Stringer in her four Miss Marple films and appeared with her in other films as well. In the 1950s, Rutherford and Davis adopted the writer Gordon Langley Hall, then in his twenties.
Hall later had gender reassignment surgery and became Dawn Langley Simmons, under which name she wrote a biography of Rutherford in 1983.
Rutherford came to embody the character so well that Agatha Christie dedicated her 1963 novel, The Mirror Crack'd From Side To Side, to her.
In 1964, she won a Best Supporting Oscar for her part in The V.I.P.s. She was created an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1961, and raised to Dame Commander (DBE) in 1967.
She suffered from Alzheimer's disease at the end of her life and Sir John Gielgud wrote: "Her last appearance at the Haymarket Theatre with Sir Ralph Richardson in The Rivals, an engagement which she was finally obliged to give up after a few weeks, was a most poignant struggle against her obviously failing powers."
Rutherford died in 1972.
Wordplay and situation comedy rule in this adaptation of Wilde’s play satirizing the marriage and social customs of the English upper crust of the 1890s. All the cast members perform wonderfully.
All in all, this is a delightful film that succeeds magnificently without a hint of violence or bad behavior.