Sunday, August 14, 2005

"The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast." - Lord Arthur Saville's Crime by Wilde, Oscar

Oscar Wilde is one of my favourite playwrights and is considered to be one of the greatest playwrights ever. He was born Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde on 16 October, 1854 in Dublin, Ireland and he passed away here in Paris on 30 November 1900. He is buried in Le Cimetière du Père-Lachaise.

His wit and understanding of human conditions have always attracted me (since I was in my teens to the present) - to read and see his plays, film adaptations of his plays and novels etc. Works i find particularly fascinating, humourous and memorable include, The importance of being Earnest written in 1895, An ideal husband in 1895, A woman of no importance in 1893, Lady Windermere's fan in 1892, The picture of Dorian Grey in 1891.

Wilde had a rather brilliant start in life with education from Trinity College Dublin to Magdalen in Oxford. He married Constance Lloyd in 1880 and then wrote several of his brilliant plays. He had children with her. In 1891, he met Lord Alfred 'Bosie' Douglas who became his lover. Bosie's father Marquis of Queensberry was sued by Wilde for libel but Wilde withdrew the case. His personal life tormented him including serving in the prison for gross indecency and served for two years in hard labour. He wrote the Ballad of the Reading Gaol in 1898 which was a response to what he suffered while he was imprisoned. He spent the last three years of his life wandering in Europe and finally passed away due to recurring ear infection and meningitis.

His plays are simply brilliant and I have had the fortune to see a few of these. My all time favourite has to be The importance of being Earnest with Patricia Routledge at the Savoy Theatre a few years ago (of Keeping up appearances fame) as Lady Bracknell. Here is a site that has the play. If you have not read it - you will hopefully enjoy it.

The film version I love best is the one directed by Anthony Asquith in 1952. Michael Redgrave (father of Vanessa Redgrave) as Jack Worthing, Joan Greenwood with that amazing deep voice and superb acting as Gwendolen Fairfax, the wonderful Edith Evans as Lady Bracknell and the imposing actress Margaret Atwood as Letitia Prism.
This is one film that has set the standard for this witty play. The story is hilarious and is a great one if you enjoy reviewing films over and over again.

A dialogue that i love from this play is when Lady Bracknell says - " That does not seem to me to be a grave objection. Thirty-five is a very attractive age. London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years. Lady Dumbleton is an instance in point. To my own knowledge she has been thirty-five ever since she arrived at the age of forty, which was many years ago now. I see no reason why our dear Cecily should not be even still more attractive at the age you mention than she is at present".

That is why ParisLondres will always remain 35! ;)

The other film I think is brilliant is The picture of Dorian Grey. It is a horror classic. This proves the range of Wilde's writing ability. Hurd Hatfield who played the part of Dorian was a New Yorker and he played a very convincing Englishman. You get to to see a very young Angela Lansbury who played Sibyl Vane.
This is another film you must try and see if you haven't.

Wilde was indeed a genius! His writing was avant-garde. His understanding of human nature astute and witty and he died at a young age of 46 having faced a fair amount of sadness and trial for his sexual orientation over a hundred years ago. The film Wilde is worth seeing if you have not - it is a rather sympathetic portrayal of Wilde's life. I thought Stephen Fry (I also happen to be a huge fan of A bit of Fry and Laurie - a UK TV series and I also adore them both in Jeeves and Wooster and the Blackadder series. Laurie is the one who you may remember as the dad from Stuart Little) and Jude Law acted rather superbly as Wilde and Bosie respectively.

I also adore several of his quotes from his books and plays and here is one:

"Faithfulness is to the emotional life what consistency is to the life of the intellect - simply a confession of failures."-- “The Picture of Dorian Gray”

Bet there are many Wilde fans out there!!

I love Oscar Wilde, and this article is just wonderful. I really enjoyed reading it first thing in the morning. Thank you! When I was in Paris, I left flowers at his grave.

Hope that your weekend is going well, darling N!
Thank you darling V and I am delighted that you admire this genius. I thought his grave is interesting! Hope you are well too!

Dear N, I keep hearing interesting stories about the origins of the tombstone and its controversy. What I recall is that it was covered with kisses (lipstick kisses), but this practice has been banned, because it is destroying the stone.

I also loved The Picture of Dorian Grey, and thought that it was transferred well from the novel. I am tempted to see it again.

I do remember remarking each time about those lipstick marks on the tombstone! ;)
That film is brilliant and so well made. Angela Lansbury was so young - barely 20. George Sanders was brill!

What a lovely and informative post, N! The Importance of Being Earnest is one of my favorite plays, and I will have to look for that early film version.

Will also have to look for Wilde, which I did not even know about. Adore Stephen Fry, in Blackadder & in Jeeves and Wooster.
Hello dear R! I adore Jeeves and Wooster and they were both (Fry and Laurie) superb in that.
Glad to hear about another Blackadder AND Wooster fan!

I found Wilde interesting, too, especially in light of the fact that I had just read a bio of Bosie only a week before I'd seen it. I wish I could remember the name of the book, though. It gave a bit more insight into his father, and the insanity and rages the man punished others with (not limited to his son or Wilde.)

I do love the adaption of Ideal Husband with Ruperet Everett. I thought it was well done, in large part due to the aplomb and verve with which Everett brought to his role. The director, Oliver Parker, also tried Ernest, but UGH! It was not good. It wasn't terrible exactly, it just wasn't any good. I thought Everett was miscast, and the movie might have been improved by having him play Colin Firth's role, and vice versa. Or not. It really wasn't good. To tell the truth, I've only ever enjoyed Ernest as play anyhow.
Hi K! Ideal Husband was great and I do like Rupert E!
You must try and see the 1952 film directed by Asquith was the best film adaptation.
I totally agree that TIOBE is always the best on stage.

What I love about you ,N: (besides the fact that you are 35) the breadth and depth of your interests ... and I share your love of Oscar Wilde. I find him to be a deeply sad, poignant writer who hides behind his wit so much of the time that when the pathos emerges, it is shocking. Nice, nice post. xoxoxo
N, thank you for honouring one of my heroes. My MA thesis was about Oscar Wilde; it was entitled, "Secrets in Oscar Wilde's Comedies". I'd read everything he'd written by the time I was 18. He was my friend; I used to talk to him and quote him a lot in essays, etc. He was an obvious choice. I then spent a whole year researching it, three weeks of which were spent in the British Library (the old one - the big round Reading Room in the British Museum). I can say that I have read practically everything that was written about him and his work (books and newspaper articles) up to 1972. My bibliography was huge.

Have you read Richard Ellmann's enormous biography: it didn't actually reveal anything new, but it was so well written. I also liked a short book (in French) by Odon Vallet entitled L'Affaire Oscar Wilde, which was full of interesting insights. And, then, there's Peter Ackroyd's The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde, in which he writes in OW's style: it's uncanny.

My favourite film of The Importance of Being Ernest is the one with Edith Evans.

They say that there's always a small bunch of violets on his tomb. I haven't checked, but I believe it's true. I must stop now otherwise this post will be as long as my thesis. LOL!
Dear M - thank you for your kind words and I admire the same qualities in you!
Yes Wilde was a poignent writer but so stylish!

Dear J, I am so glad you are a true dedicated fan and I would love to read your thesis! I do have the Richard Ellman book which is very well written and Peter Ackroyd's too. A friend had recommended the Vallet book but I have not got around to it yet.

I think the movie with Edith Evans is the best ever too and I never tire of it. I have possibly seen it over ten times. :)

About the violets on his tomb - I cannot remember but next time will make a point to check.

Can you imagine what potential he would have had if he lived in modern times. His influence is still as strong today however. Only wish he could have written more.
Same here S! He passed away at a very young age in today's terms.
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