The Importance of Being Earnest


The Importance of Being Earnest

Critics Consensus

An artfully assembled cast, lovely set design, and direction solidly in service of the source material make The Importance of Being Earnest an adaptation that works.



Total Count: 23


Audience Score

User Ratings: 3,373
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Movie Info

Anthony Asquith's adaptation of Oscar Wilde's witty play of mistaken identities stars Michael Redgrave as rich bachelor Jack Worthing. Jack's friend is Algernon Moncrieft (Michael Denison), a poor bloke living on credit. Jack refers mysteriously to Algernon about his country retreat, which drives Algernon to distraction, trying to figure out where Jack goes on the weekends. Jack is also in love with Algernon's attractive cousin Gwendolen (Joan Greenwood). He also has a ward, Cecily Cardew (Dorothy Tutin), who lives at the country estate and studies with local spinster Miss Prism (Margaret Rutherford). When Algernon learns of Cecily, he arrives at the country home claiming to be Jack's brother Earnest, knowing Jack had previously regaled Cecily with tales of having to bail the fictitious Earnest out of scrapes so he could sneak out to the city. Having set her eyes on "Earnest" in the flesh after having heard countless tales of his intrigues, Cecily immediately falls in love with Earnest. Meanwhile, Jack comes back to the country dressed in black, determined to announce to the group the demise of the fictional Earnest. As a result, Jack is stupefied when he sees Earnest standing in front of him. Meanwhile, Algernon's aunt, Lady Bracknell (Edith Evans) refuses to grant permission for Jack and Gwendolen's engagement. However, when Lady Bracknell finds out that Algernon is in love with Cecily, she asks Jack for his blessing on their marriage. Of course, Jack won't give his blessing until Lady Bracknell gives her blessing to his proposed marriage to Gwendolen. All is at a standstill until Lady Bracknell recognizes Miss Prism as a governess from the past who holds secrets concerning both Jack and Algernon.


Michael Redgrave
as Jack Worthing
Joan Greenwood
as Gwendolen Fairfax
Michael Denison
as Algernon Moncrieff
Dorothy Tutin
as Cecily Cardew
Edith Evans
as Lady Bracknell
Miles Malleson
as Canon Chasuble
Aubrey Mather
as Merriman
Ivor Barnard
as Coach Driver
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Critic Reviews for The Importance of Being Earnest

All Critics (23) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (20) | Rotten (3)

  • Despite a few tweaks to Oscar Wilde's frighteningly witty play, director and writer Anthony Asquith serves up a truly delightful screen version of "The Importance of Being Earnest."

    Jan 25, 2019 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • All the charm and glossy humor of Oscar Wilde's classic comedy emerges faithfully in this British production.

    Mar 10, 2009 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • Mr. Asquith and his top-flight English cast, aided greatly by an artistic use of Technicolor, not only treat this rickety affair with reverence, but endow the lines with charm in keeping with the period.

    Oct 31, 2006 | Full Review…
  • [T]he settings are the epitome of Victorian plushness, the colour is Technicolor at its fruitiest, and most of the playing is disarming, particularly Edith Evans and her handbag.

    Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Anthony Asquith directs, occasionally aware he is making a movie.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Full Review…
  • The steady direction of Anthony Asquith keeps Wilde's polished barbs and bons mots firmly to the fore and the film is an invaluable record of an expert cast at work.

    Jan 25, 2019 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Importance of Being Earnest

  • Apr 17, 2013
    Old school drawing room wit and sensibilities like honey for your tea in this 1962 romcom about mistaken identities and amour, darling.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Oct 08, 2009
    This adaptation of the Oscar Wilde play will never go down in history for its visual panache, because it doesn?t really have any. There?s nothing wrong with the style, but the film makes no bones about the fact that this is a stage adaptation. What really shines here is the acting and of course the original source which is a really solid piece of theater. Wilde?s play is a biting satire about the mores of Victorian England, it might seem like dry Masterpiece Theater fodder at first look but it quickly becomes clear that this is actually pretty subversive. It took a little while for it to start working for me, but by the end I was really into it.
    MJS M Super Reviewer
  • Jan 11, 2009
    it's basically the stage play only duller
    Marion R Super Reviewer
  • Dec 26, 2008
    cheesy hoighty toighty crap with a slow but decent story
    Sanity Assassin ! Super Reviewer

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