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.



Reviews Counted: 23

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Audience Score

User Ratings: 3,373


All Critics | Top Critics
Average Rating: N/A
Reviews Count: 0
Fresh: 0
Rotten: 0


Average Rating: 3.7/5

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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.

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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 (4)

  • 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…
  • 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…
  • 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

Old school drawing room wit and sensibilities like honey for your tea in this 1962 romcom about mistaken identities and amour, darling.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer


The premire film adaptation of Oscar Wilde's comic masterpeice is this 1952 version. The very model of wit and whimsy that came so naturally in the 50's and comes so rarely today. A confirmed bumburist myself, The Importance of Being Ernest was the first play I ever saw and since then I have become an avid fan of Oscar Wilde. There have been several versions but this is truly the best, with no unnecesary scenes or added dialogue, just the exact words of the brilliant play. Every Wilde fan will be perfectly satistfied. Best watched with an older aunty or uncle, some cucumber sandwiches and a cup of tea for some pure Wilde indulgent delight.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith

Super Reviewer


Wahida K
Wahida K

Super Reviewer

I imagine this is what Daniel Day Lewis' home life is like. Funny.

Tim Sigur
Tim Sigur

Super Reviewer

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