The Importance of Being Earnest



Apart from multiple "made-for-television" versions, The Importance of Being Earnest has been adapted for the English-language cinema at least three times, first in 1952 by Anthony Asquith who adapted the screenplay and directed it. Michael Denison (Algernon), Michael Redgrave (Jack), Edith Evans (Lady Bracknell), Dorothy Tutin (Cecily), Joan Greenwood (Gwendolen), and Margaret Rutherford (Miss Prism) and Miles Malleson (Canon Chasuble) were among the cast.[96] In 1992 Kurt Baker directed a version using an all-black cast, set in the United States.[97] Oliver Parker, an English director who had previously adapted An Ideal Husband by Wilde, made the 2002 film; it stars Colin Firth (Jack), Rupert Everett (Algy), Judi Dench (Lady Bracknell), Reese Witherspoon (Cecily), Frances O'Connor (Gwendolen), Anna Massey (Miss Prism), and Tom Wilkinson (Canon Chasuble).[98] Parker's adaptation includes the dunning solicitor Mr. Gribsby who pursues Jack to Hertfordshire (present in Wilde's original draft, but cut at the behest of the play's first producer).[14] Algernon too is pursued by a group of creditors in the opening scene.

Operas and musicals

In 1960, Ernest in Love was staged Off-Broadway. The Japanese all-female musical theatre troupe Takarazuka Revue staged this musical in 2005 in two productions, one by Moon Troupe and the other one by Flower Troupe.

In 1963, Erik Chisholm composed an opera from the play, using Wilde's text as the libretto.[99] Gerald Barry's operatic version, commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and the Barbican Centre London, was premiered in Los Angeles in 2013. The stage premiere was given by the Opéra national de Lorraine in Nancy in 2013.[100]

According to a study by Robert Tanitch, by 2002 there had been least eight adaptations of the play as a musical, though "never with conspicuous success".[53] The earliest such version was a 1927 American show entitled Oh Earnest. The journalist Mark Bostridge comments, "The libretto of a 1957 musical adaptation, Half in Earnest, deposited in the British Library, is scarcely more encouraging. The curtain rises on Algy strumming away at the piano, singing 'I can play Chopsticks, Lane'. Other songs include—almost predictably—'A Bunburying I Must Go'."[53][n 11]

Radio and television

There have been many radio versions of the play. In 1925 the BBC broadcast an adaptation with Hesketh Pearson as Jack Worthing.[102] Further broadcasts of the play followed in 1927 and 1936.[103] In 1977, BBC Radio 4 broadcast the four-act version of the play, with Fabia Drake as Lady Bracknell, Richard Pasco as Jack, Jeremy Clyde as Algy, Maurice Denham as Canon Chasuble, Sylvia Coleridge as Miss Prism, Barbara Leigh-Hunt as Gwendolen and Prunella Scales as Cecily. The production was later released on CD.[104]

To commemorate the centenary of the first performance of the play, Radio 4 broadcast a new adaptation on 13 February 1995; directed by Glyn Dearman, it featured Judi Dench as Lady Bracknell, Michael Hordern as Lane, Michael Sheen as Jack Worthing, Martin Clunes as Algernon Moncrieff, John Moffatt as Canon Chasuble, Miriam Margolyes as Miss Prism, Samantha Bond as Gwendolen and Amanda Root as Cecily. The production was later issued on audio cassette.[105]

On 13 December 2000, BBC Radio 3 broadcast a new adaptation directed by Howard Davies starring Geraldine McEwan as Lady Bracknell, Simon Russell Beale as Jack Worthing, Julian Wadham as Algernon Moncrieff, Geoffrey Palmer as Canon Chasuble, Celia Imrie as Miss Prism, Victoria Hamilton as Gwendolen and Emma Fielding as Cecily, with music composed by Dominic Muldowney. The production was released on audio cassette.[106]

A 1964 commercial television adaptation starred Ian Carmichael, Patrick Macnee, Susannah York, Fenella Fielding, Pamela Brown and Irene Handl.[107]

BBC television transmissions of the play have included a 1974 Play of the Month version starring Coral Browne as Lady Bracknell with Michael Jayston, Julian Holloway, Gemma Jones and Celia Bannerman.[108] Stuart Burge directed another adaptation in 1986 with a cast including Gemma Jones, Alec McCowen, Paul McGann and Joan Plowright.[109]

Commercial recordings

Gielgud's performance is preserved on an EMI audio recording dating from 1952, which also captures Edith Evans's Lady Bracknell. The cast also includes Roland Culver (Algy), Jean Cadell (Miss Prism), Pamela Brown (Gwendolen) and Celia Johnson (Cecily).[110]

Other audio recordings include a "Theatre Masterworks" version from 1953, directed and narrated by Margaret Webster, with a cast including Maurice Evans, Lucile Watson and Mildred Natwick;[111] a 1989 version by California Artists Radio Theatre, featuring Dan O'Herlihy Jeanette Nolan, Les Tremayne and Richard Erdman;[112] and one by L.A. Theatre Works issued in 2009, featuring Charles Busch, James Marsters and Andrea Bowen.[113]

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