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AN IDEAL HUSBAND (director: Alexander Korda; screenwriter: Lajos Biro/based on the play by Oscar Wilde; cinematographer: Georges Perinal; editor: Oswald Hafenrichter; music: Arthur Benjamin; cast: Paulette Goddard (Mrs. Cheveley), Michael Wilding (Viscount Arthur Goring), Diana Wynyard (Lady Gertrude Chiltern), Hugh Williams (Sir Robert Chiltern), Sir C. Aubrey Smith (Goring’s Father), Glynis Johns (Sir Robert’s Sister), Constance Collier (Lady Markby), Harriette Johns (Lady Basildon); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Alexander Korda; Criterion Collection; 1947-UK)
The talented film-maker turns a marvelously raw play into a mediocre drawing room comedy.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Hungarian-born England-living director Alexander Korda(“The Private Life of Henry VIII“/”Rembrandt”/”Perfect Strangers”) bases the gorgeous Technicolor production on the 1895 play by Oscar Wilde, as his fellow Hungarian keeps the screenplay spiritless and slight. The lavish costumes were designed by Cecil Beaton.

Unfortunately the classic play turns into a leaden film, too slow moving for us to care about how elegantly it was filmed and Wilde’s wild satire in the play comes across as too tame in the film. Through careless direction the talented film-maker turns a marvelously raw play into a mediocre drawing room comedy.

In the Victorian England of 1895, in London, thevirtuous Sir Robert Chiltern (Hugh Williams), British Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs is in line for a cabinet post. He has served with honor in the political arena and is selflessly devoted to his wife Lady Gertrude (Diana Wynyard). When the Victorian adventuress, Mrs. Cheveley (Paulette Goddard), a school friend of Lady Gertrude, arrives in London, she blackmails Sir Robert to vote tosupport a phony Argentine canal scheme in parliament or else threatens to blab that Sir Robert in his youth profited by selling a Cabinet secret about the Suez Canal. This enabled him to make a fortune and get a head start in his political career. Mrs. Cheveley’s blackmail threatens to ruin Sir Robert’s career and marriage.

Hugh Williams’ stiff performance and the miscast American Paulette Goddard’s miscalculated floozy performance, plus the poor execution of the outdated plot, left things dull and insufferable. Michael Wilding’s heroic gay politician portrayal, as the best friend and defender of Sir Robert, at least gets in a few wisecracks to briefly break up the monotony.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”