Rupert Everett has already starred in two Oscar Wilde film adaptations, The Ideal Husband (1999) and The Importance of Being Earnest (2002). Now here he is in the role of the poet and playwright himself, in the biopic The Happy Prince, premiering today (October 10).
Everett also wrote and directed the film, which examines the final years of the celebrated writer’s life. While it was a tragic period for Wilde — the public turned on him and he was imprisoned for being gay — (though the actual charge was “indecency”), he still held onto hope. “There is no mystery so great as suffering,” he said. “Suffering is nothing, when there is love. Love. Is. Everything.”
The Happy Prince also stars Firth as his friend, Reggie Turner, and Emma Watson as his loyal wife, Constance. Colin Morgan portrays his lover, Alfred Douglas.
Let’s continue to celebrate this wonderful writer with a look back at our favorite on-screen adaptations of his many plays, short stories and standalone novel:
1. Flesh and Fantasy
In 1943, the Julien Duvivier directed anthology film Flesh and Fantasy premiered. It’s made up of three unrelated stories tied together by two men at a club talking about the occult. The second segment is based on Wilde’s short story, Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime, which is about a palmist who predicts the fate of one of the guests, specifically that he’ll make a fateful turn at a street intersection on his way home that evening. And, he does… Flesh and Fantasy stars Edward G. Robinson, Charles Boyer, Robert Cummings and Barbara Stanwyck.
2. The Picture of Dorian Gray
Wilde wrote the gothic novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, in 1890. There have been multiple screen adaptations, with the first in 1945, starring Hurd Hatfield, George Sanders, Lowell Gilmore and Angela Lansbury. The story, set in Victorian England, follows the life of the beautiful narcissist Dorian Gray, who has his portrait painted by an artist captivated by his handsomeness. Gray realizes his looks won’t last forever, and wishes that instead of his fine features aging, that his inevitable decay would instead be borne by the painting. His wish is granted…
3. The Fan
In 1892, Wilde’s four-act comedy, Lady Windermere’s Fan, A Play About a Good Woman, was first performed at St. James’s Theatre in London. A 1949 film adaptation cut the title cut down to, The Fan, but stuck to the original sorry, which revolves around Lady Windermere (Jeanne Crain). When her husband (Richard Greene) starts running around town with a wannabe socialite (Madeleine Carroll), she consults a gentleman friend, Robert Darlington (George Sanders), and she accidentally leaves her fan behind at his home…
Published in 1891, the tragic play Salomè, which was first performed in French, is an interpretation of a New Testament story about Herod’s stepdaughter, Salomè, who agrees to perform the seductive “Dance of the Seven Veils.” And in return she wants the head of John the Baptist. The 1986 film adaptation is set during WWII and stars Jo Champa, Tomas Milian and Pamela Salem. In the 2011 docudrama, Wilde Salomé, Al Pacino unravels what was considered one of Wilde’s most controversial works.
5. The Canterville Ghost
Wilde’s 1887 novella, The Canterville Ghost, tells the story of an American family who move into an English castle. Their new home is haunted by a nobleman who murdered his wife and was then starved to death by her vengeful brothers. In 1995, Sir Patrick Stewart starred as Sir Simon de Canterville in the film adaptation, opposite Neve Campbell as Ginny Otis.
6. An Ideal Husband
In 1999, Rupert Everett played Lord Author Goring in the movie version of Wilde’s comedy An Ideal Husband. He is indeed an ideal husband, except for the fact that he doesn’t want to get married. Even so, three bachelorettes (Julianne Moore, Cate Blanchett, Minnie Driver) vie for his attention.
7. The Importance of Being Earnest
In 2002, Everett popped up in an adaptation of what is perhaps Wilde’s most famous play, The Importance of Being Earnest. Set in 1890s London, two friends, played by Everett and Colin Firth, decide to take on the pseudonym Ernest in an attempt to court women who don’t know their true identities, and assume a man named Ernest must be a good catch.
8. The Selfish Giant
The Selfish Giant is a children’s story, included in Wilde’s 1888 collection, The Happy Prince and Other Tales. It’s about a giant who gets annoyed with the local children so locks them out of the garden where he lives. The 2013 film adaptation is inspired by, rather an exact replica, of Wilde’s story, and revolves around two young boys (Conner Chapman, Shaun Thomas) who get involved with a scrap dealer.
Is Oscar Wilde your cuppa?