Quick, Name the Best Performance in an Oscar Wilde Movie

Oscar Wilde died on this day in 1900, and my refrain about the Irish genius remains the same: Not only did he die for (gay) people’s sins, he was funny too. That literally makes him better than Jesus, guys. It’s just a fact.

I happen to be a pretty big fan of movies based on Wilde’s work. I loved Cate Blanchett in the ’99 version of An Ideal Husband, and I’m particularly fond of George Sanders and Angela Lansbury in 1945′s The Picture of Dorian Gray. But my single favorite performance in a Wilde film? That’s easy.

“I know nothing, Lady Bracknell.”

“I’m pleased to hear it. I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance.”


Give it up for Dame Edith Evans in The Importance of Being Earnest (’52, of course!). The unmistakable British actress is an imperial, sneering goddess as Lady Bracknell. Ian McKellen once called her work in the film “so acclaimed and strongly remembered that it inhibits audiences and actors years later.” You can see why. Who can forget — or even imitate — her delivery of that classic line, “A haaaandbag?” Let’s curse the fact that it took until 1963 and Tom Jones for her to pick up her first Oscar nomination.

By the way, Michael Denison, who plays Algernon Moncrieff, is devastatingly sexy to me. Not kidding. We’d make cucumber sandwiches alllll day long.

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