The Importance of Being Earnest

Synopsis: Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff are two men that are both pretending to be someone they are not.
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director(s): Anthony Asquith
Production: General Film Distributors
  Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 1 win & 1 nomination.
Rotten Tomatoes:
95 min

"The Importance of Being Earnest."

Eating as usual, I see, Algy.

I believe it is usual in good society...

to take some slight refreshment

after morning exercise.

And what brings you to London,

my dear Ernest?

Oh, pleasure, pleasure.

What else should bring one anywhere?

Where have you been

since last Thursday?

- In the country.

- What on earth do you do there?

When one is in town,

one amuses oneself.

When one is in the country,

one amuses other people.

And who are the people you amuse?

Oh, neighbors, neighbors.

Got nice neighbors

in your part of Shropshire?

Perfectly horrid.

Never speak to them.

How immensely

you must amuse them.

- Shropshire is your county, is it not?

- Shropshire? Yes, of course.

By the way,

Gwendolen is in town, isn't she?

She is. In fact, she's having tea

with me this afternoon.

- How perfectly delightful.

- And so is Aunt Augusta.


You know, the way

you flirt with Gwendolen...

is almost as bad as the way

Gwendolen flirts with you.

I am in love with Gwendolen.

I have come up to town

expressly to propose to her.

I thought you had come up on pleasure.

I call that business.

How utterly unromantic you are.

I really don't see anything

romantic in proposing.

It's very romantic to be in love,

but there's nothing romantic

about a definite proposal.

Why, one may be accepted.

One usually is, I believe,

and then the whole excitement is over.

The very essence of romance

is uncertainty.

If ever I get married, I shall

certainly try and forget the fact.

I have no doubt about that,

my dear Algy.

The divorce court was specially

invented for people like you.

Divorces are made in heaven.

Marriages are...

Yes, Algy?

Oh, well, there's no use

my speculating on that subject.

Or, indeed, your speculating

on marrying Gwendolen.

Why on earth do you say that?

In the first place, girls never marry

the men they flirt with.

- Ah! That is nonsense.

- It isn't. It's a great truth.

It accounts for the extraordinary number

of bachelors that one sees

all over the place.

Second place,

I don't give my consent.

Your consent?

My dear fellow,

Gwendolen is my first cousin,

and before I allow you to marry her,

you will have to clear up

the whole question of Cecily.

Cecily? What on earth

do you mean?

What you mean, Algy,

by "Cecily"?

I don't know anyone

of the name of Cecily.

Do you mean to say that you've had

my cigarette case all this time?

I wish you'd let me know.

I've been writing frantic letters

to Scotland Yard about it.

I was very nearly offering

a large reward.

I wish you would offer one. I happen

to be more than usually hard up.

It's no good offering a large reward

now that the thing is found.

I think that's rather mean of you,

Ernest, I must say.

However, it makes no matter,

for now that I look at the inscription,

I find that the thing isn't yours after all.

Well, of course it's mine!

You've seen me with it a hundred times.

You have no right whatsoever

to read what is written inside.

It is a very ungentlemanly thing

to read a private cigarette case.

It's absurd to have a hard-and-fast rule

about what one should

and shouldn't read.

More than half of modern culture

depends on what one shouldn't read.

I'm quite aware of the fact,

and I don't propose

to discuss modern culture with you.

It isn't the sort of thing

one should talk of in private.

- I simply want my cigarette case back.

- Yes!

But this isn't your cigarette case.

This cigarette case is a present

from someone of the name of Cecily.

You said that you didn't know

anyone of that name.

- Well, if you want to know,

- Hmm.

Cecily happens to be my aunt.

- Your aunt?

- Yes.

Charming old lady she is too.

Lives at Tunbridge Wells.

But why does she call herself Cecily...

if she's your aunt

and lives in Tunbridge Wells?

"From little Cecily,

with her fondest love."

Well, well, my dear fellow,

what on earth is there in that?

Some aunts are tall.

Some aunts are not tall.

That is surely a matter that an aunt

may be allowed to decide for herself.

For heaven's sake,

give me my cigarette case.

Yes, but why does your aunt

call you her uncle?

"From little Cecily, with her fondest

love, to her dear Uncle Jack."

There's no objection, I admit,

to an aunt being a small aunt,

but why an aunt, no matter

what her size may be,

should call her own nephew her uncle

I can't quite make out.

Besides, your name isnt Jack at all.

It is Ernest.

It isn't Ernest. It's Jack.

You have always told me

it was Ernest.

You are the most earnest-looking person

I ever saw in my life.

It's absolutely absurd

you saying your name isn't Ernest.

Why, it's on your cards.

Here is one of them.

"Mr. Ernest Worthing,

B4, The Albany."

I shall keep this as a proof

that your name is Ernest...

if ever you attempt to deny the fact

to me, to Gwendolen or to anyone else.

Well, my name is Ernest in town

and Jack in the country,

and the cigarette case

was given me in the country.

Yes, but that doesn't account for

the fact that your small Aunt Cecily,

who lives in Tunbridge Wells,

calls you her dear uncle.

Come on, old boy, much better

have the thing out at once.

My dear Algy,

you talk exactly like a dentist.

I may mention that

I have always suspected,

and now I am quite sure,

that you are a confirmed

and secret Bunburyist.


What on earth do you mean

by Bunburyist?

I will reveal to you the meaning

of that incomparable expression...

when you are kind enough

to tell me...

why you are Ernest in town

and Jack in the country.

- Well, produce my cigarette case first.

- There it is.

Now produce your explanation,

and pray make it improbable.

There's nothing improbable

about my explanation at all.

Old Mr. Thomas Cardew, who

adopted me when I was a little boy,

made me, in his will,

guardian to his granddaughter,

Miss Cecily Cardew.

Cecily, who addresses me as uncle

out of motives of respect,

which you could not possibly


lives at my place in the country under

the charge of her admirable governess,

Miss Prism.

Where is that place

in the country, by the way?

That is nothing to you, dear boy.

You are not going to be invited.

I may tell you candidly

that it is not in Shropshire.

I suspected that.

I have Bunburyed all over Shropshire

on two separate occasions. Well, go on.

When one is placed

in the position of guardian,

one has to adopt a very high

moral tone on all subjects.

It is one's duty to do so.

And as a high moral tone can hardly

be said to conduce very much...

to either one's health

or one's happiness,

in order to get up to town,

I have always pretended...

to have a younger brother

of the name of Ernest,

who lives here in the Albany and who

gets into the most dreadful scrapes.

- That, my dear Algy, is the whole truth.

- Oh, no.

What you really are is a Bunburyist.

I was perfectly right in saying

you were a Bunburyist.

You one are of the most advanced

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Oscar Wilde

Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (16 October 1854 – 30 November 1900) was an Irish poet and playwright. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London's most popular playwrights in the early 1890s. He is best remembered for his epigrams and plays, his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, and the circumstances of his imprisonment and early death. Wilde's parents were successful Anglo-Irish intellectuals in Dublin. Their son became fluent in French and German early in life. At university, Wilde read Greats; he proved himself to be an outstanding classicist, first at Dublin, then at Oxford. He became known for his involvement in the rising philosophy of aestheticism, led by two of his tutors, Walter Pater and John Ruskin. After university, Wilde moved to London into fashionable cultural and social circles. As a spokesman for aestheticism, he tried his hand at various literary activities: he published a book of poems, lectured in the United States and Canada on the new "English Renaissance in Art" and interior decoration, and then returned to London where he worked prolifically as a journalist. Known for his biting wit, flamboyant dress and glittering conversational skill, Wilde became one of the best-known personalities of his day. At the turn of the 1890s, he refined his ideas about the supremacy of art in a series of dialogues and essays, and incorporated themes of decadence, duplicity, and beauty into what would be his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890). The opportunity to construct aesthetic details precisely, and combine them with larger social themes, drew Wilde to write drama. He wrote Salome (1891) in French while in Paris but it was refused a licence for England due to an absolute prohibition on the portrayal of Biblical subjects on the English stage. Unperturbed, Wilde produced four society comedies in the early 1890s, which made him one of the most successful playwrights of late-Victorian London. At the height of his fame and success, while The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) was still being performed in London, Wilde had the Marquess of Queensberry prosecuted for criminal libel. The Marquess was the father of Wilde's lover, Lord Alfred Douglas. The libel trial unearthed evidence that caused Wilde to drop his charges and led to his own arrest and trial for gross indecency with men. After two more trials he was convicted and sentenced to two years' hard labour, the maximum penalty, and was jailed from 1895 to 1897. During his last year in prison, he wrote De Profundis (published posthumously in 1905), a long letter which discusses his spiritual journey through his trials, forming a dark counterpoint to his earlier philosophy of pleasure. On his release, he left immediately for France, never to return to Ireland or Britain. There he wrote his last work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898), a long poem commemorating the harsh rhythms of prison life. He died destitute in Paris at the age of 46. more…

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