UK / British Lion – London Films / 96 minutes / 1947 Filmed in Technicolor
Writer: Lajos Biro from the play by Oscar Wilde / Music: Arthur Benjamin with additional input from Vincent Korda / Costume Design: Cecil Beaton / Cinematography: Georges Perinal / Producer and Director: Alexander Korda
Cast: Paulette Goddard, Michael Wilding, Diana Wynyard, Hugh Williams, C Aubrey Smith, Glynis Johns, Constance Collier
“The sparkling dialogue, skilled direction, capable cast, elaborate and spectacular settings, make it a film of distinction and very good entertainment”, averred CEA Film Report of this lavish screen version of Oscar Wilde’s witty play and Alexander Korda’s last film as director.
Korda’s casting brought Paulette Goddard from Hollywood to play the Victorian adventuress Mrs Cheveley who blackmails upright politician Hugh Williams – whose wife, Diana Wynyard believes he can do no wrong – over an indiscretion committed early on in his career. She forces him to agree to speak in support of a Fraudulent scheme in the Commons, which he was about to attack, rather than lose his wife’s love. Fortunately, Williams seeks the advice of his friend, Lord Goring (Michael Wilding) who, discovering a disreputable episode in Goddard’s past, uses it to save William’s honour and thwart the schemer…
Goddard, coached to subdue her American accent by Noel Coward, “takes the eye with vivacity and a wonderful wardrobe”, said the New Statesman and “is sparklingly malicious”, noted The Daily Graphic . “Diana Wynyard”, averred the Sunday Express, “gives the rather dull Good Woman all the beauty and grace required, and perhaps rather more brains and depth than she deserves”, and there were attractive performances from Williams, Constance Collier as Lady Markby and Glynis Johns, who made the most of her ingenue role. That doyen of the Hollywood British colony, brought back to his native England by Korda, C Aubrey Smith, was memorably correct as Lord Caversham. Said The Daily Telegraph , he is “easy, distinguished, and thoroughly professional where so many actors nowadays look like gifted amateurs.”