Wilde (1997)

 

 

Director:     Brian Gilbert.

Starring:     Stephen Fry (Oscar Wilde),  Jude Law (Lord Alfred 'Bosie' Douglas),  Vanessa Redgrave (Lady Speranza Wilde),  Jennifer Ehle (Constance Lloyd Wilde),  Gemma Jones (Lady Queensberry),  Judy Parfitt (Lady Mount-Temple),  Michael Sheen (Robbie Ross),  Zo Wanamaker (Ada Leverson),  Tom Wilkinson (Marquess of Queensberry),  Ioan Gruffudd (John Gray),  Matthew Mills (Lionel Johnson),  Jason Morell (Ernest Dowson),  Peter Barkworth (Charles Gill),  Robert Lang (C.O. Humphreys),  Philip Locke (Judge).

homosexual writer and brilliant social critic; height of career 1895

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

Cowboys riding.  "He's coming1" is the shout.  Leadville, Colorado 1882.  Men fire their pistols in the air to celebrate.  Dressed in a fancy long coat and a black top hat, Oscar Wilde rides into the mining camp.  The boss introduces the men to Oscar and Oscar to the men of the Matchless Silver Mine.  Today they opened up a new seam and are naming it after Mr. Wilde.  The boss says they are truly honored to have him visit.  He sits in a chair and is lowered into the mine.  Down in the mine he speaks with the miners. 

Wilde is back in England.  Ada tells Oscar's mother Lady Wilde that now that Oscar has been to America and sowed his Wildean oats it's time for him to settle down.  Ada explains to Lady Mount-Temple that her friend Oscar is famous or infamous for being himself.  Lady Wilde introduces Connie Lloyd to Lady Mount-Temple, who knew Connie's father.  Oscar tells Ada that he is considering marrying Connie Lloyd.  He says he must marry someone.  His mother has everything planned out for him.  He is to go into Parliament.  Receptions will always be held a 5 o'clock.  Connie will correct the proofs of his lectures and articles.  He tells Ada that he truly loves Connie.  She is so sympathetic and he does need an audience.

After marriage, Connie becomes pregnant.  Oscar is happy. 

On the street looking for a cab for himself and Connie, he sees a young man staring at him.  Oscar seems very interested in the youth.  But when the young man asks him if he is looking for someone, Oscar walks away shouting:  "Cab!  Cab!" 

Young man Robbie Ross, a Canadian in England, stays with the Wildes while his parents are out of the country.  Oscar puts on his robe, kisses his wife good night and goes downstairs to talk with Robbie.  Robbie comes on to Oscar.  They kiss.  Robbie starts to undress.  They kiss again. 

Connie now has two children.  The oldest boy is named Cyril.  Oscar will be dining with the Asquiths.  Oscar has sex with Robbie. 

Cyril tells his father that he is always going away.  Mr. Ross and Mr. Gray arrive for Oscar.  They go to an art exhibition.  Oscar invites Gray out to dinner.  Robbie smiles. 

Lady Wilde speaks with Connie.  She says that The Portrait of Dorian Gray is a wonderful book. Connie says her family finds it dull and wicked.  Lady Wilde laughs.  Hardly anyone will speak to them anymore.  "We're ceasing to be respectable."   Oscar is in the Lake District writing a play.  Lady Wilde is sure it will be a great success.

The play is very highly received.  Oscar takes a bow to the audience.  Gray congratulates Oscar on his great success.  Oscar is introduced to Lord Alfred 'Bosie' Douglas who wanted very much to meet the great playwright.  They met briefly a year earlier.  Bosie loves that Oscar shocks his audience.  He says he wished Wilde would draw some blood down in Oxford. 

Oscar and Bosie walk in a park setting.  Bosie has an affair with a young boy, but now the boy threatens to show his love letters to Bosie's father.  And father is a brute who carries a whip wherever he goes.  He would beat his mother, his brothers and him. Oscar says he himself has never been blackmailed, but he should leave the matter to his solicitor, George Lewis.  He acts for the Prince of Wales. 

Bosie and Wilde have sex.  Afterwards they go to dinner.  Bosie says he wants to have everyone say there goes Oscar Wilde with his boy.  They talk for a long while.  Oscar excuses himself.  He must go to the railway station to pick up actress Sarah Bernhardt, who, he says, thinks he can play the role of Salome better than him. Bosie begs him to stay. 

Gray tells Ross that he is no longer good enough for Oscar.  He is only the son of a carpenter, while Bosie is nobility.  He tells Ross:  "I loved him."  Gray also says he either wants to kill Bosie or kill himself. 

Connie and Lady Mount-Temple talk about Oscar and his latest play.  Lord Chamberlain would not allow a play with Biblical characters.  Oscar is looking after Lord Alfred.  Lady Mount-Temple says that Bosie's father is a dreadful man who doesn't believe in God or marriage.  Connie indicates that she has not had much sex with Oscar lately.  She blames herself saying that after Vyvyan was born, all she could think about was the children.   Lady Mount-Temple says it's no wonder Oscar spends so much time with his men friends.  Connie says there is nothing wrong with that, but her companion says it's more the appearance of what's going on that is important. 

Oscar and Bosie are together again.  Bosie takes him to a place of male prostitution known as Taylor's.  He tells Oscar that he loves him, but variety is the spice of life.  He can watch him having sex if he likes. 

Robbie complains that Bosie is just not discreet.  But Oscar replies that he must be with young people.  They make him feel young. 

While Oscar writes his play, outside the young men talk about Bosie's father wanting to kill Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Lord Roseberry for buggering Bosie's brother.  Dad also thinks that Oscar is buggering Bosie.  Bosie goes in to tell Oscar that he is sick of the country.  He says he is bored with the house (that he urged Oscar to buy) and he is bored with Oscar.  Oscar says he has to support a family, but Bosie doesn't want to hear this.  He says Oscar is mean, penny-pinching and oh, so middle class.  He gets very angry and tells Oscar that he never wants to see him again.  He walks out. 

Bosie is going to Egypt.  His mother asks him to promise not to write to Oscar Wilde.  She thinks the man evil.  Bosie says he can't do that. 

Oscar supervises a rehearsal of his latest play.  Ada tells him that he should break from Bosie more often  -- they would get more and better plays from him. 

Bosie returns to Oscar.  They wildly embrace each other.  Oscar presents Bosie with a gift to celebrate his coming home.  Bosie's father comes into the restaurant.  Bosie goes over to his father and asks him to join him.  "I told you never to see the vile cur again," says the father.   Bosie insists his father come over.  He joins them.  He reluctantly shakes Oscar's hand.  Bosie leaves the two talking at the table and goes elsewhere.  The two men do talk a long time and Bosie thinks that means they like each other.  But when Bosie speaks with his father he tells Bosie that Oscar is charming, but a man should not be charming.  He's a good speaker, but speaks such rot.  He tells Bosie to stop seeing him or he will stop his allowance.  Bosie is shocked.  The two quarrel, shouting at each other. 

Bosie tells Oscar that his own father wants to kill him.   

Connie comes to pay a visit.  She finds Oscar with Bosie.  Oscar has not been home for so long, she says, so she brought his letters to him. The boys are longing to see him.  He says he'll come home tomorrow then.  The next day Oscar goes fishing with the boys.  He seems to have caught a cold.   Bosie comes home and wants Oscar to go out on the town with him.  He says he will not look after Oscar.  He says Oscar doesn't love him.  He only goes with him because of his title.  Bosie won't even give him a drink of water. 

Oscar tells Robbie that Bosie is ashamed of loving men.  Robbie says that as soon as Bosie came back, Oscar stopped writing again.  Oscar says Bosie's never liked making love with him. 

A servant brings in the newspaper.  Bosie's brother has been found shot dead. Oscar goes to Bosie.  His brother killed himself.  Bosie says they have to stop his father before he has the whole family committing suicide. 

Bosie's father comes looking for him armed with a cane.  Wilde watches as Bosie has sex.  The hotel clerk comes in to ask Mr. Wilde to leave at once.  Bosie's father threatened the clerk with a beating if he finds out Wilde was staying at the hotel.  They leave.  Two male prostitutes, Charlie and Alfred, tell Oscar they have a love letter of his to Bosie.  They threaten to give it to Bosie's father.  Oscar tells them to go ahead and deliver it.   They give up. 

Bosie's father comes rushing in to Oscar's place.  You're a bugger!  He threatens to go to Scotland Yard.  And he'll also give him a thrashing.  Oscar makes a damning verbal assault on the man.  The father leaves. 

On the Importance of being Ernest opens.  Bosie's father tries to get in to the show to throw rotten vegetables at Oscar, but he is stopped by the police.  The audience loves it.  Oscar Wilde appears on stage to a thunderous round of applause. 

Oscar receives a card from Bosie's father.  On the card the father calls Oscar a ponce and a sodomite.  Bosie says now they have him.  They will try him for libel against Oscar.  Robbie begs Oscar not to do it.  He says all hell will break loose.  But Oscar wants to stop Bosie's father before he harms anyone else. 

Connie needs money.  She tells Robbie and he tells her that he thinks he can find her husband.  She asks him if there is going to be trouble. 

Oscar tells his solicitor that there is no truth in the libel.  In court Wilde makes the court room ring with laughter.  How long has he known Alfred Taylor?  Has he introduced young men to you?  Yes.  But he denies having sex with them.  His solicitor tells him he could be arrested and get two years at hard labor.  He tells him that he must leave the country.  Robbie urges him to be on the train heading for the coast.  Oscar says he won't go.  His wife tells Robbie to tell Oscar to go.  But Oscar won't budge.  Oscar's mother asks him to fight the English philistines. By herself she sits down on a chair and cries. 

There's a knock on the door.  A man has a warrant for Oscar's arrest on the charge of committing indecent acts.  Oscar is put into prison.  Bosie comes to visit him.  He is outraged that he can't have his say in the courtroom.  Oscar tells him to go abroad.  He would hate to see Bosie arrested. 

Oscar is back on the stand.  What is the love that dare not speak its name?  Oscar provides an answer.  The affection of an older man for a younger man.  It is beautiful.  It is fine.  There's nothing unnatural about it.  It's much misunderstood in this century. 

Oscar is convicted.  The judge throws the book at him.  He will be imprisoned at hard labor for two years, the maximum sentence.  People shout insults at him and spit at him.  Robbie looks on with great sadness as they take Oscar away. 

Robbie tells Bosie that when Oscar gets out he will have no money.  He says:  "My life's ruined too."  They will live together once Oscar is out.  "I love him, Robbie.  Oscar's mine and I'm going to have him." 

Connie visits Oscar.  He says I shall never forgive myself for what I have done to you and the boys.  "I have always loved you, Constance.  You must believe me."  Connie says she does not want a divorce and she will let him see the children.  But there must be one condition. He must never see Bosie again.  Oscar says if he saw Bosie again, he would kill him.  And there is some good news.  They've been performing Salome in Paris. 

Robbie tells Ada that Oscar will have to go to France when he is released.  He is released.  Ada is there to pick him up.  He has written a letter to Bosie saying he loves him , but he can never see him again. 

Oscar goes to France.  He puts flowers on his wife's grave.  He says he has decided to see Bosie again.  He has nothing to lose.  He lost his wife and they won't allow him to see his children. 

Bosie comes to France.  Oscar watches him from a corner.  Bosie sees him.  He calls out:  "Oscar!"

Oscar and Bosie parted after three months.  Imprisonment had ruined Oscar's health.  He spent his last days in Paris, living in a cheap hotel.  He wrote.  "Like dear St. Francis of Assisi I am wedded to poverty, but in my caste the marriage is not a success."

Oscar Wilde died on 30th November 1900, age 46.  Bosie died in 1915.  Robbie Ross died in 1918.  In 1950 his ashes were placed in Oscar's tomb.   

 

Good movie.  It reminds one of just how great the prejudice against homosexuality was at one time.  Oscar took a principle stand and spent two years in prison at hard labor for it.  In that sense, he is a hero of the movement for civil rights for homosexuals.  And he was quite the character; and so flamboyant.  And funny too.  There are many funny moments in the film because of the wit of the real Oscar Wilde.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 

 

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