While I had heard of Oscar Wilde I really didn’t know much about him. I knew he was a playwright, poet, and humorist, and that he was known for being witty and controversial. I guess I also knew vaguely his two most famous works, The Importance of Being Earnest and The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Thanks to movies I now know more and his life–rather his downfall–is a fascinating story. When I saw that Peter Finch and James Mason were in it I had to watch it. The 1960 film ages well–after all, it is set in the Victorian Age.
Wilde, who was married and had two children, eventually became homosexual. Wilde began an intimate relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas, whose father, the powerful Marquess of Queensberry, disapproved. Queensberry publicly accused Wilde of being a sodomist. Wilde foolishly attempted to sue for libel but was subsequently convicted and imprisoned for sodomy and gross indecency. His career basically stopped, he was broke, and his health eventually failed.
He was destroyed by both his arrogance and outspokenness and the laws, mores, and public sentiments of the times. He was at the peak of his fame, wealth, and creativity when this occurred. Queensberry was the protagonist in Wilde’s downfall but Wilde himself brought it on: He egotistically fought the laws and will of the majority and he lost.
Wilde’s work is eloquent. His downfall is historic in its tragedy. Next up: the third movie of The Importance of Being Earnest (2002).