The Importance of Being Earnest
Based on Oscar Wilde’s play, two friends fall in love with women who want to love someone named Earnest, and the pretensions of both are sorted out.
Jack Worthing (Michael Redgrave) tells Algernon Moncrieff (Michael Denison) that he came to town to ask Gwendolyn to marry him. Algernon does not approve because of Cecily and a cigarette case that she gave him. Jack explains that he uses the name Earnest in town, and he is Cecily’s guardian. Jack pretends that he has a brother named Earnest.
Jack calls on Algernon for tea to see Gwendolyn Fairfax (Joan Greenwood), who is with Lady Augusta Bracknell (Edith Evans). Algernon invites Augusta to another room. Jack tells Gwendolyn that he admires her. She says she loves him because his name is Earnest. He suggests they marry, and she gets him to kneel. As they kiss, Augusta and Algernon return. Gwendolyn says she is engaged. Augusta says she will decide that and sends her outside. Augusta questions Jack, who says he does not know who his parents are. She advises him to find a parent and leaves. Jack wants to keep Algernon away from Cecily, but Algernon hears Jack give his country address to Gwendolyn.
In a yard Letitia Prism (Margaret Rutherford) tutors Cecily Cardew (Dorothy Tutin) in German. Cecily keeps a diary. She suggests that Miss Prism walk with the minister Dr. Chasuble (Miles Malleson). Algernon arrives and says he is Jack’s brother Earnest. Cecily thinks he is wicked and that Jack is sending him to Australia. Algernon says she is pretty. Jack arrives in black and says Earnest died in Paris. Cecily says that Earnest is there, and Algernon tells Jack that he is reforming. Jack tells Algernon to leave.
Algernon tells Cecily that she is perfect and that he loves her hopelessly. He asks her to marry him. She says they were engaged three months before from what she learned about him. Cecily says she loves him because his name is Earnest. Jack asks Dr. Chasuble to christen him.
Gwendolyn arrives and meets Cecily, who says she is a ward. Cecily says she is engaged to Earnest, and Gwendolyn says the same. They argue and clash verbally. Jack greets Gwendolyn and kisses her. Cecily says his name is Jack. Algernon comes to Cecily, and Gwendolyn says he is Algernon. Gwendolyn and Cecily console each other, and both ask where Earnest is. Jack says he has no brother. Gwendolyn and Cecily decide they are not engaged and go inside. Jack and Algernon argue. Algernon says he will be christened Earnest. Cecily and Gwendolyn both learn that they lied to see them, and they forgive them.
Augusta arrives and learns that Algernon is engaged to Cecily. She asks Jack about Cecily and learns she has £130,000. She gives her consent. However, Jack declines to give his consent because Algernon is untruthful. Jack says that if he can marry Gwendolyn, then he will approve. Dr. Chasuble learns the christenings are off. Augusta learns that Miss Prism is there and asks her where the baby went. Jack realizes that he was that baby and gets the handbag. Jack calls Miss Prism mother, but Augusta says he is Algernon’s elder brother. Jack discovers his name is Earnest Moncrieff.
This witty comedy is played with style and elegance, satirizing British society in the late Victorian era.