Monday, March 28, 2011

Lady Windermere's Fan -1916

Director: Fred Paul
Writer: Oscar Wilde (play)
Stars: Milton Rosmer, Netta Westcott and Nigel Playfair
American movie. Aside from his appearances as Sherlock Holmes, few of Arthur Wontner's other acting chores are available on DVD. One important exception is his first film, "Lady Windermere's Fan" (released in July 1916, four months before "The Bigamist", which is often incorrectly listed as his first movie role) in which he plays Lord Darlington (the part enacted by Ronald Colman in the 1925 version, and by George Sanders in the 1949). In the 1916 take, the Darlington role, though important, is accorded much less footage. Wontner is okay, but is given few opportunities to showcase his skills. It is the matronly Irene Rooke (as Mrs Margaret Erlynne) who walks away with the film's limited acting honors, closely followed by her admirer, Nigel Playfair (as Tuppy Lorton). Neither Netta Westcott nor Milton Rosmer make much impression as the high society Windermeres. In fact, the film as a whole is something of a chore to sit through. The screenplay by Benedict James eliminates all of Wilde's comedy and social satire. Fred Paul's determinedly static direction is no help either, although he does come to life briefly in a dog show sequence in which he uses every available device to advertise Spratt's Dog Cakes (who presumably underwrote the location expenses).

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