An Ideal Husband (1947 film)

Last updated

An Ideal Husband
Ideal husband.jpg
Original French film poster
Directed by Alexander Korda
Screenplay by Lajos Bíró
Based on An Ideal Husband
1895 play
by Oscar Wilde
Produced byAlexander Korda
Starring Paulette Goddard
Michael Wilding
Diana Wynyard
CinematographyGeorges Périnal
Edited by Oswald Hafenrichter
Music by Arthur Benjamin
Color process Technicolor
Distributed by British Lion Films Corporation
20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • 13 November 1947 (1947-11-13)(London)
  • 14 November 1947 (1947-11-14)(United Kingdom)
  • 14 January 1948 (1948-01-14)(New York City)
  • February 1948 (1948-02)(United Kingdom)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget£506,000 [1] [2] [3]
Box office£241,994 (UK) [4] or £206,637 (worldwide) [3]

An Ideal Husband, also known as Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband, is a 1947 British comedy film adaptation of the 1895 play by Oscar Wilde. It was made by London Film Productions and distributed by British Lion Films (UK) and Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation (USA). It was produced and directed by Alexander Korda from a screenplay by Lajos Bíró from Wilde's play. The music score was by Arthur Benjamin, the cinematography by Georges Périnal, the editing by Oswald Hafenrichter and the costume design by Cecil Beaton. This was Korda's last completed film as a director, although he continued producing films into the next decade. [5]


The film stars Paulette Goddard, Michael Wilding, Diana Wynyard, Hugh Williams, C. Aubrey Smith, Glynis Johns and Constance Collier.


The story takes place in London, 1895. The main characters are Mrs. Laura Cheveley, who has recently returned to Britain after living in Vienna; Sir Roger Chiltern, a government minister with a reputation for honesty; his wife Gertrude, who disapproves strongly of immorality and dishonesty; Mabel Chiltern, Sir Robert's younger sister; Arthur, Viscount Goring, an unmarried and unconventional young man; and his father, the Earl of Caversham, who is eager to have his son marry and settle down.

At a lavish party hosted by the Chilterns, Mrs. Cheveley tries to extort Sir Roger into supporting a bill to provide government financing for what he considers to be a fraudulent scheme. Mrs. Cheveley has incriminating letters that he wrote many years earlier that allowed him to use advance knowledge of the financing of the Suez Canal to establish his fortune and career. He initially refuses but gives in to save his reputation. Before leaving the party, Mrs. Cheveley tells Lady Chiltern, a former schoolmate, that her husband will support the canal scheme, which surprises the politician's wife. As the party ends, Arthur and Mabel notice an unusual brooch that someone had lost. Goring knows that he had given that brooch to someone in the past and keeps it, hoping that it will be asked for. Sir Roger, confronted by his wife about his change of position, writes a letter to Lady Cheveley to tell her that he will speak against the bill.

The next morning, Sir Robert reveals Mrs. Cheveley's blackmail attempt to Arthur, who urges him to let his wife know about his own past indiscretion, even if it will ruin her regard for her husband. Sir Robert refuses to tell her the truth and decides to look for some way to blackmail Mrs. Cheveley instead. Arthur, who was once engaged to her, thinks that plan will not work. Mrs. Cheveley arrives to ask if anyone has found a brooch she had lost at the party. Lady Chiltern tells the woman that she has despised her dishonesty ever since they were at school together and that Sir Robert will speak against the bill in Parliament that night. Mrs. Cheveley retaliates by telling her how her husband made his fortune. Sir Robert orders Mrs. Cheveley to leave. His wife is repelled by his past behavior and he says that no one could live up to the ideal image she had of him.

That evening, Lady Chiltern writes an unsigned note to Arthur asking for his help. Arthur tells Mrs. Cheveley that he has her brooch and knows that she stole it from an important society woman. He removes the incriminating brooch when she gives him the letter she was using to blackmail Sir Robert. She, however, takes Lady Chiltern's note as she leaves, planning to use it to make Sir Robert believe that his wife is having an affair with Arthur. Lady Chiltern in turn says that she has learned the power of forgiveness.

That night, Mrs. Cheveley watches from the women's gallery in the House of Commons as Sir Robert denounces the canal scheme. The next day, Lord Caversham again admonishes his son to marry. Arthur complies and proposes to Mabel. Lady Chiltern arrives and Arthur tells her of Mrs. Cheveley's intention to destroy her marriage, using the unsigned note. When she gives it to Sir Robert, though, he takes the letter to be proof of his wife's need and love for him. Now willing to give up his position in society and live a contented life with Lady Chiltern, Sir Robert is offered an important Cabinet position by Lord Caversham. Arthur persuades her to let her husband remain in public life. Lady Cheveley leaves, not apparently upset that her schemes have failed.



The costly production was held up due to a strike by the crew. The union objected to American actress Paulette Goddard's personal, Swedish-born hairdresser, claiming an English person could do the job. [2] [6] Korda was also criticized for halting shooting to procure a genuine emerald necklace for Goddard to wear in one scene, a controversial extravagance during Britain's post-war austerity period. [6] However, Korda's use of the Royal Household Cavalry in an outdoor scene was so impressive that the company wore the uniforms from the film for the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth to Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. [7]

Shooting took 66 days. Goddard's husband, Burgess Meredith, was making Mine Own Executioner for Korda at the same time. After filming, the two of them appeared on stage in Dublin in Winterset . [8]


The film, along with two others from Korda, Mine Own Executioner and Anna Karenina , as well as other British films, were picketed in some American cities by the Sons of Liberty Boycott Committee, headed by Johan J. Smertenko, who was active in supporting the establishment of the State of Israel. The group wanted to draw American attention to British policies in the Palestine Mandate. [9] Korda, however, suggested that the boycott might also be used by American interests in retaliation for distribution quotas imposed on American films by Britain. [10] The film's American distributor, Twentieth Century Fox, did pull Korda's films from its theaters. Smertenko and the Sons of Liberty announced an end to the boycott in December 1948. [11]

Box Office

The film was one of the most popular movies at the British box office in 1948. [12] According to Kinematograph Weekly, the most successful at the box office in 1948 Britain was The Best Years of Our Lives, with Spring in Park Lane being the best British film and next best being It Always Rains on Sunday, My Brother Jonathan, Road to Rio, Miranda, An Ideal Husband, Naked City, The Red Shoes, Green Dolphin Street, Forever Amber, Life with Father, The Weaker Sex, Oliver Twist, The Fallen Idol and The Winslow Boy. [13] As of 30 June 1949 the film earned £215,555 in the UK of which £149,559 went to the producer. [1]

However, it performed disappointingly in other markets. [14] [15]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alexander Korda</span> British film director (1893–1956)

Sir Alexander Korda was a Hungarian–born British film director, producer and screenwriter, who founded his own film production studios and film distribution company.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Paulette Goddard</span> American actress

Paulette Goddard was an American actress and socialite. Her career spanned six decades, from the 1920s to the early 1970s. She was a prominent leading actress during the Golden Age of Hollywood.

<i>The Wicked Lady</i> 1945 film

The Wicked Lady is a 1945 British costume drama film directed by Leslie Arliss and starring Margaret Lockwood in the title role as a nobleman's wife who becomes a highwaywoman for the excitement. The film had one of the largest audiences for a film of its period, 18.4 million.

<i>An Ideal Husband</i> 1895 play by Oscar Wilde

An Ideal Husband is a four-act play by Oscar Wilde that revolves around blackmail and political corruption, and touches on the themes of public and private honour. It was first produced at the Haymarket Theatre, London in 1895 and ran for 124 performances. It has been revived in many theatre productions and adapted for the cinema, radio and television.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Martita Hunt</span> British actress (1900–1969)

Martita Edith Hunt was an Argentine-born British theatre and film actress. She had a dominant stage presence and played a wide range of powerful characters. She is best remembered for her performance as Miss Havisham in David Lean's Great Expectations.

<i>The Divorce of Lady X</i> 1938 British film

The Divorce of Lady X is a 1938 British Technicolor romantic comedy film produced by London Films; it stars Merle Oberon, Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson and Binnie Barnes. It was directed by Tim Whelan and produced by Alexander Korda from a screenplay by Ian Dalrymple and Arthur Wimperis, adapted by Lajos Bíró from the play Counsel's Opinion by Gilbert Wakefield. The music score was by Miklós Rózsa and Lionel Salter and the cinematography by Harry Stradling.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cecil Parker</span> English actor (1897–1971)

Cecil Parker was an English actor with a distinctively husky voice, who usually played supporting roles, often characters with a supercilious demeanour, in his 91 films made between 1928 and 1969.

<i>An Ideal Husband</i> (1999 film) 1999 film by Oliver Parker

An Ideal Husband is a 1999 British film based on the 1895 play An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde. The film stars Cate Blanchett, Minnie Driver, Rupert Everett, Julianne Moore and Jeremy Northam. It was directed by Oliver Parker.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Margaretta Scott</span> British actress (1912–2005)

Margaretta Mary Winifred Scott was an English stage, screen and television actress whose career spanned over seventy years. She is best remembered for playing the eccentric widow Mrs. Pumphrey in the BBC television series All Creatures Great and Small (1978–1990).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rachel Gurney</span> English actress (1920–2001)

Rachel Gurney was an English actress. She began her career in the theatre towards the end of World War II and then expanded into television and film in the 1950s. She remained active, mostly in television and theatre work, into the early 1990s. She is best remembered for playing the elegant Lady Marjorie Bellamy in the ITV period drama Upstairs, Downstairs.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lewis Waller</span> English actor and theatre manager

William Waller Lewis, known on stage as Lewis Waller, was an English actor and theatre manager, well known on the London stage and in the English provinces.

<i>That Hamilton Woman</i> 1941 film by Alexander Korda

That Hamilton Woman, also known as Lady Hamilton, is a 1941 black-and-white historical film drama produced and directed by Alexander Korda for his British company during his exile in the United States. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, the film tells the story of the rise and fall of Emma Hamilton, dance-hall girl and courtesan, who married Sir William Hamilton, British ambassador to the Kingdom of Naples, and later became Admiral Horatio Nelson's mistress.

The Palliser novels are six novels written in series by Anthony Trollope. They were more commonly known as the Parliamentary novels prior to their 1974 television dramatisation by the BBC broadcast as The Pallisers. Marketed as "polite literature" during their initial publication, the novels encompass several literary genres including: family saga, bildungsroman, picaresque, as well as satire and parody of Victorian life, and criticism of the British government's predilection for attracting corrupt and corruptible people to power.

<i>The Scarlet Pimpernel</i> (1934 film) 1934 British adventure film directed by Harold Young

The Scarlet Pimpernel is a 1934 British adventure film directed by Harold Young and starring Leslie Howard, Merle Oberon, and Raymond Massey. Based on the 1905 play by Baroness Orczy and Montagu Barstow and the classic 1905 adventure novel by Orczy, the film is about an eighteenth-century English aristocrat (Howard) who leads a double life, passing himself off as an effete aristocrat while engaged in a secret effort to rescue French nobles from Robespierre's Reign of Terror. The film was produced by Alexander Korda. Howard's portrayal of the title character is often considered the definitive portrayal of the role. In 1941, he played a similar role in "'Pimpernel' Smith" but this time set in pre-WWII Germany.

<i>Mine Own Executioner</i> 1947 British psychological thriller drama film

Mine Own Executioner is a 1947 British psychological thriller drama film starring Burgess Meredith and directed by Anthony Kimmins, and based on the novel of the same name by Nigel Balchin. It was entered into the 1947 Cannes Film Festival. The title is derived from a quotation of John Donne's "Devotions", which serves as an epigraph for the original book.

An Ideal Husband is a 2000 film based on the 1895 play An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde.

Nothing But the Truth is a 1929 American sound comedy film starring Richard Dix, loosely adapted from the play by James Montgomery and the 1914 novel of the same title by Frederic S. Isham. The play was adapted again as Nothing But the Truth (1941) starring Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard.

<i>An Ideal Husband</i> (1935 film) 1935 film

An Ideal Husband is a 1935 German comedy film directed by Herbert Selpin and starring Brigitte Helm, Sybille Schmitz and Karl Ludwig Diehl. It is based on the 1895 play An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde, a sensitive and romantic comedy representing the 19th century. The adaptation by Thea von Harbou is very faithful to the original work.

An Ideal Husband is a 1980 Soviet comedy film directed by Viktor Georgiyev.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Maude Millett</span> British actress (1867–1920)

Ethel Maude Millett was a British actress of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, known for her roles in drawing room comedies. She created roles in plays by Arthur Wing Pinero, Oscar Wilde and J. M. Barrie among others.


  1. 1 2 Chapman, J. (2022). The Money Behind the Screen: A History of British Film Finance, 1945-1985. Edinburgh University Press p 354
  2. 1 2 "REFUSE TO WORK WITH ALIEN". The Advertiser . Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 27 March 1947. p. 4. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  3. 1 2 Harper, Sue; Porter, Vincent (2003). British Cinema of The 1950s The Decline of Deference. Oxford University Press USA. p. 275.
  4. Vincent Porter, 'The Robert Clark Account', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol 20 No 4, 2000 p484
  5. "Alexander Korda: Filmography". Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  6. 1 2 LoBianco, Lorraine (4 May 2011). "An Ideal Husband (1947)". Turner Classic Movies (TCM). Archived from the original on 23 July 2011. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  7. "Film Costumes Used For Royal Wedding". The Mirror . Perth: National Library of Australia. 26 June 1948. p. 14. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  8. "KORDA BREAKS TECHNICOLOR RECORD". The Mail . Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 23 August 1947. p. 2 Supplement: Magazine. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  9. Smertenko, Johan J. (20 October 1948). "Letter to the Editor: Boycott of British Films". New York Times. Archived from the original on 27 September 2021. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  10. "UK bitter at US picketing of films". The Argus . Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 21 August 1948. p. 4. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  11. "Sons of Liberty End British Film Boycott". New York Times. 22 December 1948. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  12. "THE STARRY WAY". The Courier-Mail . Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 8 January 1949. p. 2. Retrieved 11 July 2012.
  13. Lant, Antonia (1991). Blackout : reinventing women for wartime British cinema. Princeton University Press. p. 232.
  14. Lorraine LoBianco, "An Ideal Husband", Turner Classic Movies accessed 7 July 2012
  15. Thumim, Janet. "The popular cash and culture in the postwar British cinema industry". Screen. Vol. 32, no. 3. p. 258.