Wednesday 9 November 2022

Anthony Asquith

 Today is the 120th birthday of the film director Anthony Asquith. His background was extremely posh, even by today's showbiz standards: he was the son of prime minister Herbert Asquith and his wife Margot, and a product of Winchester and Balliol. It seems he entered the film business partly to distance himself from his background and forge a very different path. After leaving university he spent six months in Los Angeles as a guest of Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, learning how the film industry worked. Asquith was an alcoholic and, very probably, gay and closeted, but he had an extremely productive career, and left a distinguished legacy of well made, well acted films, from adaptations of his friend Terence Rattigan's The Winslow Boy, French Without Tears and The Browning Version to Pygmalion (Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller) and the Anglo-American wartime drama The Way to the Stars. But his finest achievement was surely The Importance of Being Earnest (1952), one of the best adaptations of a stage play ever made. Here is the classic scene in which Edith Evans's Lady Bracknell interrogates Michael Redgrave's Jack Worthing. Enjoy...

[Historical footnote: As Home Secretary, Anthony Asquith's father signed the order for the arrest of Oscar Wilde in 1895.]

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