Back To The Wall

In a recent post I noted how Oscar Wilde and Sarah Bernhardt had stood in precisely the same spot when having their photographs taken by Napoleon Sarony.

It was just a curiosity; but now Lillie Langtry makes it a mystery.

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The 16th Green

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Today is the birthday of a famous Irishman and, lest I insult your knowledge, I should quickly add that I do not refer to this young chap above—Wildeans need no reminding that Oscar celebrates his birthday today, October 16th.

Consider instead a curiosity about this date in Irish lore.

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The Happy Prince—(2018)

Rupert Everett as Oscar Wilde. Photo by Wilhelm Moser, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

‘The Happy Prince’ Opens in America

You could be forgiven for thinking that a blog about Oscar Wilde might not provide the most objective forum for a film about Oscar Wilde—perhaps being too close to its subject to see it as one would ordinarily.

However, the opposite turns out to be true about The Happy Prince because it is no ordinary film. It warrants a specialist view being itself the work of an Oscar Wilde specialist.

Rupert Everett has played Wilde’s fictional characters both on stage and in film; he has already appeared as the real Oscar Wilde in David Hare’s The Judas Kiss on both sides of the Atlantic; and, after spending an age poring over Wilde’s works in homage to his patron saint, Everett has also spent the last ten years of his life taking on a tide of personal and industry challenges in order to craft this film.

It is an effort that lays bare a more compelling reason why the film should not be regarded as just another movie. And it is a reason Everett shares with the artist Basil Hallward (in Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray) who accepted that his portrait of Dorian was not just another painting. He confessed: “I have put too much of myself into it.”

Wilde explained this characteristically philosophical view of art when he said:

“Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.”

So it is with Everett, whose devotion during a decade of writing, directing, and now acting in a lifetime passion, might also be regarded as his art. Certainly, The Happy Prince is a highly personalized vision: a dark introspection with the protagonist in almost every scene.

So the inference is that we should not approach the film routinely from the outside in, but rather the other way around. Taken on those terms, there is much to admire, not only for the specialist but for the generalist viewer.

Let us look at it, as Everett did, through that lens.

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The Green Hour

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It was time for the press screening of The Happy Prince, Rupert Everett’s new bio-pic of Oscar Wilde’s post-parting prison depression, to be shown at the headquarters of Sony Pictures in New York ahead of its general release in the U.S. later this month.

I was becoming excited, and as I would be coming a long way, I decided to prepare in a manner becoming the movie.

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Twenty-seven

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Sarony photograph number 27 taken when Wilde was 27.

Oscar Wilde was 27 years of age when left England for America on board the S.S. Arizona. By the time he reached New York eight days later he was 26—this being the age he insisted upon in press interviews. [1]

A simple mistake for anyone to make who was awful at arithmetic or a victim to vanity; but it takes a declared genius to incorporate the error years later into his works, as we shall see.

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Your Slim Gilt Sole

Here are Oscar and Bosie in May 1893 at the studio of photographers Gillman & Co. of Oxford, whose establishment was at 107 St Aldate’s Street. That location today, to set a tone of bathos, is a Ladbrokes Off Track Betting Shop.

This well known picture captures the boys relaxed and smoking, distant even—apparently between arguments. But upon inspection you’ll see that, in keeping with their lives, all was not as it seems.

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The Last Four

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The Sarony Photographs

It has long been assumed that all of the 1882 photographs of Oscar Wilde by Napoleon Sarony were taken during the same visit to his studio. Indeed, in all of Wilde studies there does not appear to be any record of an assertion to the contrary.

However, there is a convincing case to be made that the LAST FOUR photographs were taken at a later date.

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