The best role in The Importance of Being Earnest. I’ve seen four on film: Edith Evans (1952), Joan Plowright (1986), Judi Dench (2002) and David Suchet (in drag) this year.
Evans is the standard for me, although she is all mannerism and very little acting. But her mannerisms are polished to perfection through all those years of playing the role on the stage.
Joan Plowright was sort of a poor man’s Edith Evans, neither as ridiculous nor as funny as Evans. She didn’t seem to be bringing anything new to the role.
Judi Dench is all acting and very little mannerism. Her speech when she finds out that John Worthing is a foundling, all the while tearing up her notes about him into smaller and tinier pieces, is a masterpiece. She makes the role, which is written as an extreme caricature, her own. She is my new standard.
David Suchet in drag is just awful, unconvincing as a woman, and without point or focus in the role. I confess that in college I hankered to play this role (I didn’t have the nerve to try out) but having seen this I’m glad I didn’t.
Are there any others I should be looking out for? Have I horribly wronged your favorite in this role?