An Ideal Husband (1947 film)

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An Ideal Husband
Ideal husband.jpg
Original French film poster
Directed byAlexander Korda
Produced byAlexander Korda
Screenplay byLajos Bíró
Based onAn Ideal Husband
1895 play
by Oscar Wilde
StarringPaulette Goddard
Michael Wilding
Diana Wynyard
Music byArthur Benjamin
CinematographyGeorges Périnal
Edited byOswald Hafenrichter
Color processTechnicolor
Distributed byBritish Lion Films Corporation
20th Century Fox
Release date
  • 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£500,000[1] or £506,000[2]
Box office£241,994 (UK)[3] or £206,637 (worldwide)[2]

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.[4]

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


A voice-over narrator announces the opening setting as "Hyde Park Corner, 1895 . . . the center of the universe," when "Parliament's in session . . . [and] Victoria reigns, but fashion is supreme." Members of the British upper class are seen riding on horseback or in carriages, and most of the main characters are introduced. These include Mrs. Laura Cheveley (Paulette Goddard), who has recently returned to Britain after living in Vienna; Sir Roger Chiltern (Hugh Williams), a government minister with a reputation for honesty; his wife Lady Gertrude (Diana Wynyard), who disapproves strongly of immorality and dishonesty; Mabel Chiltern (Glynis Johns), Sir Robert's younger sister; Lord Arthur Goring (Michael Wilding), an unmarried and unconventional young man; and his father, the Earl of Caversham (C. Aubrey Smith), who is eager to have his son marry and settle down.

Later at a lavish party hosted by the Chilterns, Mrs. Cheveley attempts to extort Sir Roger into supporting a bill to provide government financing for a proposed canal in Argentina, which Sir Roger considers to be a fraudulent scheme. Mrs. Cheveley has incriminating letters that Sir Roger wrote many years earlier that allowed him to use advance knowledge of the financing of the Suez Canal to establish his fortune and career. Sir Roger initially refuses but gives in rather than ruin his reputation. Before leaving the party, Mrs. Cheveley tells Lady Gertrude, 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 on the canal bill, writes a letter to Lady Cheverley to tell her that he will speak against the bill.

The next morning, Sir Robert reveals Lady 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, not wanting to let his wife know about his past dishonesty, tells Arthur that he will look for some way to blackmail Mrs. Cheveley herself, though Arthur, who was once engaged to her, does not think any scandal will matter to her. Soon, Mrs. Cheveley arrives to ask if anyone has found a brooch she had lost at the party, but Lady Gertrude tells the woman that she has despised her dishonesty ever since they were in school together and that Sir Robert will speak against the bill in Parliament that night. Mrs. Cheveley retaliates by telling her how her "ideal" husband made his fortune. Sir Robert orders Mrs. Cheveley to leave, but his wife is repelled by his past behavior, even though he tells her that no one could live up to the ideal image she had of him.

That evening, Lady Gertrude writes an unsigned note to Arthur asking for his help, but when most of the main characters come to Arthur's home at one time or another, that note and other actions lead some characters to have mistaken assumptions about the motives and actions of others. Arthur tells Mrs. Cheveley that he has her brooch and knows that she stole it from an important society woman, locking it on her wrist with a secret catch. He removes the incriminating brooch when she gives him the letter she was using to blackmail Sir Robert. She, however, takes Lady Gertrude's note as she leaves, believing it will convince Sir Robert that his wife was having an affair with Arthur. Lady Gertrude in turn now 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, and Arthur agrees to propose to Mabel, which he does after some feigned resistance from her. Lady Gertrude arrives and Arthur tells her of Mrs. Cheveley's intention to destroy her marriage, using the note she took from Arthur. When she gives the note to Sir Robert, though, he takes the unsigned letter to be proof his of wife's need and love for him. Now willing to give up his position in society and live a contented life with Lady Gertrude, 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 from the crew. The union objected to American actress Paulette Goddard's personal, Swedish-born hairdresser, claiming an English person could do the job.[1][5] 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.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7]


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.[8] Korda, however, suggested that the boycott might also be used by American interests in retaliation for distribution quotas imposed on American films by Britain.[9] 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.[10]

Box Office[edit]

The film was one of the most popular movies at the British box office in 1948.[11] According to Kinematograph Weekly the 'biggest winner' 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 "runners up" 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.[12]

However it performed disappointingly in other markets.[13][14]


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

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