The Fan

1949, Movie, NR, 79 mins

Review

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Another of the many examples of the adage "If you can't do it better, don't remake it." Oscar Wilde's famous play "Lady Windermere's Fan" had been brought to the silver screen by Ernst Lubitsch in 1925. Preminger's version, despite a strong cast, was bowdlerized by the scripters into a soapy mess. Preminger later confessed his mistake, stating that he hated the film during production, and that whatever he did to it was wrong. The story centers on the self-imposition of the notorious, aging, but still beautiful Carroll into the otherwise happy, patrician existence of youthful, wealthy nobleman Greene and his lovely but prudish and judgmental young wife, Crain. When Crain discovers that Greene has given financial assistance to adventuress Carroll--indeed, has been supporting her in the grand manner--she opts to run off with supercad Sanders, who has ardently pressed his attentions on her. Carroll, discovering Crain's intent, follows her to Sanders' apartments, admonishing her not to repeat the mistake that she, herself, has made, one which resulted in her ostracism from polite society. Deviating from Wilde's classic, Carroll reveals--in a manner which might sell soapsuds--that she is Crain's long-lost mother. As the two women speak, they hear Sanders, Greene, and Dempster enter, and quickly conceal themselves. Greene, discovering Crain's distinctive fan, demands to search the premises. The men fight, and the ladies escape, but Carroll later returns, compromising her already tarnished honor, claiming that it was she who had left the fan, which she had picked up by mistake. Carroll, having made the mandatory maternal sacrifice, then departs for the Continent, once again a social pariah. Greene and Crain live into a happy dotage until, in an anachronistic departure from period, they are blown to bits in the blitz of WW II, a surprising termination. The original play, of course, ended with the moralizing Lady Windermere, chastened by her experience, more accepting of human frailty, more forgiving, but still ignorant of her maternal heritage. As is too often the case with filmed classics, dialog was sacrificed to further a perverted plot. Wilde's witty aphorisms were excised, and with them went any merit the film might have had. Had Preminger and the scripters adhered to the original, this movie of a classic might have been a movie classic. THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST (1952) demonstrated that Wilde's wordy works can be successfully brought to the screen. leave a comment

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