“Lady Windermere faced the grave problem of seating her dinner guests…”
A socially outcast woman (Irene Rich) blackmails Lady Windermere’s husband (Bert Lytell) in exchange for not revealing to Lady Windermere (May McAvoy) that she is actually her mother; meanwhile, rakish Lord Darlington (Ronald Colman) has designs on Lady Windermere; Lady Windermere suspects her husband of having an affair with Mrs. Erlynne (Rich); and Mrs. Erlynne hopes to be able to re-enter society by marrying eligible bachelor Lord Augustus (Edward Martindel).
It was brave of Ernst Lubitsch to attempt to translate Oscar Wilde’s first play into a silent film, given that — by virtue of the format — he was unable to incorporate much of Wilde’s lauded verbal repartee. The resulting movie shows evidence of Lubitsch’s visual creativity, but is ultimately not entirely successful, primarily because there’s little evidence of Wilde’s trademark wit: while …Fan is nominally a romantic comedy, it comes across here as more of a melodramatic soaper (a la Olive Higgins Prouty’s Stella Dallas). Guest-star Ronald Colman (on loan from Samuel Goldwyn) is given little to do as Lord Darlington, whose infatuation with Lady Windermere functions merely as a plot contrivance; the other actors are serviceable in their respective roles, but not particularly noteworthy. What lingers longest in one’s memory of the film are Lubitsch’s directorial “touches” — as when he strategically uses his camera to show the characters’ isolation from one another, or to enhance several of the story’s classic misunderstandings.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Creative direction by Lubitsch
- Sophie Wachner’s glamorous gowns
No, though Lubitsch fans will certainly be curious to check it out. Listed as a film with historical importance in the back of Peary’s book.