Brain Pickings

Oscar Wilde: The Rise & Fall of the 20th Century’s First Pop Celebrity


‘He had a musician’s sense of a sentence.’

111 years ago today, the world lost the great Oscar Wilde — poet, playwright, action figure. This fascinating 1997 documentary from Omnibus traces Wilde’s life, loves, and legacy, from his intellectual upbringing to his infamous imprisonment at the height of his fame and success for “for gross indecency with other men” — basically, for being gay and out in Victorian England — to his exile and untimely death. The film features cameos from Stephen Fry, who played Wilde in the film of the same title, Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant, and prolific British playwright Tom Stoppard, who explore what made Wilde the 20th century’s first true pop celebrity.

He had perfect pitch, perfect touch. He had a musician’s sense of a sentence.”

[Prison] was where Oscar discovered that life does not imitate art, and that the reality of a prison sentence was miles away from the ivory towers of martyrdom he had previously assumed it to be.”

For a proper Oscar Wilde remembrance, you won’t go wrong with The Happy Prince and Other Tales and, of course, The Importance of Being Earnest. (Which, for some almost sacrilegious reason, is going for just $1.50, it seems.)

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