This version of the Oscar Wilde 1895 play is given handsome mounting by Alexander Korda. Yet he could do little more than put the play on the screen, stage asides and all.
Story relates how Hugh Williams, under-secretary of the foreign office and marked for a Cabinet post, in his youth profited by selling a Cabinet secret about the Suez Canal, thereby founding his fortune and his political career. Arrival of Paulette Goddard, an adventuress and old school friend of his wife complicates matters. She knows about Williams’ misdeed and threatens him with exposure if he doesn’t support a phony Argentine canal scheme in parliament.
At first he agrees, but his wife, Diana Wynyard, persuades him to refuse. It looks like the end of his career and marriage, until his best friend, Michael Wilding, takes a hand.
It seems a brave experiment to cast Goddard as the adventuress. But it doesn’t quite come off. Not a solitary epigram is thrown off with spontaneity, and her loveliness in gorgeous costumes is inadequate compensation.