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An Ideal Husband (1999 film)

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An Ideal Husband
UK Theatrical release poster
Directed byOliver Parker
Written byOliver Parker
Based onAn Ideal Husband
1895 play
by Oscar Wilde
Produced byBarnaby Thompson
Bruce Davey
Uri Fruchtmann
CinematographyDavid Johnson
Edited byGuy Bensley
Music byCharlie Mole
Distributed byPathé Distribution[1] (United Kingdom)
Icon Entertainment International (Internationally)
Release date
  • 16 April 1999 (1999-04-16)
Running time
97 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget£6.3 million[2]
Box office£14.1 million (UK/US)

An Ideal Husband is a 1999 British film based on the 1895 play An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde. The film stars Cate Blanchett, Minnie Driver, Rupert Everett, Julianne Moore and Jeremy Northam. It was directed by Oliver Parker.

It was selected as the 1999 Cannes Film Festival's closing film.[3]


Sir Robert Chiltern is a successful government minister, well-off and with a loving wife. All this is threatened when Mrs. Cheveley appears in London with damning evidence of a past misdeed. Sir Robert turns to his friend Lord Goring, an apparently idle philanderer and the despair of his father, for help. Goring knows the lady of old and the plot to help his friend has unintended consequences.

Plot Summary[edit]

Before the turn of the 20th Century, at a fashionable park outing, malicious Lady Markby reintroduces Mrs. Laura Cheveley to Lady Gertrude Chiltern, who both knew each other at school. Laura fishes for an invitation to meet Gertrude’s husband, Sir Robert Chiltern, but Gertrude does not extend an invitation until Lady Markby suggests bringing her to that evening’s ball, making refusal ungracious.

At the Chiltern’s lavish party, Laura tries to extort Sir Robert, a member of Parliament, into supporting a bill to provide government financing for what he considers to be a new fraudulent canal scheme. Laura has incriminating letters Robert wrote many years earlier that disclosed a cabinet secret--insider knowledge of the financing of the Suez Canal--to establish his fortune and career. He initially refuses but gives in to save his reputation. Before leaving the party, Laura tells Gertrude that her husband will support the canal scheme, which surprises the politician's wife. At the party, Laura reencounters Lord Arthur Goring, to whom she was engaged before her marriage, and is eager to reestablish a romantic relationship with him. Arthur reminds her that she ended their engagement to marry a richer man. Confronted by his wife about his change of position, Robert writes a letter to Laura, informing her that he will speak against the bill.

The next morning, Robert reveals Laura’s blackmail attempt to Arthur, who urges him to let his wife know about his own past indiscretion, even if it lowers her regard for her husband. Robert refuses to tell her the truth and asks Arthur to speak to Gertrude to soften the blow. Lady Markby brings Laura to tea at the Chilterns; after Lady Markby leaves, Gertrude asks Laura to leave her house and never return. Gertrude expresses that she has despised Laura since their school days and that a person who has performed a dishonorable act should be shunned. Laura retaliates by telling Gertrude how her husband made his fortune and that she will disclose his dishonesty if Robert does not support the canal bill. Robert overhears and orders Laura to leave. Repelled by his past behavior, Gertrude suggests he resign his position, and Robert says that no one could live up to the ideal image she had of him.

That evening, Gertrude sends an unsigned note to Arthur saying she will come to him and asking for his help. Before Gertrude’s arrival, Robert visits Arthur, asking for Arthur’s help. While Arthur is in the drawing room with Robert, the butler mixes up his instructions to admit discreetly only the “unnamed lady” and admits Laura, who arrives unexpectedly, instead of Gertrude, who is mistakenly turned away. When Robert discovers Laura in Arthur’s library, he accuses Arthur of scheming with her and departs angrily.

Arthur attempts to seduce Laura, asking her to show her good faith by returning Robert’s letter. Laura makes a wager with Arthur. If Robert lives up to Arthur’s faith that Robert will not endorse the fraudulent scheme, she will return the incriminating letter to Arthur. If Robert endorses the scheme to save his reputation, Arthur will marry Laura. As she leaves, Laura steals Gertrude's note, planning to use it to make Robert believe that his wife is having an affair with Arthur.

That night, Laura, Gertrude, and Arthur watch in the House of Commons as Robert denounces the canal scheme. Laura returns the letter to Arthur but retains the letter from Gertrude that she stole from Arthur’s library, informing Arthur that she has it.

The next day, Arthur tells Gertrude of Laura's intention to destroy her marriage using the unsigned note. Robert arrives, and the impropriety of Gertrude having come to Arthur is cleared up to Gertrude’s relief. Arthur proposes to Robert’s sister, Mabel, but Robert refuses to give his permission, still believing that Arthur is involved with Laura. The confusion is explained away, and Arthur becomes engaged to Mabel. Now willing to give up his position in society and live a contented life with Gertrude, Robert is offered an important Cabinet position by Lord Caversham, Arthur's father. Arthur persuades a now less judgmental Gertrude to let her husband remain in public life.


Differences from play[edit]

The plot of the film differs from the original Wilde play in a number of key respects. The episode of Mrs. Cheveley's lost bracelet was removed, and the twists at the end are made more complex by the introduction of a bet between Lord Goring and Mrs Cheveley, and Lord Goring's need to ask the permission of Sir Robert Chiltern to marry his sister, Miss Mabel Chiltern.


Miramax Films picked up distribution rights to the film from Icon in North America, and through Miramax International in Spain and Italy.[4]


The film received positive reviews from critics, including Roger Ebert, who awarded it 3 out of 4 stars.[5] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly wrote the film is "an enjoyable, minor, lustrously shot revamping of Oscar Wilde’s play about the perpetually interlocked manners of love and deception…Everett gets all the good lines, but he’s daring enough to deliver them gently, with a knowing touch of rue."[6]

Stephen Holden of The New York Times also reviewed the film positively, writing, "If An Ideal Husband transports us back to a world that seems more refined than ours, it also flatters us, as Wilde flattered the play's fin de siècle audience, by arriving at a plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face piece of wisdom that after all the preceding badinage may seem more profound than it really is. Hollywood couldn't come up with a tidier feel-good ending -- one that gets everybody off the hook -- than An Ideal Husband's concluding moral: Nobody's perfect."[7]

On Rotten Tomatoes, An Ideal Husband has an approval rating of 85% based on 67 critics’ reviews.[8] The site’s critics consensus reads, "Brevity is the soul of wit, eh? This adaptation gets to the nitty gritty of Wilde's stage piece and plays on eternal human foibles."[8]

Box office[edit]

The film grossed £2.9 million ($4.8 million) in the United Kingdom[9] and $18.5 million (£11.2 million) in the United States and Canada.[10]


Julianne Moore was nominated for the Chicago Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress,[11] a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical,[12] and a Golden Satellite Award for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical.[13] Moore won the National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performances in Magnolia, A Map of The World, and An Ideal Husband.[14]

Everett received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.[12]

The film was nominated for BAFTA awards in three categories: Oliver Parker for Best Adapted Screenplay, Caroline Harris for Best Costume Design, and Peter King for Best Make-up and Hair.[15]


  1. ^ "An Ideal Husband (1999)". BBFC. Retrieved 28 August 2021.
  2. ^ Walker, Alexander (2005). Icons in the Fire: The Rise and Fall of Practically Everyone in the British Film Industry 1984-2000. Orion Books. p. 273. ISBN 978-0752864846.
  3. ^ "Festival de Cannes: An Ideal Husband". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 28 August 2021.
  4. ^ Roman, Monica (15 May 1998). "Miramax takes 'Husband'". Variety. Retrieved 22 February 2024.
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger (25 June 1999). "An Ideal Husband movie review (1999)". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved 23 December 2022.
  6. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (18 June 1999). "An Ideal Husband". EW.com. Retrieved 23 December 2022.
  7. ^ Holden, Stephen (18 June 1999). "'An Ideal Husband': Wilde as Sensitive Guy, So Wise and Insightful". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 December 2022.
  8. ^ a b "An Ideal Husband". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 28 August 2021.
  9. ^ "Top 10 UK Indie Releases". Screen International. 28 January 2000. p. 18.
  10. ^ "An Ideal Husband". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 23 December 2022.
  11. ^ "An Ideal Husband (1999) Awards & Festivals". MUBI. Retrieved 23 December 2022.
  12. ^ a b "Winners & Nominees 2000". www.goldenglobes.com. Retrieved 23 December 2022.
  13. ^ "2000 Satellite Awards". International Press Academy. Retrieved 23 December 2022.
  14. ^ "1999 Archives". National Board of Review. Retrieved 23 December 2022.
  15. ^ "Film in 2000 | BAFTA Awards". awards.bafta.org. Retrieved 28 August 2021.

External links[edit]