Sunday, November 30, 2008


November 30th, 1900:
Oscar Wilde, Irish writer, dies. (b. 1854)

Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (16 October 1854 – 30 November 1900) was an Irish playwright, poet, and author of numerous short stories and one novel. Known for his biting wit, he became one of the most successful playwrights of the late Victorian era in London, and one of the greatest celebrities of his day. Several of his plays continue to be widely performed, especially The Importance of Being Earnest. As the result of a widely covered series of trials, Wilde suffered a dramatic downfall and was imprisoned for two years hard labour after being convicted of "gross indecency" with other men. After Wilde was released from prison he set sail for Dieppe by the night ferry. He never returned to Ireland or Britain.
[from Wikipedia]

For Toobworld purposes, what may be most interesting in the life of Oscar Wilde may be his lecture tour of the American West. At least four different series/specials depicted different aspects of that trip to 'The Wild, Wild West'. And as a bit of "wish-craft", it might have been interesting to see him show up in an episode of 'The Wild, Wild West', maybe 'Maverick', or 'The Adventures Of Brisco County Jr.' (I think it's always pozz'ble, jes' pozz'ble, that Cousin Beau Maverick might have made Wilde's acquaintance while he lived in Europe.)

Here's a look at his trip to America:

On December 24th, 1881 Oscar Wilde embarked for America and a year-long lecture tour on such topics as "The House Beautiful" and "The Decorative Arts." He may or may not have told passengers that "the roaring ocean does not roar," or told a customs agent that "I have nothing to declare except my genius," but the captain did apparently express his regret at not having Wilde "lashed to the bowsprit on the windward side."

Thousands flocked to see and hear him, and many so took to heart his proclaimed mission "to make this artistic movement the basis for a new civilization" that craft societies and museum patronage blossomed in his wake. Letters home had Wilde crowing that he was a bigger hit than Dickens, the personal adulation necessitating three secretaries: "One writes my autographs all day for my admirers, the other receives the flowers that are left really every ten minutes. A third whose hair resembles mine is obliged to send off locks of his own hair to the myriad maidens of the city, and so is rapidly becoming bald."

Notwithstanding, Wilde was an easy, if not eager, target in America. A few mocked his poetry or his ideas; some, at their peril, mocked his utterances; most made fun of his appearance -- the "great ungainly crane" body, dressed in purple Hungarian smoking jacket with matching turban, knee breeches and black silk stockings, coat lined with lavender satin, everything laced and caped and topped with sky blue cravat. Seeing an opportunity, one Chicago clothing store used a picture of the "Ass-thete" to promote their manlier line. Such frontier manners had Wilde sometimes put out but rarely overmatched, and usually game for any adventure. After one talk in Leadville, a mining town in the Rocky Mountains -- "I spoke to them of the early Florentines, and they slept as though no crime had ever stained the ravines of their mountain home" -- Wilde agreeably descended to the bottom of a silver mine in a bucket ("I of course true to my principle being graceful even in a bucket"). There, to great cheering, he dined, drank whiskey and smoked a cigar, all but preamble to the main event:

Then I had to open a new vein, or lode, which with a silver drill I brilliantly performed, amidst unanimous applause. The silver drill was presented to me and the lode named "The Oscar." I had hoped that in their simple grand way they would have offered me shares in "The Oscar," but in their artless untutored fashion they did not. Only the silver drill remains as a memory of my night at Leadville.

While in the bar that night "with the miners and the female friends of the miners," Wilde noticed the sign "Please don't shoot the pianist; he is doing his best." Back in England, now touring his "Impressions of America," Wilde recalled all this with delight: "I was struck with this recognition of the fact that bad art merits the penalty of death, and I felt that in this remote city, where the aesthetic applications of the revolver were clearly established in the case of music, my apostolic task would be much simplified, as indeed it was."
[from "
Today In Literature"]
These are the actors who have appeared as Oscar Wilde on Television:

Paul Bartel
. . . "Comic Strip Presents..., The" (1982)
{Demonella (#7.5)}

Graham Chapman
. . . "Monty Python's Flying Circus" (1969)
{The British Showbiz Awards (#3.13)}
Both of the above performances would be found in Skitlandia.

Tim Curry
. . . "Wild West, The" (1993)
This was a documentary in which we only heard Wilde's voice (as provided by Tim Curry).

David Dukes
. . . "Lot, The" (1999)
{Oscar's Wilde (#2.11)}
As this was a series about a 1930s movie studio, I'm not exactly sure in what context Oscar Wilde appears.

Mark Eden
. . . "Sorrell and Son" (1984)
Like 'The Lot', this one is a puzzler as it takes place in 1934. I'm not sure what the context is for the appearance - a fancy dress ball?

Peter Egan
. . . "Lillie" (1978)
In 1978 London Weekend Television produced a television series about the life of Lillie Langtry entitled Lillie. In it Peter Egan played Oscar. The bulk of his scenes portrayed their close friendship up to and including their tours of America in 1882. Thereafter, he was in a few more scenes leading up to his trials in 1895.

Stephen Fry
. . . "Ned Blessing: The Story of My Life and Times" (1993) {Oscar (#1.4)} TV Series
. . . Wilde (1997)
Fry's appearance as Wilde in the "Cineverse" provides most of the pictures for this piece. And I like how he resembles Wilde. But I don't know whether I should hold Gambon or Egan to be the official portrait of Wilde for Toobworld. I guess it'll depend on if I ever find pics of either one in the role.....

Michael Gambon
. . . "Oscar" (1985)
Michael Gambon portrayed Wilde on British Television in 1983 in the three-part BBC series Oscar concentrating on the trial and prison term.

Richard Kneeland
. . . Feasting with Panthers (1974)
A dramatization of the play about Wilde's time spent in prison.

Simon MacCorkindale (pictured, right)
. . . "Mentors" (1998)
{Wilde Card (#1.6)}
Using their computer, a brother and sister bring forward historical characters who teach them important life lessons. Wilde taught them to be honest to themselves. The difference in his appearance from others who played Wilde on TV can be splained away by alternate realities - he was brought forward in Time from a different dimension.

Micheál MacLiammóir
. . . "On Trial" (1960)
{Oscar Wilde (#1.5)}
This was a dramatization of Wilde vs. Queensberry.

John O'Malley
. . . "Have Gun - Will Travel" (1957)
{The Ballad of Oscar Wilde (#2.12)}
When the noted British humorist plans an appearance in San Francisco, Paladin must extricate Oscar Wilde from the unpleasant predicament of being held for ransom.

Rowland Rivron
. . . "Gimme, Gimme, Gimme" (1999)
{Millennium (#1.7)}
I'm thinking that in this context, someone might have dressed up as Oscar Wilde for a party......

Philip Sayer
. . . "BBC2 Play of the Week" (1977)
{Fearless Frank (#2.3)}
A look at the career of Frank Harris.

Richard Strange
. . . Blackheath Poisonings, The (1992)
A Victorian murder mystery from PBS.

James Urbaniak
. . . "Venture Bros., The" (2003)
{ORB (#3.11)}
This would mark Oscar Wilde's appearance in the Tooniverse.

Toby O'B

And alien tears will fill for him
Pity's long-broken urn,
For his mourners will be outcast men,
And outcasts always mourn.


Anonymous said...

Given Stephen Fry's connections to Doctor Who, I'm still crossing my fingers Fry writes an episode which allows him to reprise his role as Wilde. The fact he's gotten older than Wilde himself ever lived can easily be written into the plot of the episode--perhaps it could even be a reverse sort of Dorian Gray.


Melissa said...

Dave Foley played Wilde on an episode of The Kids in the Hall, in which Buddy Cole dreamed he was stranded on a desert island with him.