The Fan (1949 film)

The Fan is a 1949 American drama film directed by Otto Preminger. The screenplay by Dorothy Parker, Walter Reisch, and Ross Evans is based on the 1892 play Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde. The play had been filmed several times before, with a 1916 silent film, a later adaptation by Ernst Lubitsch in 1925 as well as versions in Spanish and Chinese.

The Fan
1950 US Theatrical Poster
Directed byOtto Preminger
Produced byOtto Preminger
Screenplay byWalter Reisch
Dorothy Parker
Ross Evans
Based onLady Windermere's Fan
by Oscar Wilde
StarringJeanne Crain
Madeleine Carroll
George Sanders
Music byDaniele Amfitheatrof
CinematographyJoseph LaShelle
Edited byLouis Loeffler
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • April 1, 1949 (1949-04-01)
Running time
79 minutes
CountryUnited States

Plot synopsis

The film opens in a post-World War II London auction house, where an elderly woman is trying to acquire an attractive fan she claims was once hers. A flashback to the Victorian era of Wilde's play reveals she is the scandalous Mrs. Erlynne, who in middle age becomes entangled with Lord Arthur Windermere, whose young and beautiful but socially conservative wife Margaret tends to judge others harshly. Lord Windermere financially supports Mrs. Erlynne, allowing her to live in the elegant manner to which she's accustomed, and the couple become the favorite subject of local gossips. When Margaret hears the stories, she mistakenly believes the two are involved in a clandestine affair and subsequently allows herself to succumb to the charms of Lord Robert Darlington, who has made no secret of his ongoing romantic interest in her. In order to ensure the younger woman does not make the same mistakes she has in the past, Mrs. Erlynne reveals a shocking secret: she is Lady Windermere's mother, who Margaret was told had died when the woman abandoned her husband and daughter for another man. In order to protect the girl's reputation, Mrs. Erlynne sacrifices her own happiness by placing herself in a compromising position that jeopardizes her pending marriage to Augustus Lorton.

Principal cast

Principal production credits


Walter Reisch who worked on the script later recalled it as a "a non-Zanuck picture. Nothing could be further removed from his way of thinking than Oscar Wilde, or Lady Windemere, or Mrs. Erlynne. It was just too Victorian, too elegant, and too slow. Everyone spoke like everyone else, very stilted and mechanical dialogue—brilliant, the most wonderful dialogue on earth, but totally inhuman. Zanuck just didn't care for it, so Otto was left alone and it was dragged out... Nobody was hurt by the picture, and nobody was elated either."[1]

Critical reception

In his review in The New York Times, Bosley Crowther observed, "Most of the brittle wit and satire of Mr. Wilde's conversation piece has been lost in the making of this . . . nicely costumed picture [which] is a strangely uninspired nostalgic romance."[2]

TV Guide rates the film two out of a possible four stars and comments, "Preminger's version, despite a strong cast, was bowdlerized by the scripters into a soapy mess . . . As is too often the case with filmed classics, dialog was sacrificed to further a perverted plot. Wilde's witty aphorisms were excised, and with them went any merit the film might have had."[3]


  1. McGilligan, Patrick (1991). Backstory 2: Interviews with Screenwriters of the 1940s and 1950s. University of California Press. p. 235.
  2. "The Screen in review" 'The Fan". New York Times, April 2, 1949. review by Bosley Crowther.
  3. TV Guide review
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