THE FILM: An Ideal Husband (1999)
THE PAIRING: Lord Arthur Goring (Rupert Everett) and Miss Mabel (Minnie Driver)
THE MOMENT: Lord Goring Proposes to Mabel under the “Usual Tree.”
Period dramas are gems no matter their sub-genre. This we strive to convey and continue to stress here on The Silver Petticoat Review. But for me, when they effortlessly (and with class) double as a sort of comedy of errors, that’s all the more joyful. Today’s revisit to a “classic” romantic moment turns the spotlight on the brilliant An Ideal Husband.
THE LEAD IN – AN IDEAL HUSBAND
An Ideal Husband introduces us to four primary characters. There are the blissful marrieds (Gertrude and Robert Chilton), Robert’s close but idle playboy friend, Lord Arthur Goring, and Robert’s sister, Mabel. Gertrude and Robert’s perfect life falls apart amidst a political scheme and scandal involving Robert’s past. For Gertrude, this is the end of her fairytale life and the ideal she’s made of Robert.
Involved in this predicament is Lord Goring who sets about trying to help his friend by retrieving an embarrassing letter. Also involved in attempting to bring the couple back together is Mabel. Throughout the ordeal, there is a pull between them and expressed concern by Arthur. All of which makes Arthur begin to see Miss Mabel in an entirely new light…
THE ROMANTIC MOMENT
Though she’s never said anything, from each of their interactions, it’s clear Mabel has feelings for Arthur. But with his inability to commit to anyone, he’s not quite there yet. Until today. As he watches his friends reunite, he spies Mabel leaving the room and as her fiery red gown fans around her, she ascends the stairway.
Giving chase, he calls out to her.
Not about to make anything easy for the man, she ignores him, until his third attempt stops her. At the top of the stairs, with a swish of her skirts, she turns to face him – an impassive expression on her face. He slowly climbs the steps to meet her.
Nervous, he stumbles about trying to find where to begin. Finally, he says, “I… have something very particular to say to you.”
Matter of fact, she queries whether or not it’s a proposal.
“Well…” He begins “…yes, it is.”
Surprised, she asks, “It is?”
Lacking his usual confidence, he remains lost as he tells her he thinks it is. Demanding a firmer answer, her expression turns to annoyance as she asks, “Well, yes or no?”
With hesitation but still edging closer with each stair step, he replies, “Actually, yes, I’m afraid it is.”
Brushing her skirts, she tells him this will make the second of the day. After all, she’s had her usual proposal earlier in the day from her long-term suitor, Tommy Trafford.
With a smidgeon of worry in his voice, he wonders, “You didn’t accept him, did you?”
With a look, she refuses him the satisfaction of an answer. Instead, she tells him, “I shall be in the conservatory under the second palm tree on the right.”
Flouncing off to his confused echo of their meeting spot, she replies “The usual palm tree… and then we’ll see how you do.”
Later, he finds Miss Mabel waiting just where she said she would be.
“You having something you wish to say to me?” she asks.
Awkwardly, he forces himself onto one knee in front of her. “Marry me, M-M… Marry me, Miss Mabel.”
With a delighted smile she cannot hold in, she feigns surprise.
Fearful he’s to be rejected, he quickly rises and says, “Well if you need to consider, I’ll just…”
Cutting him off, she turns serious and tells him she isn’t wishing for time… no, she needs a reason.
Stumped, he wonders what she means.
Looking up at him, she clarifies. “A reason why you think I should marry you.”
“A reason, you say?”
Yes, and she’s looking for a good one she tells him.
Distracted, Arthur sees his friends, Gertrude and Robert in the hall. Hoping she’ll not notice, he steps away from Mabel for a moment to watch as they converse about their future.
As he watches them forgive and exchange words of love, Mabel joins him at the doorway.
Encircling her waist, he matter-of-factly says, “I love you.”
Turning her face to him, Mabel is left briefly stunned until she regains her composure and asks if that’s his reason.
Affirming that it is, he begins to speak as she remains silent, “Mabel, I said…”
“I know,” she says.
“Well… couldn’t you… love me just a little bit in return?”
“If you knew anything about anything, which you don’t, you’d know I absolutely adore you.”
Regaining her sass, she assuages his fears. “Arthur… you silly! If you knew anything about anything, which you don’t, you’d know I absolutely adore you.”
Curious, he asks, “Well, why didn’t you mention it before?”
“Because, dear boy… you never would’ve believed me.”
No more words pass between them as Arthur leans in and kisses the woman who has finally found in him, her ideal.
For me, An Ideal Husband is the best of the best. The romance and script, especially for this scene, couldn’t have been better. The sassy and flirty banter in this scene is priceless. It’s the kind of scene superb romanticism is made of to say nothing of class and wit. Yes, there is a difference between it and commonplace comedy. Though it’s a comedy as only Oscar Wilde could pen, at its heart, this film is a true romance yielding the sweetest results.
Have you seen this film? What do you like best about it? Sound off below! I’d love to chat with you.
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