Tag Archives: “The Age of Innocence”

“The Age of Innocence”


One movie I’ll watch over and over:  “The Age of Innocence,” directed by Martin Scorcese in 1993.  It’s a gorgeously realized version of the great novel by Edith Wharton.

It stars Daniel Day-Lewis as Newland Archer, a passionate but repressed man of New York’s upper classes.  His life seems tranquil, with its course set in stone by his engagement to the lovely and sweet May Welland, played fetchingly by Winona Ryder. But her beautiful cousin, Countess Ellen Olenska, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, returns to New York in flight from a terrible marriage to a Polish count who has stolen her fortune and abused her.

Newland, the family lawyer, helps the Countess get legally free of the Count, but falls hopelessly in love with her, and she with him.  It’s touch and go, but he honorably chooses to marry May as planned. The story is about the terrible costs of following social convention instead of following one’s heart.

The movie was nominated for several Academy awards, and won for Best Costume Design.  The acting and storytelling are flawless.  The fine actress Joanne Woodward supplies the ironic but compassionate narration, beautifully weaving in the words of Edith Wharton herself. After several viewings, I still tear up at certain points.

Join me next time for more explorations in the art and history of Europe, which has often intertwined with American history.

Edith Wharton’s Own “Age of Innocence”


In the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., I loved this charming portrait of the American author Edith Wharton as a small child.  She grew up as a privileged daughter of a wealthy and well-connected family in New York in the late 1900s.  In fact, the expression “keeping up with the Joneses” was said to refer to the family of her father, George Frederic Jones.

Her life was not easy, though.  She always rebelled against the confines of her social class.  in 1885, at age 23, she made what seemed like a good marriage to Edward Wharton, 12 years her senior, who seemed to share her curiosity and love of travel.  However, he suffered from severe depression which finally turned into very serious mental illness.  Eventually they divorced. Edith never remarried, but took up with a journalist, Morton Fullerton.


Edith spent much of her life in Europe, where her satirical view of her upper-class social circle only sharpened. She wrote many novels and short stories.  “The Age of Innocence” was one of her most popular novels.  She received the Pulitzer Prize for it in 1921, making her the first woman to win the award.  She was also nominated for the Nobel Prize for literature in 1927, 1928 and 1930.

Any novel by Edith Wharton is a perfect travel companion.  “The Age of Innocence,” about an impossible romance between a European noblewoman and a strait-laced New York man, is one of my favorites. It’s on my e-reader, ready to dip into on my next trip!