Archive for April 10th, 2013

Note: The following review of Max Reinhardt’s 1935 film version of Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is part of The Movie Projector’s ‘James Cagney blogothon’ hosted by R.D. Finch.

by Sam Juliano

The advent of the shimmering 1935 Hollywood interpretation of Shakespeare’s ethereal A Midsummer Night’s Dream was appropriately enough the result of public adoration of the stage work that ultimately inspired it.  Back in the days of the pre-code cinema, theater director Max Reinhardt was known for his flamboyant and controversial stage incarnations of the Bard, and his production of Midsummer was a huge hit in Vienna.  Attending one of the stagings, coincidentally enough, was Warner Brothers film mogul Jack Warner, who was executive in charge of overseeing what films the studio would be producing.  While at the time crime dramas and backstage musicals were the rage, Warner wasn’t oblivious to the Oscar bait films that could bring added prestige, what with the slew of successful literary adaptations crafted at M-G-M.  Two such works in fact debuted in the same year as Midsummer, and both ere based on Dickens’ novels: A Tale of Two Cities and David Copperfield.  While Reinhardt had long scoffed at the possibilities of cinema approaching the “superior” form of live theater, he quickly reversed himself after Warner offered him a sweet deal and the complete access to the studio’s advanced technical capabilities; that for example would enable characters to dissolve into this air.  Sold into expanding the possibilities of the stage Reinhardt drastically reversed himself, stating with unbridled enthusiasm: “The motion picture is the most wonderful medium for the presentation of drama and spectacle the world has ever known.  The screen has leaped further ahead in the last few years than the stage has evolved in centuries.” (more…)

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