A reader writes:
Having come late in life to the wonders of Shakespeare myself, I read your post today with interest. I totally agree with you that the plays must be seen to be fully appreciated. Sadly, being neither a critic nor resident of a city, I lack opportunities to see as many as I would wish. You offered an interesting
alternative, however: “I’ve learned in the process that no matter how many times you may have read a Shakespeare play, you don’t really know it until you’ve seen it on stage (though the very best Shakespeare films, of which there are a dozen or so, can go a long way toward plugging the gap).” I wonder if you might list some of the ones you think qualify?
Gladly. According to Wikipedia, 420 feature-length films have been made out of Shakespeare’s plays. Of the ones that are actually full-fledged movies (as opposed to telecasts or film records of a stage production), these are a few of my personal favorites. Many of them–especially the ones directed by Orson Welles–are flawed in significant ways, but all are absolutely worth watching:
– Max Reinhardt, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935). With Jimmy Cagney as Bottom and a score adapted from Mendelssohn’s incidental music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. A bit slow-moving and overblown, but still charming.
– Laurence Olivier, Henry V (1944). The quintessential Shakespeare film. William Walton’s score is worth the price of admission all by itself.
– Laurence Olivier, Hamlet (1948). Heavily cut but highly effective, not least because of Olivier’s own performance.
– Orson Welles, Macbeth (1948). A fascinatingly eccentric low-budget take on the Scottish play.
– Joseph Mankiewicz, Julius Caesar (1953). Hollywood Shakespeare, produced by John Houseman and played straight down the center by Marlon Brando, James Mason, and John Gielgud. The superlative score is by Mikl