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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935)

Set in Athens (though the setting doesn't resemble Greece in the least), after her father (Grant Mitchell) refuses to allow his daughter (Olivia De Havilland) to marry her love (Dick Powell), they run off with each other but get lost in the woods. They are followed by the man (Ross Alexander) who wants to marry her and the girl (Jean Muir) in love with him. But the forest is ruled by the King of Faeries (Victor Jory) and the lovers are manipulated by his whims. William Shakespeare's comedic romantic fantasy is one of his most enduring works. At the time, Warners was known for their tough gangster movies and depression era musicals, so this lavish production which gets the full roadshow treatment was unusual for them. It reeks of prestige what with Erich Wolfgang Korngold adapting Mendelssohn's music for the underscore and elaborate ballets choreographed by Bronislava Nijinska. Visually, the film is stunning with the art direction of Anton Grot creating a truly magical atmosphere and Max Ree's eye popping costumes. Which brings us to the actors which is a mixed bag. Many of the actors are untrained in Shakespeare and it shows particularly Dick Powell. Mickey Rooney's Puck is greatly admired in some quarters but I found him just awful, his constant giggling and shrieking gave me the heebie jeebies. Directed by Max Reinhardt with assistance from William Dieterle. With James Cagney, Joe E. Brown, Anita Louise, Frank McHugh, Ian Hunter and Hugh Herbert. 

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