sissydude sinema: a midsummer night’s dream (1935)… so so beautiful & really fun to watch.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935) is an American film of Shakespeare’s play, directed by Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle, produced by Henry Blanke and Hal Wallis for Warner Brothers, and adapted by Charles Kenyon and Mary C. McCall Jr. from Reinhardt’s Hollywood Bowl production of the previous year. Felix Mendelssohn’s music was extensively used, as re-orchestrated by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. The ballet sequences featuring the fairies were choreographed by Bronislava Nijinska.
It’s also a cinematic milestone in many ways, giving us:
The screen debut of Olivia de Havilland;
Composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s first screen credit;
A most unique bit of Academy Awards trivia – the only write-in vote to actually win an Academy Award. Cinematographer Hal Mohr’s work is so shimmering, so evocative, that it’s not a surprise he won an Oscar for his work, though he wasn’t nominated that year. Seeing this movie, one can understand why the Academy members wrote in Mohr’s name on the ballot.
Mohr’s forest is a truly magical place, with fairies, sprites, goblins and gnomes carousing in the greenwood and traveling on moonbeams and stardust. The Fairy King Oberon strides through the star-filled sky with his giant cape billowing behind him. Glorious imagery abounds in that forest.
I hardly know my Shakespeare, so can’t tell how it works as an adaptation, but as a movie it’s quite entertaining and a visual marvel. Most of the Warner Bros. contract players turn up, including such non-Shakespeare types as James Cagney and Joe E. Brown, and it’s another one of those delicious Hollywood ironies that the most urban of studios gave us one of the movie’s most memorable Shakespeare adaptations.
The celebrated German director Max Reinhardt had staged “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Hollywood Bowl in 1934, which became the talk of the town. It must have been really something for the Hollywood film colony to pay heed to a stage show, but they did. So much so that Warner Bros., in an attempt at artistic legitimacy, signed Reinhardt to three films, the first of which would be bringing Shakespeare’s magic forest to life with all the technical prowess a movie studio could offer.
Unfortunately, Midsummer was a huge flop and Reinhardt never made another movie. Studio heads were likely secretly pleased, as the stage director Reinhardt had a rough time making the translation to film and went over budget and over schedule. Co-director William Dieterle was brought in to help move things along.
Before the movie’s failure, though, Reinhardt’s reputation was so great that that the notoriously frugal studio agreed to Reinhardt’s requests. Rather than rely on studio production personnel, Reinhardt brought over from Europe the Danish costume designer Max Ree, the Polish Anton Grot as the art director and Nijinsky’s sister, the Russian Bronislawa Nijinksky, as choreographer.