A critical analysis of (almost) every American film based on a Shakespeare play. Brode (Cinema/Syracuse Univ.; The Films of Robert De Niro, not reviewed, etc.) here assesses everything from the acting of Marlon Brando (Marc Anthony in a 1953 Julius Caesar) and the directing of Orson Welles (Othello, 1952, and Macbeth, 1948) to the Shakespearean content of adaptations like West Side Story (1961). Brode organizes his narrative by individual plays (or linked groups of plays) rather than in chronological order, which means readers must wade through many pages about better-forgotten productions before arriving at the flicks we know and consider good Shakespeare. We learn that there was a 12-minute nickelodeon version of The Taming of the Shrew, and that Mack Sennett's famous Keystone Cops routines owe a debt to the scene with Petruchio's servants in the first serious cinematic treatment of this play (1908). Like the original productions at the Globe Theatre, Shakespearean movies have always been popular, Brode points out. The Bard's structure, involving many short scenes, is well suited for film, and apparitions like Hamlet's ghost anticipated Hollywood's special effects. "Old Will would have loved the movies," beamed Welles. For most productions, Brode cites critical reactions, including those of purists who didn—t approve of filming the plays at all. He's not shy with his own opinions either: a typically bold assessment is that "[Sidney] Poitier cheated himself, and us, of an important work" by not playing Othello. Sorry, Shakespeare in Love is too recent to be discussed here. From the Globe to the multiplex, this exhaustive study leaves no stone unturned—and there's the rub. A sizable fraction of Brode's study will be of interest only to film historians.
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