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Sunday, 1 July 2012

A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935) Star of the month... Olivia de Havilland

'A Midsummer Night's Dream' is Warner Bros. 1935 version of Shakespeare's play, directed by Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle, the film features a cast of thousands with 15 Warner Bros. stars.

Dick Powell and Olivia de Havilland
as Lysander and Hermia
The film is based on Reinhardt's very successful 1927 Broadway revival of the play, and was made into a film after Dieterle saw a performance at the Hollywood Bowl in 1934 and convinced Warner Bros. to finance a big budget filming. With the recent introduction of the film production code, Warner Bros. were keen to lose their image of immoral gangster films, and produce something fun for the whole family.

This film is notable for being Olivia de Havilland's film debut, who had played Hermia, in Reinhardt's production at the Hollywood Bowl.

The music Felix Mendelssohn wrote in 1843 for 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' was re-orchestrated by Eric Wolfgang Korngold.

Watch the trailer here:

An all-star cast

The film's impressive all-star cast includes:
James Cagney as Bottom

Did you know...

  • This was Olivia de Havilland's film debut
  • Joe E. Brown remains one of the only vaudeville stars to play a Shakespearean role
  • Although most of the actors were contract Warner Bros stars, both Olivia de Havilland and Mickey Rooney were selected to reprise their stage roles
  • This was the first film director Max Reinhardt made in the US
  • The film was originally banned in Nazi Germany due to director Reinhardt and composer Mendelssohn being Jewish

Closing remarks

I was initially a little apprehensive about watching this, as it looked a little boring, but being such a big fan of James Cagney and Olivia de Havilland I felt I had to see it. After watching it, I found it wasn't too bad. I really like the way it shows James Cagney's versatility as an actor in his only Shakespearean role. 

An 11 year old Mickey Rooney as Puck
Although Dick Powell comes across a little awkward as Lysander, and he even felt he was not right for the part.

Another highlight are the elegant ballet sequences choreographed by Bronislava Nijinska.

The film although successful when first released, received mixed reviews due it's Americanisation of Shakespeare. That said, the film is still often shown on TV and considered to be a great classic.

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