This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of the Thursday Movie Picks Blogathon, run by Wandering Through the Shelves. The theme for this week is adaptations of Shakespeare, and there are a lot of good movies both directly based on Shakespeare's dialog, and those that adapt loosely. Once again, I've picked three older movies.
A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935). For my money, this might be the most beautiful Shakespeare ever put on screen. Based on the Shakespeare play about a bunch of people going into the forest and winding up touched by the magic of love in various ways, Warner Bros. rounded up every star in their stable, and then some. James Cagney plays Bottom the weaver, leading a troupe of actors to a royal wedding; he winds up with an ass' head at one point. Olivia De Havilland is the then some; sure she became a big star but this is the first movie she made. And then they borrowed Mickey Rooney on MGM -- about the only time Mayer and Thalberg loaned him out -- to play Puck. The dialog may be tough at times, but the movie is so beautiful. And to top it all off they used Felix Mendelssohn's wonderful incidental music.
Forbidden Planet (1956). Loosely based on Shakespeare's The Tempest, this one stars Walter Pidgeon in the Prospero role, here Dr. Morbius. His daughter (Anne Francis) has grown up with him alone on a distant planet where there had been a party of columnists, of whom these two are the last remaining. Leslie Nielsen plays the leader of a spaceship sent to discover what happened to the colony. Morbius is none too happy about it. This was one of the first big-budget science fiction movies, with an electronica score and Robby the Robot. MGM's classy production values show, helped along by a good story.
To Be or Not to Be (1942). OK, technically I'm cheating since this isn't quite a Shakespeare adaptation. Jack Benny plays Josef Tura, a prominent Polish actor reduced to doing Hamlet in August 1939 thanks to the political situation -- don't dare offend the Nazis. Robert Stack plays Sobinski, a dashing officer in the Polish Air Force who gets up at the start of Hamlet's soliloquy every night to go see the actress playing Queen Gertrude, he being in love with that actress. The problem is that Gertrude is played by Maria Tura (Carole Lombard), the wife of Josef. Then the Nazis invade and Sobinski goes off to London to fight with the Free Polish. When he hears of a Nazi plot, he offers to go back to Poland, which gives him another chance to meet Maria. The Turas and their acting troupe get the chance to do their part for Poland as well. This is a wonderful farce, and sadly, the final movie Carole Lombard made before her untimely death.
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