Cinematic Shakespeare (Genre and Beyond: A Film Studies Series)
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Cinematic Shakespeare takes the reader inside the making of a number of significant adaptations to illustrate how cinema transforms and re-imagines the dramatic form and style central to Shakespeare's imagination. Cinematic Shakespeare investigates how Shakespeare films constitute an exciting and ever-changing film genre. The challenges of adopting Shakespeare to cinema are like few other film genres. Anderegg looks closely at films by Laurence Olivier (Richard III), Orson Welles (Macbeth), and Kenneth Branagh (Hamlet) as well as topics like "Postmodern Shakespeares" (Julie Taymor's Titus and Peter Greenaway's Prospero's Books) and multiple adaptations over the years of Romeo and Juliet. A chapter on television looks closely at American broadcasting in the 1950s (the Hallmark Hall of Fame Shakespeare adaptations) and the BBC/Time-Life Shakespeare Plays from the late 70s and early 80s.
but rather his too easy and too prominent place in it. The true classics, Homer and Aeschylus, Tacitus and Thucydides, Apuleius and Plato, have indeed disappeared from the general college curriculum and have become the preserve of the “fit though few.” Even George Will, one suspects, doesn’t read them. Yet Shakespeare, in part because of leftist academics, has become “popular” and everywhere available. And here we can find another explanation for the proliferation of Shakespeare in contemporary
temptation to be very, very specific. Whatever the merits of James Cameron’s blockbuster, its 1950s predecessors, and the bouncy Unsinkable Molly Brown, a study of the Titanic genre (a subgenre of the disaster film, itself a subgenre of the action film) seems too exclusive. So does a study of the transgendered rock musical genre, into which Hedwig (and little else) might fit. Nonetheless, the study of “subgenres” (or “niche genres,” “crossed genres,” “overlain genres”) can help us understand
largely Australian and Mexican crew; financed by a major American studio, it was filmed mainly in Mexico. Placing a Shakespeare film within a recognizable, preexisting cinematic genre can be one way to find an audience, although this may or may not be a conscious decision. Warner Bros.’ A Midsummer Night’s Dream provides an example in the direction of backstage musical, a genre that the studio was in the process of creating with such strategies as the casting of Dick Powell, Anita Louise, Hugh
are eliminated. The moments of violence, furthermore, lack verve. As George Bernard Shaw observed, the duel scenes in Romeo and Juliet require “murderous excitement”16 or they go for naught (one might compare Michael Curtiz’s duels in Warner Bros.’ Adventures of Robin Hood, which featured some great swordplay by Basil Rathbone). The Nurse, played with a surprising absence of sympathy by Edna May Oliver, is robbed of her most comic, bawdy moments and unconscious puns. Only Barrymore’s Mercutio is
brutalism and primitivism implicit in the world Shakespeare depicts as well as the contradictions he left unresolved. His Lord and Lady Macbeth are very much as Brecht characterized them in the Messingkauf Dialogues, “petty Scottish nobility, and neurotically ambitious.”38 Whereas Shakespeare portrays the Macbeths as an aberrant element in a world of order and harmony and as the inevitable product of a world of violence, bloodshed, and betrayal, Welles clearly opts for the brutality. (He even