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A Midsummer Night's Dream

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Overview

Max Reinhardt's legendary Hollywood Bowl production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream was transferred to the screen by Warner Bros. in 1935. Like most of Shakespeare's comedies, the story contains several seemingly unrelated plotlines, all tied together by a single unifying event, in this instance the impending wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta. One story thread concerns the mistaken-identity romances of four young Athenians; another involves a group of "rude mechanicals" who plan to stage a production of...
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Overview

Max Reinhardt's legendary Hollywood Bowl production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream was transferred to the screen by Warner Bros. in 1935. Like most of Shakespeare's comedies, the story contains several seemingly unrelated plotlines, all tied together by a single unifying event, in this instance the impending wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta. One story thread concerns the mistaken-identity romances of four young Athenians; another involves a group of "rude mechanicals" who plan to stage a production of "Pyramus and Thisbe" in honor of the wedding; and third plot strand is motivated by the mischievous misbehavior of invisible fairies Oberon, Titania, and Puck. While one of the members of Reinhardt's original stage cast, Olivia De Havilland Hermia was retained for the film version, the remainder of the roles went to Warners' ever-reliable stock company. Some of the casting is inspired: James Cagney is brilliant as vainglorious amateur thespian Bottom, while Joe E. Brown is ideal as the reluctant female impersonator Flute. As the four lovers, De Havilland and Jean Muir far outshine the smirking and simpering Dick Powell and Ross Alexander. In the dominion of the fairies, Mickey Rooney is a bit too precious as Puck, but Anita Louise is a lovely Titania and Victor Jory a suitably menacing Oberon his opening line "Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania!" still sends shivers down our spines. Cagney and Brown's fellow "mechanicals" are an odd mixture of the sublime Frank McHugh and the just plain silly Hugh Herbert. While the performances and direction by Reinhardt and William Dieterle are uneven, the art direction and special effects especially the nocturnal dance of the fairies are breathtakingly beautiful. Mendelssohn's "Midsummer Night's Dream" incidental music is masterfully orchestrated by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, while the cinematography by Hal Mohr earned the first write-in Academy Award in Hollywood history Mohr had not been nominated due to hostilities arising from a recent industry strike. Considered a brave failure at the time of its first release, on a purely visual level A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of the more satisfying Shakespearean cinemadaptations of Hollywood's golden age.
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Special Features

Commentary by film historian Scott MacQueen; Olivia de Havilland screen test; Vintage featurette a Dream Comes True; Presenting... ; Gallery of 6 teaser trailers showcasing cast members; Warner Bros. Studio Café teaser trailer; Musical short Shake Mr. Shakespeare; Theatrical trailer; Subtitles: English, Français & Português (main feature. bonus material/trailer may not be subtitled)
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
Although it is not without flaws, the 1935 version of A Midsummer Night's Dream is by and large a delight. Given the casting, it's inevitable that there would be some grumblings with this Dream; for one thing, there's an awful lot of Hollywood in here and very little English. But, surprisingly, some of those Hollywood names turn in exceptional performances. Top of the list is the thoroughly delightful James Cagney as Bottom, leader of the mechanicals. His enthusiastic, audacious, ultimately captivating turn brings abundant life to the film and makes one forget that, really, this man shouldn't be so at home with Shakespeare. As one of Cagney's cronies, Joe E. Brown is also a surprising pleasure, making up for the misfire of fellow mechanical Hugh Herbert. An extraordinarily young Olivia de Havilland is fetching and entirely winning as Hermia, and Victor Jory is just about perfect as Oberon. On the down side, there's Dick Powell, entirely out of his depth as Lysander. Most controversial is the Puck of Mickey Rooney, which some find charming and appealing and others find busy and annoying; suffice it to say that while he admirably captures the feeling of youthful and irreverent mischief that is at the heart of the character, he does so in a manner that is often forced. Although the direction is a tad uneven, most of the film moves at a nice clip, and the co-directors create a convincing otherworldly feel to the proceedings. They are helped immeasurably by the sensational cinematography of Hal Mohr, which adds a gossamer sheen to even the deepest, darkest part of the forest and is in all ways magical.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 8/14/2007
  • UPC: 012569591226
  • Original Release: 1935
  • Rating:

  • Source: Warner Home Video
  • Region Code: 1
  • Aspect Ratio: Full Frame
  • Presentation: Remastered / Full Frame
  • Language: English
  • Time: 2:23:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 12,092

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
James Cagney Bottom
Ian Hunter Theseus
Olivia de Havilland Hermia
Grant Mitchell Egeus
Mickey Rooney Puck
Ross Alexander Demetrius
Victor Jory Oberon
Joe E. Brown Flute
Hobart Cavanaugh Philostrate
Dick Powell Lysander
Frank McHugh Quince
Dewey Robinson Snug
Hugh Herbert Snout
Otis Harlan Starveling
Arthur Treacher Ninny's Tomb
Veree Teasdale Hippolyta, Queen of Amazons
Jean Muir Helena
Anita Louise Titania
Katherine Frey Pease-Blossom
Helen Westcott Cobweb
Fred Sale Moth
Billy Barty Mustard-Seed
Nini Theilade First Fairy
Kenneth Anger Changeling Prince
Technical Credits
William Dieterle Director
Max Reinhardt Director, Producer
Ralph Dawson Editor
Leo F. Forbstein Musical Direction/Supervision
Anton Grot Art Director
Byron Haskin Special Effects
Fred Jackman Sr. Special Effects
Charles Kenyon Screenwriter
H.F. Koenekamp Special Effects
Erich Wolfgang Korngold Musical Direction/Supervision
Mary C. McCall Jr. Screenwriter
Hal Mohr Cinematographer
Max Ree Costumes/Costume Designer
Nini Theilade Choreography
Perc Westmore Makeup
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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- A Midsummer Night's Dream
1. Overture [6:29]
2. Credits [2:02]
3. Pomp and Reveling [4:42]
4. Hermia's Options [1:43]
5. Rendezvous Plan [4:34]
6. Players of Parts [5:47]
7. Enchanted Wood [3:36]
8. Fairy Frolic [5:50]
9. Oberon's Command [3:07]
10. Demetrius and Helena [3:33]
11. Juice of the Flower [3:00]
12. Potion for Titania [3:01]
13. Potion for Lysander [4:52]
14. What Fools These Mortals [5:04]
15. Pyramus and Thisby Rehearsed [5:02]
16. An Ass of Bottom [4:23]
17. Lovestruck Titania [5:56]
18. Waiting Upon Bottom [3:04]
19. Intermission [:42]
20. Hellbent on Helena [4:53]
21. Contentious Couples [6:01]
22. Lulled to Sleep [8:15]
23. Donkey's Desires [4:22]
24. Departures To Fairyland [6:54]
25. Exit Oberon, Titania and Puck [4:05]
26. Bottom's Dream [4:51]
27. Theseus' Decree [2:23]
28. Royal Festivity [4:18]
29. Pyramus and Thisby Enacted [6:16]
30. Dying on Stage [6:31]
31. If We Shadows Have Offended [4:29]
32. Exit Music [2:58]
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Menu

Disc #1 -- A Midsummer Night's Dream
   Play Movie
   Scene Selections
   Special Features
      Commentary by Scott MacQueen
      A Dream Comes True
      Warner Bros. Studio Café
      Presenting...
         Play All
         Mr. Dick Powell
         Mr. Ian Hunter
         Miss Olivia De Havilland
         Miss Jean Muir
         Mr. Frank McHugh
         Miss Anita Louise
      Shake Mr. Shakespeare
      Olivia De Havilland Screen Test
      Theatrical Trailer
   Languages
      Spoken Languages
         English
      Subtitles
         English (for the Hearing Impaired)
         Français
         Português
         Off
      Web Info
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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