In less than a week, I'll be embarking on the third time through the Shakespeare and Film course I developed at my college. There were substantial revisions between the first and the second, and I'm considering substantial revisions for the third.
To make room for some additions, I need to cut something. That's where I need your help! The poll to the right (and / or the comments below) invite your opinion. Should I cut Merchant of Venice and lose all the fun of comparing Laurence Olivier, Trevor Nunn, and Al Pacino? Should I cut The Taming of the Shrew and risk abandoning Kiss me, Kate as a result? I'm not sure I can bear to cut Richard III—I wouldn't be able to show Ian McKellen in the role, and that would be a shame. And how could I prevent myself from showing Branagh's Henry V, a play I have grown to appreciate, especially for its discussion value?
Please, weigh in! The poll closes on Sunday night at midnight.
Of those four, Shrew is the one to lose. Richard and Henry are must-sees, as you intimate, but having just watched the PBS special on "Cinema's Exiles: From Hitler to Hollywood," I think the same applies to Merchant. One of the films highlighted in the special is the 1942 "To Be or Not To Be," directed by the exiled Ernst Lebitsch. The Jewish troupe's off-stage insertion of Shylock's words in a confrontation with the suppressing authorities is a dramatic coup. So I'm casting my vote to retain it, along with the other two strongest candidate. (Sorry, Kate!)
Although I haven't seen you mention Jack Benny in "To Be or Not to Be," it has the same cast/play mechanics as Kiss Me, Kate. Still, I have to go with Kate. Sorry, Shylock!
If the course loses Merchant of Venice, it loses not only the Jack Benny To Be or Not To Be but also the Mel Brooks To Be or Not To Be. If it loses Taming, it loses Kiss me, Kate. Ah, what turmoil!
Of course, I could form a new section of the course called "Shakespearean Derivatives" and include both. In the past, I've had students watch such films individually and write a final essay on them.
Thanks for your comments! They may give me just the inspiration I need!
Annie seems unaware that kj had a post on the 1942 "To be or not to be" which contains the scene to which I alluded. (Truth to tell, I missed it, too!) Here 'tis: http://bardfilm.blogspot.com/2008/07/jack-benny-and-sympathetic-shylock.html
I see that Merchant and Shrew are now tied for excision. What a dilemma!
P.S. I misspelled Lubitsch in my original post. He is said to have been the favorite director of Billy Wilder, another 1930s exile from Nazi Germany who landed in Hollywood and went on to become a legend in the American film industry. Maybe another factor to tilt the decision in favor of Merchant? (Sorry, Annie!)
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