Thursday, June 10, 2010

Marketing with Shakespeare's Biography

“Master Will Shakespeare.” Dir. Jacques Tourneur. Perf. Carey Wilson and Anthony Kemble-Cooper. 1936. Romeo and Juliet. Dir. George Cukor. Perf. Norma Shearer, Leslie howard, Basil Rathbone, and Andy Devine. 1936. DVD. Warner Video, 2007.
MGM had another ax to grind in its biographical short on the life of William Shakespeare. This time, it's not based on myths—instead, it's based on marketing.

In the clip below, we learn what Shakespeare's favorite play was:
Romeo and Juliet. We even get to hear him deliver a speech from MGM's most recent Shakespeare production!

video
Eyes, look your last!
Arms, take your last embrace! And, lips, O you
The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss
A dateless bargain to engrossing death!
Come, bitter conduct, come, unsavoury guide!
Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on
The dashing rocks thy sea-sick weary bark!
Here's to my love! (Romeo and Juliet, V.iii.112-19)
The clip concludes with a bit more Elizabethan theatre baiting—they were so unrealistic! [I assume they mean that Elizabethan stage practices look unrealistic to 1930s American film culture. And I can only imagine that the Elizabethans would be saying the same about the 1930s in America!]

Links: The film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Myths of Shakespeare's Biography

“Master Will Shakespeare.” Dir. Jacques Tourneur. Perf. Carey Wilson and Anthony Kemble-Cooper. 1936. Romeo and Juliet. Dir. George Cukor. Perf. Norma Shearer, Leslie howard, Basil Rathbone, and Andy Devine. 1936. DVD. Warner Video, 2007.

Schoenbaum, S. Shakespeare’s Lives. New Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Samuel Schoenbaum's Shakespeare’s Lives is one of the most extraordinary books of the last four hundred years. This excruciatingly-, painstakingly-, meticulously-researched book reads like the research was no trouble at all—or, if it were, the pain were counted pleasure for our sake. It is scholarly, eloquent, hilarious, and fascinating—but it is scholarly above all its other marvelous attributes.

Schoenbaum has written the biography of biographies, and I mean that two ways. It's an astonishing biography—the best I've ever read—and it's an account of the biographies of Shakespeare. It traces the course of Shakespearean biography from the earliest references through the first accounts of the life of Shakespeare to the most recent documentary research.

But, in attempting to clarify or to debunk Shakespearean myths, Schoenbaum has an uphill road. Popular culture perpetuates myths.

I told you all that to tell you this. The DVD of the George Cukor Romeo and Juliet has a biographical film as a special feature. The interest in it lies in these main points:

Shakespeare Holds their Horses
This tired old myth states that Shakespeare started his theatrical reputation by holding horses at the door of the theatres around London. In This production, this myth is given a new spin by making it the Blackfriars Theatre. Unfortunately, the Blackfriars closed from 1585 until at least 1599 and didn't host Shakespeare's company until c. 1608. If he held horses there, it must have been right at the beginning of the lost years.
The film traces the rest of Shakespeare's career on typical (if not verifiable) lines. He began by rewriting others' scenes, then others' plays, and then he was able to write his own plays.
The Elizabethan Theatre was Primitive by Modern Standards
I suppose MGM had a vested interest in arguing that its films were top-notch technical wonders—but do they really have to tear the Elizabethan Theatre down to build themselves up?
Shakespeare the Smarmy
Whenever this Shakespeare is pleased with himself, he finds his face contorted into an uncontrollable smarmy expression (see above). Again, there is little evidence to support a smarmy bard (though "Smarmy Bard" wouldn't be a bad name for an alternative band).
Read Samuel Schoenbaum, and then watch this clip with a salt shaker handy:

video

And the brief biographical film does take the time to show Shakespeare signing 1 Henry VI, one of his earliest plays (even though it's very unlikely that he ever did any such thing, at least they had him sign a play from the right era):


And I'm sure "Little Stagestruck Sally" and "Footlight-Fascinated John" were happy to get a shout out in this production!

Works Cited

Schoenbaum, S. Shakespeare’s Lives. New Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Links: The film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the book and / or the film from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Monday, June 7, 2010

Great River Shakespeare Festival—Opening in One Month!

Comedy of Errors. Dir. Paul Mason Barnes. Perf. Corey Allen, Doug Scholz-Carlson, Christopher Gerson, Tarah Flanagan, Shanara Gabrielle, Michael Fitzpatrick, Jonathan Gillard Daly, Jack Forbes-Wilson, Jeff Schaetsky, Andrew Carlson, Evan Fuller, David Coral, Kate Mazzola, and David Rudi Utter. Great River Shakespeare Festival. Winona, Minnesota. 2010.
Othello. Dir. Alec Wild. Perf. Corey Allen, Doug Scholz-Carlson, Christopher Gerson, Tarah Flanagan, Shanara Gabrielle, Michael Fitzpatrick, Jonathan Gillard Daly, Jack Forbes-Wilson, Jeff Schaetsky, Andrew Carlson, Evan Fuller, David Coral, Kate Mazzola, and David Rudi Utter. Great River Shakespeare Festival. Winona, Minnesota. 2010.

Be certain to include a trip to Winona, Minnesota in your summer plans, and make sure that your trip occurs between June 23 and August 1. The Great River Shakespeare Festival will be presenting The Comedy of Errors and Othello this year.

We've been to the Festival for many years running, and every show has topped the last one. This year promises to be no exception!

Head to the GRSF website to get your tickets! Now!
Links: The Great River Shakespeare Festival.
Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
All material original to this blog is copyrighted: Copyright 2008-2012 by Keith Jones.

The very instant that I saw you did / My heart fly to your service; there resides, / To make me slave to it; and, for your sake, / Am I this patient [b]log-man.

—The Tempest