Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Book Note: Everybody's Shakespeare by Orson Welles et al.

Shakespeare, William, Orson Welles, and Roger Hill. Everybody's Shakespeare. Woodstock, Illinois: The Todd Press, 1934.

I've finally taken the plunge and started on Simon Callow's four-volume (!) biography of Orson Welles (of which only three volumes have yet been released). More on that later.

My own interest (naturally) relates to Welles' relationship to Shakespeare. I've written about his film version of Macbeth (for which, q.v. and q.v. [and elsewhere—q.v. for the dagger speech specifically]). I've found rare clips of his [quote] "Voodoo Macbeth" (for which, q.v.). I read a novel and watched a film about his early production of Julius Caesar (for which, q.v.). I've found out about his Merchant of Venice (for which, q.v.), and watched his King Lear (for which, q.v. and q.v.) multiple times. I've investigated his Chimes at Midnight (for which, q.v.). I've explored the [ridiculous] claims that he was an Oxfordian (for which, q.v.), and I've even shown his appearance in I Love Lucy (for which, q.v.) a few times to my Shakespeare and film classes.

But I did not know that, in 1934, Welles and Roger Hill (the headmaster of his preparatory school—the Todd School), when Welles was at the age of eighteen or nineteen, published an introduction to Shakespeare and an edited script of Merchant of Venice, complete with illustrations and notes for performance. [Two more volumes were published: the subsequent volumes were Julius Caesar and Twelfth Night—both in 1939 (for those of you keeping score).]

I managed to track down a not-too-expensive copy of the first volume, and it's pretty amazing. [Note: If you're trying to track it down, it was later released as The Mercury Shakespeare, and it stayed in print for years, so there should be copies available.]

What intrigues me most is the introductory material, though Orson Welles' sketches and suggested staging ideas are also very valuable.

The best thing I can do is to give you some samples from the book, starting with some comments on the plots and the grammar of Shakespeare and then concluding with several pages ridiculing the anti-Stratfordian position. Even though the claims that Orson Welles thought the Earl of Oxford wrote the plays attributed to Shakespeare have been sufficiently debunked, it's interesting to have this early and clear assertion that Welles believed that Shakespeare wrote the plays attributed to Shakespeare. It might be argued that people can change their minds, but reading this biography has opened my eyes to the way Welles would say anything to anyone and would play along with the ideas of his audience. It seems that Welles was very rarely not performing in one way or another.

In any case, take a look at this early work by the wunderkind who brought so much Shakespeare to the stage, the radio, and the screen.







Click here to purchase a copy of one volume from the series—one signed by Orson Welles et al. from AbeBooks.com
(so you can then give it to Bardfilm).

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Book Note: Thinking Shakespeare: A Working Guide for Actors, Directors, Students . . . and Anyone Else Interested in the Bard

Edelstein, Barry. Thinking Shakespeare: A Working Guide for Actors, Directors, Students . . . and Anyone Else Interested in the Bard. Rev. ed. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2018.

I'm frequently asked by our theatre majors questions about Shakespeare. I love it. That's what I'm here for.

Often, the questions are about less-often-performed monologues for auditions. I have resources and ideas that I can point them toward.

Sometimes, the questions are about acting. And I'm much less sure of myself then.

But I've found a very good resource that I can point them toward. Barry Edelstein's Thinking Shakespeare is a clear and relatively informal handbook on understanding Shakespeare's language and ways to put it into practice for the actor—the actor in particular, but also for the director, the student, and the teacher.

The best I can do is give you the first chapter and then send you off to buy the book.





Click below to sample more of the book and then to purchase it from amazon.com.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Barney Miller uses Hamlet

“Ramon.” By Theodore J. Flicker and Danny Arnold. Perf. Hal Linden, Barbara Barrie, and Abe Vigoda. Dir. Bill Davius. Barney Miller. Season 1, episode 1. ABC. 23 January 1975. DVD. SHOUT! FACTORY, 2011.

“Bus Stop.” By Theodore J. Flicker and Danny Arnold. Perf. Hal Linden, Barbara Barrie, and Abe Vigoda. Dir. Noam Pitlik. Barney Miller. Season 3, episode 4. ABC. 14 October 1976. DVD. SHOUT! FACTORY, 2011.

“Ramon.” By Theodore J. Flicker and Danny Arnold. Perf. Hal Linden, Barbara Barrie, and Abe Vigoda. Dir. Noam Pitlik. Barney Miller. Season 3, episode 6. ABC. 28 October 1976. DVD. SHOUT! FACTORY, 2011.

Shakespeare Geek recently challenged us all to watch all the sitcoms we ever watched in all our ever-loving lives and to categorize the Shakespeare references in them.

Well, sort of.

He did say that he had noticed a lot of Shakespeare references in sitcoms that he was watching (or having on in the background) during the COVID-19 crisis. And I had just found one myself in an episode of Taxi (for which, q.v.).

It probably shouldn't have been surprising that I found some Hamlet references in Barney Miller, starting with the very first episode.

There were more in the third season. I've put them all together in the clip below. We start with Barney Miller's wife alluding to something rotten in the state of Denmark. Then we move to a person who was on the verge of committing insurance fraud until conscience made a coward of him. Finally, we meet a man who thinks he's a werewolf, and we get a "more things in heaven and earth" quote.

Enjoy . . . and feel free to find your own and to mention them in the comments!


Links: The Show at IMDB.

Friday, June 12, 2020

The "Prayer-Book" scene in Loncraine's Richard III

Richard III. Dir. Richard Loncraine. Perf. Ian McKellen, Annette Bening, Jim Broadbent, Robert Downey, Jr., and Maggie Smith. 1995. DVD. United Artists Pictures, 1995.

In the third act of Richard III, Shakespeare pulls back the curtain to show us the political power of the photo opportunity. Buckingham has been trying to rally support for Richard as king, but it hasn't been going that well. He advises Richard to be found with a prayer book in his hand, conferring with two priests. That will make him appear to be Christian, holy, and only concerned with spiritual matters, not with power.

It's all show. Richard has no religious feeling whatsoever, but he thinks he can fool everyone into thinking he does, which will be good for his political career.

The images to the right show the way Loncraine decided to show this scene. It's a brilliant, nicely-layered way to show how a photo opportunity like this has no real substance. Not only is Richard only portraying an interest in religion that he does not actually feel, it isn't even a religious book that he's using as a prop! I haven't been able to make out just what the dust cover on the book says, but it looks like it's a secular novel. Once the dust cover is removed, it looks like a prayer book . . . but its interior is secular, not sacred.

Here's what Buckingham says when he's advising Richard in this photo opportunity:
The mayor is here at hand: intend some fear;
Be not you spoke with, but by mighty suit:
And look you get a prayer-book in your hand,
And stand betwixt two churchmen, good my lord;
For on that ground I'll build a holy descant:
And be not easily won to our request . . . . (III.viii)
More of the scene follows in the clip below. I love how Sir Ian delivers the final line of this clip: "I'm not made of stone."


I'm posting this on Friday, June 12, 2020. On Monday, June 8, 2020, the President of the United States walked across Lafayette Square to hold a Bible up in front of St. John's Church. Protests over the death of George Floyd were happening all over the country . . . including in Lafayette Square . . . at the time.

Careful readers know that I am interested in talking about how Shakespeare is relevant. They will also know that there are times when I wish that Shakespeare was not relevant. 

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Hamlet in Taxi

“Bobby's Acting Career.” By Ed Weinberger and Stan Daniels. Perf. Judd Hirsch, Jeff Conaway, Danny DeVito, Marilu Henner, Tony Danza, and John Lehne. Dir. James Burrows. Taxi. Season 1, episode 4. ABC. 5 April 1978. DVD. Paramount, 2014.

During a pandemic, you sometimes find yourself watching really old sitcoms.

And sometimes you find some Shakespeare in the mix.

In Taxi, we meet a host of taxi drivers who are nearly all underrated by their customers and their manager. In this episode, taxi driver Alex Reiger picks up a Great Dane (and its owner) and gets a chance to show off his knowledge of Hamlet. Later, the owner of the dog treats the dog very harshly, leading Alex to drop the fare and keep the dog. I won't show you that part, but here's the part where the Hamlet comes in:


Links: The Episode at IMDB.


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

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Othello: A Derivative of Othello that Focuses Intently on Race

Othello. Dir. Geoffrey Sax. Perf. Keeley Hawes, Eamonn Walker, and Christopher Eccleston. 2001. DVD. Acorn Media, 2002.

[Note: I wrote this before the death of George Floyd made this an unfortunately extremely pertinent issue to the Twin Cities, to the United States, and to the world at large. I sometimes wish Shakespeare could be less relevant.]

I usually vary the offerings in my Shakespeare and Film course from year to year. Some films are always there, but I move the plays we cover and the films of the plays we cover. For the past two years, I've had Othello in the course.

Some Othellos concentrate on race; others ignore the issue. Geoffrey Sax's derivative version places it at the forefront, exploring racial divides between the police and the people they are meant to serve.

Here's the opening of the film. Doctor Who fans will recognize our Iago analogue pretty quickly.


Links: The Film at IMDB.


Click here to purchase the film from amazon.com

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

O: Othello in a Prep School Setting

O. Dir. Tim Blake Nelson. Perf. Mekhi Phifer, Josh Hartnett, Andrew Keegan, Julia Stiles, and Rain Phoenix. 2001. DVD. Lions Gate, 2002.

I've never been greatly enamored of O, even though Julia Stiles is in it. It seemed to be one of many in the "Shakespeare set in high school" genre, and, even though it captures the way emotions run high in high school, it didn't seem very realistic.

Still, the opening is exciting, and it does set the clear black / white dichotomy that the film is looking to develop. Take a look!



I think the opening is the best part. I'm not convinced by O's Roderigo—or by much else in the film.

Anyone want to weigh in in the comments on what I ought to realize or recognize about this Shakespeare derivitive?

Links: The Film at IMDB.


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

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Huapango: Othello in a Mexican Folk Dance Competition Setting

Huapango. Dir. Ivan Lipkies. Perf. Alejandro Tommasi, Lisset, Manuel Landeta, Goretti Lipkies, Alfredo Castillo, Rafael Romero, Alfredo Sevilla, MarĂ­a Elena Velasco, and Alicia Sandoval. 2004. DVD. Quality Films, n.d.

In my Shakespeare and Film class this semester, I decided to return to Othello. I try always to leave a week free in the syllabus to deal with a play and a film that seems timely or particularly interesting.

This film sets Othello in small-town Mexico among characters who focus their attentions on their skills at Huapango, a kind of Mexican folk dance.  During the National Festival of Huapango, the Iago analogue, jealous at being slighted by the Desdemona analogue, plots his revenge.  One of the most interesting features of this film is its treatment of the Othello analogue, who is injured in a rodeo early in the film and spends the rest of the film recovering in bed.

One other point of interest is where the film sets its conflict. I've talked to a scholar who has written about the film (and about other Shakespeare films from Mexico), and he said that there was not a racial component to the rivalry between the Iago analogue and the Othello analogue. Santiago (our Iago) is of a different social class than Otilio (our Othello), but not of a different ethnicity.

The clip below shows the opening of the film. Watch it to see what other alterations to the Othello narrative the derivative makes.

Note: As always, I am alerting readers / viewers to some unsavory language in the clip below.


I find that to be absolutely fascinating. The Iago analogue isn't motivated because someone else was promoted before he was—much less that he suspects the Othello analogue of sleeping with his wife. He is the person who is initially jealous, and, on the point of declaring his love for (and proposing to) our Desdemona analogue, he feels humiliated and rejected.

Links: The Film at IMDB.


Click here to purchase the film from a place called DVD Planet Store.

Note that I haven't used this vendor before and have no idea how reliable they are, but the DVD isn't available on amazon.com.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Margaret in The Hollow Crown's Richard III

Richard III. By William Shakespeare. Perf. Benedict Cumberbatch, Ben Daniels, Judi Dench, James Fleet, Phoebe Fox, Keeley Hawes, and Sophie Okonedo. Dir. Thea Sharrock. The Hollow Crown. Season 2, episode 4. BBC Two. 21 May 2016. DVD. Universal Studios, 2016.

Margaret is one of the only characters who appears in—and lives through!—all three Henry VI plays and Richard III. But she's often cut from modern productions of Richard III—I think largely due to time constraints.

The Hollow Crown's version is one exception. And that means that their version can explore in greater detail the curses she utters early in the play and their effects through the play.

Here's a clip that shows those curses—and also the way Margaret serves as a common enemy to the otherwise squabbling royals.


Links: The Film at IMDB.


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

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Book Note: How to Stop Time

Haig, Matt. How to Stop Time. New York: Penguin Books, 2019.

Careful readers will remember that we've seen two other Matt Haig novels that are Shakespeare-related: The Labrador Pact (for which, q.v.) and The Dead Fathers Club (for which, q.v.). Careful readers of Shakespeare Geek will remember that he reviewed this book earlier this year.

My turn.

The book is about a small percentage of humans who age really, really slowly. Eventually, an organization discovers such people—and then they are largely beholden to the organization, doing what they're asked to do, moving where they're asked to move, and (above all) keeping secret the existence of such humans.

Our narrator had a daughter back in the age of Shakespeare, and he thinks she has the same slow-aging condition he has; he's been continually searching for her for centuries.

I agree that it's a good book—though, for a book about aging slowly and taking your time, the ending is incredibly rushed and largely unsatisfactory.  All the same, it's good, with clever alternating timelines.

Naturally, my favorites are those that alternate between the present day and Shakespeare's time. Here, therefore, are some quick examples. In the first, our narrator is a history teacher who is trying to pull information about the Elizabethan era out of his students:







The next section has more to do with Shakespeare more directly. Here's a glimpse at Shakespeare in an off-duty moment:





All in all, it's a creative, inventive novel that is well worth your while to read.

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

Monday, September 2, 2019

The RSC Measure for Measure—Now in Theatres [Albeit Extremely Briefly]

Measure for Measure. Dir. Gregory Doran. Perf. Claire Price, Amy Trigg, David Ajao, Joseph Arkley, Hannah Azuonye, Patrick Brennan, Graeme Brookes, Melody Brown, Antony Byrne, James Cooney, Tom Dawze, Sandy Grierson, Amanda Harris, Karina Jones, Sophie Khan Levy, Alexander Mushore, Michael Patrick, and Lucy Phelps. Royal Shakespeare Company. Stratford-upon-Avon, England. Various locations, 2019.

You may know that Shakespeare Geek made his way to England this summer to make the grand Shakespeare tour. I stayed home . . .

. . . but which of us has two thumbs and got to see the Royal Shakespeare Company performance of Measure for Measure, eh?

This guy—Bardfilm.

I wish I had a great deal more time to write about the production. It holds a lot of interest, and it has a number of things to agree with--and to disagree with.

Tomorrow (September 3), there are some additional screenings of the play in movie houses across America. Click here to see if you can find one near you. It's certainly worth seeing.

The production is set in early 1900s Vienna—incorporating the era of Freud for this play about sex and sexual desire and also bringing in (at least at the beginning) the art of Viennese artists of the period, including Egon Schiele (whose Cardinal and Nun is pictured above—and which seems appropriate to the plot of the play) and Gustav Klimt.

For now, I just have time to list some notable points about the film (though I hope it will be released as a DVD eventually).

Use of mirrors (including one-way mirrors), cross imagery, Isabella nearly vomiting and having a fit when Angelo’s intentions are clear, her distrust of the friar (I think because he’s male), et cetera.

Also of interest:  Escalus (a female) and her relationship with power structures, the way Lucio gradually becomes more and more unfunny … et cetera.

For now, I can just give you the trailer and urge you to go see it.



Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Some As You Like It in Never Been Kissed

Never Been Kissed. Dir. Raja Gosnell. Perf. Drew Barrymore, David Arquette, and Michael Vartan. 1999. DVD. 20th Century FOX Home Entertainment, 2011.

As you probably know, I'm always hoping for more Shakespeare in pop culture. In this instance, I read an article that mentioned As You Like It connections in the 1999 film Never Been Kissed.

The plot involves a journalist who is sent on an undercover assignment to her old high school to try to get the scoop on what kids are thinking, doing, and saying these days.

Soon, it becomes clear that she's developing a crush on the high school English teacher. That partly becomes evident when the As You Like It comes in. Here's the scene:


I was hoping for more Shakespeare . . . some more play with the idea of being in disguise and being better able to express your true identity. And the film does provide some of that anxiety-producing dramatic irony in the play—where we know that Rosalind is in love with Orlando but we're not sure what to think when he's being asked to woo Ganymede while he (she, really) is pretending to be Rosalind (which she is, really).

But it may be too awkward and involve too much anxiety. It's okay for the journalist to develop a crush on the high school teacher since she's not really a high school student and it about the same age as the teacher—but it's not okay for the teacher to develop a crush on one of his students and start to act on those feelings.

In any case, the text of As You Like It serves as a touchstone (see what I did there?) to these issues of love and disguise.

Links: The Film at IMDB.


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

Friday, July 5, 2019

What Role did Friends' Joey play in Macbeth?

"The One Where Chandler Takes a Bath " By Vanessa McCarthy. Perf. Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer, and James Michael Tyler. Dir. Ben Weiss. Friends. Season 8, episode 13. NBC. 17 January 2002. DVD. Warner Home Video, 2003.

Now there's an obscure trivia question for you. Unfortunately, I'm not sure it has an answer.

I suppose a better question would be "In what Shakespeare play did Joey from Friends have a role?" but that doesn't sound obscure enough.

Additionally, a season three episode might provide too much of a clue (for that episode, q.v.).

In any case, here's how we know what we know about Joey's Shakespearean career. We learn it when Monica and Chandler are having a conversation while Chandler is in a bubble bath (so be forewarned):


There you have it. As a side note, we can't really deduce what role he had from Monica and Chandler's comments. If it had been Macbeth, that would be a very long night indeed. But the joke might be even funnier if it were a small role. If Joey played Young Siward . . . or even "Boy, son to Macduff" . . . and that made for a long evening, that might say even more about Joey's acting ability.

Note: The image at the beginning of this post does not come from the video clip (as is usually the case). But I didn't think anyone really needed an image of Chandler in a bubble bath.

Links: The Episode at IMDB.

Monday, July 1, 2019

A Little Touch of As You Like It in Frasier

“Motor Skills.” By Eric Zicklin. Perf. Kelsey Grammer, David Hyde Pierce, Peri Gilpin, and John Mahoney. Dir. Pamela Fryman. Frasier. Season 8, episode 11. NBC. 30 January 2001. DVD. Paramount, 2006.

We've seen more extensive Shakespeare in the sitcom Frasier before—in an episode in which Derek Jacobi plays a terrible Shakespearean actor (for which, q.v.).

This, on the other hand, is more incidental, but it pleases me very much because of the material being quoted.

In As You Like It, the ordinary working man (the shepherd) Colin, is being bothered—or bugged . . . or bothered . . . or plagued—by the self-designated court wit Touchstone. Touchstone can be quite funny . . . but he can also be very self-centered and very annoying, impressed by his own cleverness.

In the middle of such a bothering session and as an answer to the scorn that Touchstone is heaping on him, Corin gives what is (to me at least) a beautiful speech about his life, his work, and his identity:
Sir, I am a true labourer: I earn that I eat, get that I wear, owe no man hate, envy no man's happiness, glad of other men's good, content with my harm, and the greatest of my pride is to see my ewes graze and my lambs suck. (III.ii.73-77)
The contentment and easy satisfaction of that speech is an excellent antidote to Touchstone's stirring up of trouble and self-satisfaction.

And so we turn to Frasier's version of the speech. The Crane boys have decided to enroll in an automotive repair class. As he calls to register for the course, Frasier quotes part of Corin's speech:


He had to leave out the part about the lambs, but it's still a good speech about the satisfaction of a job done well. 

You'll have to see the rest of the episode for yourselves to see whether Corin's contentment trickles down to the Crane boys in the end or not.

Links: The Episode at IMDB.


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

Friday, June 28, 2019

Book Note: Shakespeare's Library

Kells, Stuart. Shakespeare's Library: Unlocking the Greatest Mystery in Literature. Berkley: Counterpoint, 2019.

After one more "Book Note," we'll get back to some Shakespeare and film—part of what a Shakespeare and film microblog ought to be doing.

I'm still a bit puzzled by Shakespeare's Library. I thought it was going to be another authorship tome: the man from Stratford's library can't be found—it wasn't mentioned in his will—therefore, the man from Stratford never had a library—therefore, someone else wrote the plays attributed to the man from Stratford.

But it isn't that. Well, not exactly.

It's clear that the author was, during his education, surrounded by those advocating the case for Henry Neville as the author of the works attributed to William Shakespeare, and it's also clear that he's attracted to the proposition. But it's also clear that he understands the limitations (i.e., the basic untruth) of that claim. Still . . .

The work itself is more anecdotal than scholarly, and, apart from the bizarre Neville ramblings, it tells an interesting story about books and collections of books in Shakespeare's day and after.

Here's a quick sample—an account of Rev. James Wilmot's eighteenth-century search for Shakespeare's library:


As something of a side note, there are so many assumptions in this kind of argument that it becomes silly. Shakespeare must have had a large collection of books. They must have been at Stratford. They must have been sold upon his death. They must have had bookplates reading "From the Library of William Shakespeare, Famous Author of Plays, Poems, and Miscellanea." None of those are necessarily true, and that's one reason why an absence of information about Shakespeare's books doesn't bother me or make me question his authorship.

Two other reasons derive from my knowledge of some modern poets. I knew a brilliant poet during my time in college. He had an astonishingly retentive memory and an appalling inability to keep track of most of his books. When he did keep track of them, he read them to pieces. They weren't books that you could sell at a garage sale—or even donate to Goodwill. 

I know it's dangerous to apply modern habits to early modern persons, but it doesn't stretch my imagination too much to think Shakespeare had a retentive mind, read the books he owned to pieces (probably mostly in London), read other books he didn't own (browsing the stacks of books for sale or borrowing them from people who didn't yet know that he would read them to pieces and then lose them), and failed to keep his books in pristine condition.

In any case, the book is fairly interesting, but it needs to be read with a grain of salt. That might particularly be the case with the last two pages (295-96), in which the author drops something of a bombshell:


What's that? The Littlewood Letter? Never heard of it. A letter written to Shakespeare that was delivered to Shakespeare (unlike the Quiney letter, for which, q.v.)? Has anyone else heard of this? HS anyone else seen it? How would you prove it was actually delivered rather than just written to him? What's the Folger have to say about it?

In any case, the summary of my review would be "Interesting—but be skeptical."

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

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 2008-2020 (and into perpetuity thereafter) 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