15 March 2013

As You Like It (1936)

As You Like It (1936)
  • Director: Paul Czinner
  • Based on Book: Shakespeare
  • Cast: Elizabeth Bergner, Laurence Olivier, Sophie Stewart, Leon Quartermaine
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • None, I haven’t seen any of them before except Olivier
  • Why bought: Shakespeare
  • Seen: November 4, 2012

This film is somewhere between appealing and irritating.  The actors – except for Olivier –  are relentlessly jolly and they romp gleefully through the forest  except for the guys who live there and they just sit around reciting Shakespearean wisdom.  Celia has the most energetic smile in Hollywood history and unfortunately – because I like the character of Celia very much – she is shallow, giggly to the point of hysterical, tossing off her great lines as though they were items on a shopping list.  Generally the lines by most of the actors are mumbled or spoken so fast I couldn’t understand half of them.  The whole thing is more or less slapstick and poor melancholy Jacques is hardly there, his “All the world’s a stage” just sort of stuck in there in the midst of all the gaiety.  All of the play’s wry humor and ironic archness is nowhere to be seen, turning the production from the pointed and truly funny critique of class and gender norms that Shakespeare presented into a mindless romp in the forest.
So did I hate it? Not at all.  The black and white filming is – as so often in early films – absolutely beautiful with dramatic costumes and architecture. Laurence Olivier as the reserved and absolutely gorgeous Orlando had not yet discovered that he was Laurence-Olivier-the-Shakespeare-actor and so played the role with enjoyable subtlety.  And I quite liked Elizabeth Bergner – maligned by many critics – as Rosalind.  She started out wimpy but carried the movie and her character staunchly and brightly right to the epilogue.  With better direction she could have been excellent.
Well worth its place in my Shakespeare collection.

3* out of 5

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