A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935)

Article #1380 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-24-2004
Posting Date: 5-23-2005
Directed by William Dieterle and Max Reinhardt
Featuring James Cagney, Joe E. Brown, Dick Powell

Fairies play havoc with the lives of lovers and actors that find themselves in the woods late at night.

Several of Shakespeare’s plays have fantastic elements, though this one (along with THE TEMPEST) probably has the greatest amount. This one sticks fairly close to Shakespeare’s language, and sweetens things with the addition of the music of Felix Mendelssohn and Eric Wolfgang Korngold. There’s also some balletic dance sequences, and a plethora of familiar Hollywood faces and names, almost all of which do a fine job. The cast includes James Cagney, Joe E. Brown, Dick Powell, Mickey Rooney, Victor Jory, Ian Hunter, Olivia de Havilland, Grant Mitchell, Frank McHugh, Hugh Herbert, Arthur Treacher, Billy Barty, Kenneth Anger and Angelo Rossitto, and those are just the names I recognize. Visually, it’s stunning, particularly in the scenes involving the fairies; any fan of fantasy will definitely want to take in some of these moments. It does have some problems; if you throw in the overture and the end music, the movie runs two hours and twenty-two minutes, and it could use some pruning throughout its length, In particular, we do have too many sequences of fairies scampering about to little or no purpose. It’s also easy to get annoyed with Mickey Rooney’s Puck; his laugh (which goes up the musical scale and ends with a screech) is overused, as is his character. On the plus side, the comedy is actually quite funny at times (actually being funny wasn’t one of Shakespeare’s strengths), thanks to some shrewd casting. Any movie which gives you a chance to see James Cagney blow kisses to Joe E. Brown through Hugh Herbert’s parted fingers is worth at least one viewing.


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