Shakespeare, the Movie: Popularizing the Plays on Film, TV, and Video

By Lynda E. Boose; Richard Burt | Go to book overview

NOTES
1
The issue of just whose sexual fantasies Gibson's image plays to is itself an example of the contradictory impulses that the culture's new sophistication about media now allows. On the one hand, in vehement defense of the hunky hero's body as an object for female fantasies only, Mel's spokesMEN have gone so far as literally to deny the right of any fanzines (the new, technologized fan magazine produced by fans and circulated on Internet) to produce gay narratives about Gibson-the narratives that are, of course, encouraged by the distinctly homoerotic overtones of the male partnered relationship in the Lethal Weapon film series-overtones that have indeed become progressively more blatant as the rejection of them has become simultaneously more vocal. For more on Mel, see Hodgdon (1994). If there is any gender equality to be offered at all, it is probably to be found only in the newly explicit bisexuality of pop culture's film star images that sexualize us all into universal consumers. In particular, see Marjorie Garber's chapter on “Bi-sexuality and Celebrities” (1995).
2
It appears that Shakespeare's legitimacy, at least in the United States, depends on his status as screen writer rather than playwright. In a program on Shakespeare in the weekly television series Biography This Week, with interviews of British scholars like Andrew Gurr and Stanley Wells, the narrator concluded by remarking that “Shakespeare is now Hollywood's hottest screenplay writer” (broadcast November 9, 1996, on A&E). And Al Pacino's Looking for Richard, which includes footage of Pacino at the reconstructed Globe and interviews of Branagh and Gielgud, nevertheless focuses on the American film stars acting in the play.
3
See Rich (1996): Rich goes on to say, “But if audiences inevitably giggle a bit at the 1912 Richard III, they should also look at it as a window on an even more distant past when Americans didn't have to be spoon fed a great dramatist but were united in their passion for one who gave them characters who mirrored their own complex humanity, not to mention sublime poetry, along with the requisite dose of sex and violence. Exciting as this extraordinary find is [i.e., the movies], we will see in its frames the ghosts of something far larger that we have lost.”

We would add as well that the use of American film stars in Shakespeare film productions is nothing new. Witness the Max Reinhardt A Midsummer Night's Dream with James Cagney and Mickey Rooney or the Joseph Mankiewicz Julius Caesar with Marlon Brando; and of course, there is a long tradition of Shakespeare burlesques in America and elsewhere. See Levine (1988). What has changed, in our view, is the reception of American stars in Shakespeare, both among the viewing public and academia. Moreover, the present moment of Shakespeare reproduction includes new spin-off products from films in addition to videos, many of which are regularly cross-referenced: CD-Roms; laserdiscs; soundtrack CDs; MTV specials; Internet websites.

4
The opening sequence with its quotation from The Magnificent Seven of the four riders galloping abreast, for example.
5
Hollywood's skepticism about Shakespeare is of course nothing new. Shortly before his death in 1984, Richard Burton commented “Generally if you mention the word Shakespeare in Hollywood, everybody leaves the room, because they think he's box office poison” (Levine 1988:53). As we make clear, the Brits' responses to this skepticism differ in the 1990s.
6
That it is uncool is clearly the message in John Power's (1996) review of Al Pacino's Looking for Richard: “Through it all, the movie spotlights Pacino's dewy eyed reverence for Shakespeare, which is touching in its unadorned dweebiness… Most stars would sooner die than look this uncool.”
7
Several months prior to opening, the Luhrmann film had apparently been market

-20-

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Shakespeare, the Movie: Popularizing the Plays on Film, TV, and Video
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Plates vii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Totally Clueless? 8
  • Notes 20
  • 2 - Race-Ing Othello, Re-Engendering White-Out 23
  • Notes 41
  • 3 - War is Mud 45
  • 4 - Top of the World, Ma 67
  • Notes 78
  • 5 - Popularizing Shakespeare 80
  • Notes 93
  • 6 - Shakespeare Wallah and Colonial Specularity 95
  • Notes 102
  • 7 - Poetry in Motion 103
  • References 119
  • 8 - When Peter Met Orson 121
  • References 134
  • 9 - In Search of Nothing 135
  • References 146
  • Stage Performances of King Lear Cited 147
  • 10 - A Shrew for the Times 148
  • Films and Videos Discussed 168
  • 11 - Shakespeare in the Age of Post-Mechanical Reproduction 169
  • References 185
  • 12 - Grossly Gaping Viewers and Jonathan Miller's Othello 186
  • 13 - Age Cannot Wither Him 198
  • Notes 213
  • 14 - Asta Nielsen and the Mystery of Hamlet 215
  • References 224
  • 15 - The Family Tree Motel 225
  • References 239
  • 16 - The Love That Dare Not Speak Shakespeare's Name 240
  • References 267
  • Index 269
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