"The play's the thing." "If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction." "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players." Given William Shakespeare's ability to work variations of "play" into his classic works, one can only wonder what sort of mileage he could have gotten from "film."
Alas, we'll never know. But what's certain is that the movie industry has a long tradition of transferring the Bard's immortal plays to film, and the Main Library's annual summer celluloid series pays tribute to that tradition with its theme for this year, "Shakespeare at the Movies." Eight pictures will be screened throughout the months of June, July and August at ImaginOn, and while specific dates have yet to be set, Sam Shapiro, Program Coordinator and Film Programmer at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, can offer us a rundown on the selected titles.
Richard III (1955). "Laurence Olivier's performance as history's most malevolent 'crookback' is a wicked delight, from start to finish."
Chimes at Midnight (1966). "A rare screening of Orson Welles' conjoining of at least four history plays, with a larger-than-life portrayal of Falstaff by Welles — as well as the greatest cinematic depiction of medieval warfare ever filmed." (Note: This is the only film not completely confirmed at this point.)
The Taming of the Shrew (1967). "Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton might have been a famous couple, but most of the movies they made together were instantly forgettable — with the exception of Franco Zeffirelli's The Taming of the Shrew. At least this time, they had proven material to work from!"
Romeo and Juliet (1968). "Zeffirelli's landmark production of Shakespeare's great romantic tragedy, with a heart-stopping performance by 15-year-old Olivia Hussey as Juliet."
Macbeth (1971). "The first film Roman Polanski directed after the shocking tragedy involving his wife Sharon Tate, this is a highly imaginative, no-holds-barred version of Shakespeare's bleak, nihilistic tragedy."
Henry V (1989). "Kenneth Branagh's stirring (as well as muddy and bloody) adaptation of Shakespeare's most patriotic play."
Much Ado About Nothing (1993). "Branagh's rapturous version of Shakespeare's greatest comedy, drenched in the sunshine of Tuscany."
Hamlet (2009). "The recent BBC version of the Royal Shakespeare Co. production, with a powerhouse performance by David Tennant (of Doctor Who fame) as the Melancholy Dane. Patrick Stewart plays the eternally pissed-off Ghost of Hamlet's Father."