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A Midsummer Night's Dream (1909)

5.9
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Ratings: 5.9/10 from 208 users  
Reviews: 7 user | 2 critic

In ancient Athens, four young lovers escape into the woods. Meanwhile, tradesmen rehearse a play. All of them suffer from the shenanigans of mischievous fairies.

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Title: A Midsummer Night's Dream (1909)

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Cast

Credited cast:
Walter Ackerman ...
Charles Chapman ...
...
Fairy
...
Fairy
Maurice Costello ...
Julia Swayne Gordon ...
Gladys Hulette ...
William Humphrey
Elita Proctor Otis ...
William V. Ranous ...
...
Mechanical
Rose Tapley ...
Florence Turner ...
...
Penelope
James Young
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Storyline

The Duke of Athens, on the eve of his wedding to Hippolyta, decrees that Hermia shall marry Demetrius, as per her father's wishes. Demetrius and Hermia's father are the only ones happy about this arrangement. Hermia is in love with Lysander. And a fourth lover, Helena, is in love with Demetrius. Hermia and Lysander elope into the woods; Demetrius follows them. And Helena follows Demetrius. Meanwhile, Titania, the queen of the fairies, quarrels with Penelope, who gets her revenge by enlisting Puck to find a magic herb that, when placed upon the eyes of a sleeper, will cause him to fall in love with the first person he sees upon waking. Puck's mischief soon involves the four young lovers as well as a group of tradesmen rehearsing for a play. The weaver among them finds himself with the head of an ass. Stranger still, Titania falls in love with him. Written by J. Spurlin

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love | play | fairy | wedding | weaver | See more »


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Release Date:

25 December 1909 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The copy held by the BFI National Archive is incomplete, and ends with the mechanicals beginning their play before Theseus. See more »

Quotes

[first title card]
Title Card: The Duke of Athens, soon to be married to Hippolyta, decrees that his subject, Hermia, shall give up her lover, Lysander, and marry Demetrius whom her father has chosen. The lovers decide to elope. They are followed by Demetrius and Helena in love with Demetrius.
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Version of A Midsummer Night's Dream (1947) See more »

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User Reviews

Shakespeare Legitimizes Cinema
26 August 2009 | by See all my reviews

The Vitagraph Company produced at least nine film adaptations of Shakespeare's works during 1908-1909, and they were behind the 1910 "Twelfth Night" also included on the Silent Shakespeare video. According to historians Roberta E. Pearson and William Uricchio, thirty-six such one-reel adaptations were made in the US alone from 1908-1913, with still more being imported from Europe ("How Many Times Shall Caesar Bleed in Sport", included in "The Silent Cinema Reader"). Some of the earliest feature-length films were Shakespearian, too, including "Cleopatra", "Richard III" (both 1912) and "Antony and Cleopatra" (Marcantonio e Cleopatra)(1913). As Pearson and Uricchio, as well as others, have pointed out, these adaptations were an effort by the movie industry to lend cultural legitimacy to its product at a time when the art form still wasn't mainstream and faced threats of public censorship. Other literary and theatrical sources were adapted in addition to Shakespeare in an effort to win over the haughty.

As for this particular film, for what it is, it's not bad. It's an extremely truncated adaptation, with wordy title cards explaining proceeding action, which was common in early narrative films, especially literary/theatrical ones. In addition to the title cards, the filmmakers relied on audiences already being familiar with the play, which is another reason so many of these early films are based on popular literature and theatre. At least, this "A Midsummer Night's Dream" was photographed entirely outdoors, which freed the production from being stagy. There's also some substitution-splicing and superimpositions for fairy tricks. It's a rather average film for its time—nothing exceptional.

The filmmakers of this one were also responsible for other Shakespearian films, especially J. Stuart Blackton, who worked on all nine of those Vitagraph films and a few more Shakespeare adaptations apparently made by other companies. Blackton was a noteworthy film pioneer, who started out working for the Edison Company, was the key founder of Vitagraph and made the early animation film "Humorous Phases of Funny Faces" (1906) and the amusing "Princess Nicotine; or, The Smoke Fairy" (1909), among other pictures.


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