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Olivia de Havilland,
Edward Everett Horton
Theseus, Duke of Athens, is going to marry Hyppolyta, Queen of the Amazons. Demetrius is engaged with Hermia, but Hermia loves Lysander. Helena loves Demetrius. Oberon and Titania, of the kingdom of fairies have a slight quarrel about whether or not the boy Titania is raising will join Titania's band or Oberon's, so Oberon tries to get him from her by using some magic. But they're not alone in that forest.Lysander and Hermina have there a rendezvous, Helena and Demetrius are there, too as well as some actors, who are practicing a play for the ongoing wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta. Due to some misunderstandings by Puck, the whole thing becomes a little bit confused... Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <email@example.com>
Anything Goes When Puck's on the Prowl in those woods.
A Midsummer Night's Dream was to be Jack Warner's bow to culture back during the Depression. The economical studio which specialized in urban dramas was doing something that normally MGM would have taken the lead in. In fact I'm not so sure that Louis B. Mayer decided that if Warner Brothers could make Shakespeare popular, he could do it better and hence Norma Shearer got to star in Romeo and Juliet.
The great German Impresario producer Max Reinhardt with co-direction from another German emigrant, William Dieterle, put this together. He played to Warner Brothers other strength, those Busby Berkeley musicals and their intricate numbers. Visually, A Midsummer Night's Dream is stunning with an ethereal quality as the various faeries and nymphs go through the woods. They do their thing to Mendelsohn's great music as arranged by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. In fact this was the start of Korngold's relationship with the brothers Warner and some of the great musical scores he wrote for them.
This was also the start of Olivia DeHavilland's great career. Olivia is one of the few major stars who literally went from unknown to star in one fell swoop. She had graduated high school and was doing some summer stock before entering college when Max Reinhardt spotted here while touring America with A Midsummer Night's Dream. When Warner Brothers got his services for this film, he brought with him Olivia and personally cast her as Hermia.
The film was held up with editing, scoring, retakes, and Olivia made and was seen in two low budget films before A Midsummer Night's Dream was released. So her debut is in a Joe E. Brown film, Alibi Ike. But this is her first film.
The material was familiar to Olivia, but not all her fellow players at Warner Brothers were so blessed. Dick Powell said that this film was one of the two worst experiences he had while at that studio. He had no training of any kind to do this classical piece and said he was lost through out the whole production.
James Cagney is no classical actor either, but as Bottom with or without the donkey's head on him, courtesy of Puck, Cagney brings his boisterous style to the proceedings and it works for the most part. Some of the other tradespeople in the town Frank McHugh, Dewey Robinson and Joe E. Brown look pretty lost though.
On loan out from MGM, Mickey Rooney steals the show as Puck. On orders from Victor Jory the Faerie King to play a little joke on his wife Anita Louise, Rooney casts a spell on her that will make her fall for the first living soul she sees. Rooney decides on is own to sweeten the joke by giving James Cagney a donkey's head and making sure that Louise sees him first. And of course the four lovers, Dick Powell, Ross Alexander, Jean Muir, and Olivia DeHavilland, Rooney confuses their affections as well as a bonus.
Rooney who was another kid actor up to this point, got his first real critical notices in this. It led to his becoming a major star over at MGM and Louis B. Mayer never lending him out to anyone again as long as he was under contract there.
A Midsummer Night's Dream is a curious film. Shakespearean purists might recoil at some of the casting, but I'm sure it was entertaining enough for the Depression audiences.
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