A duke usurps his brother's land and power, banishing him and his retinue into the forest of Arden. The banished duke's daughter, Rosalind, remains with her cousin Celia. She has fallen in ...
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After the overthrowing of Duke Senior by his tyrannical brother, Senior's daughter Rosalind disguises herself as a man and sets out to find her banished father while also counseling her clumsy suitor Orlando in the art of wooing.
A duke usurps his brother's land and power, banishing him and his retinue into the forest of Arden. The banished duke's daughter, Rosalind, remains with her cousin Celia. She has fallen in love with Orlando, but he has his own tyrannical brother to contend with, so he joins those in the forest. Rosalind, now banished, disguises herself as a young man, with Celia as her servant, and follows Orlando into the forest. There, nature stirs love's fires in various rustics as well as in those from the court. Phebe, a shepherdess loved by Silvius, is herself smitten with the disguised Rosalind. Can true love find a way, and can brothers be reconciled and harmony restored? Written by
Unfortunately, Shakespeare's comedy 'As You Like It' has much of its comic aspects drained in this particular film version of the play, because of the sodden performances of a couple of players, Mackenzie Ward as Touchstone and Elizabeth Bergner as Rosalind.
The part of the Fool was an important part of Shakespearean plays, delivering pointed messages in the guise of witty remarks and jests. In this film, Touchstone's lines are breezed through so quickly and leadenly that the messages are lost. Bergner's Rosalind, was far worse. Rosalind was supposed to be disguised as a youthful man delivering acquired wisdom to men. I would have expected mainly a mock-serious performance, at most. Instead, Bergner performs Rosalind in a kind of giddy glee throughout, which must have marred her delivery of lines through that toothy grin combined with her Austrian accent.
Laurence Olivier, while performing in the more naturalistic way we would expect of a modern film actor, seems at times as if he's trying to get over with the whole thing, as might be expected if the rumors of artistic conflicts are true.
Sophie Stewart as Celia delivers probably the truest performance. Henry Ainley, Felix Aylmer, Leon Quartermain, and Dorice Fordred give nice performances as the two dukes, Jacques, and Audrey in minor parts. Peter Bull (the Russian ambassador from 'Dr. Strangelove') makes a very recognizable appearance in the second half.
I feel I ought to comment on the many complaints about the 'staginess' of the diction. My opinion is that these complaints have mainly to do with a couple of minor characters (e.g., Charles the Wrestler). Keep in mind that this is 1936, when many stage and silent actors were still adapting to the motion picture. Many films based on stage plays at that time appeared stagy, and many did even later (consider 'A Long Day's Journey Into Night' or 'A Streetcar Named Desire'). Few of Shakespeare's plays had been adapted to the sound motion picture by 1936. Cut them a little slack!
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