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In the inspired Olivier concept, Shakespeare's play begins as a performance in the Globe Theatre, shifting in broad cinematic terms to an epic narrative of Henry V, who had developed from a dissolute youth to a purposeful monarch. Proving his ability as a soldier and skillful leader, he unites the dissident factions in the English army and goes on to crush the French, against enormous odds, at Agincourt. Arranging a treaty with the French court, he woos Princess Katharine to whom he is formally betrothed as part of the peace agreement. Written by
Laurence Olivier was 37 when he tackled this challenging production. See more »
O! for a Muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention; a kingdom for a stage, princes to act and monarchs to behold the swelling scene. Then should the war-like Harry, like himself, assume the port of Mars; and at his heels, leashed in like hounds, would famine, word, and fire crouch for employment. But pardon, gentles all, the flat unraised spirits that hath dared on this unworthy scaffold to bring forth so great an object: can this cockpit hold the vasty ...
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The main title appears as a playbill floating over the Globe Theatre. Also, there are no opening credits except for the name of the production company and the film's title, which is commonplace today, but was very rare in 1944. See more »
I saw a modern remake of this film, 1989, recently with Kenneth Branagh. The battle showed sweat and blood, a non-theatrical production in comparison to this 1944, very theatrical, Olivier production. Some reviewers denounce the heavy-handed acting of 1944, but I find it charming.
Olivier has an economical charisma. His acting has few flourishes, but his voice says everything. Olivier in period costume is mesmerizing. As Shakespeare's bad-boy prince turned earnest King, Olivier takes charge and demands the return of English lands from the rather effeminate French nobility. Outnumbered 10 to one, his merry band of Englishmen dispatches the Dolphin at Agincourt. Then he courts the French speaking princess Katherine with broken French and economy.
The recreation of old London and the Globe Theatre was delightful. The audience and players went on in heavy rains without complaint. The mention of Falstaff's name is enough to get applause, though the buffoon has only a short death scene.
I do believe the play has been abridged. Many of the longer speeches seem shortened. Still, this is accessible Shakespeare. How can you go wrong? Never!
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