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William A. Wellman
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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
The full title of the play as first published in the "First Quarto" text (August 1600) was: "The Cronicle History of Henry the Fift with His Battell Fought at Agincourt in France. Togither with Auntient Pistoll" The full title as rendered on the title card at the beginning of this 1944 film production was: "THE Chronicle History of KING HENRY THE FIFT with his battell fought at Agincourt in France BY Will Shakespeare" 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 »
The film precisely met the requirement to raise moral of Englishmen during the Second World War: it is cheering and inspiring. But in fact it is more than just a patriotic propaganda. Henry V, though made during the war, is an excellent beginning of the series of Olivier's Shakespearean films. I really like it as much as later Hamlet and Richard III. May be the play doesn't seem very distinguished when you read it, but the screen-version becomes exciting, complex and brilliant. It has the amusing beginning (clever allusion to medieval Shakespearean theatre), heroic main part (without unnecessary battle details) and touching happy ending (the scene of Henry wooing Princess Katharine moves me every time I watch it). Lord Laurence is so noble as the King Henry! You can really feel his inspiration and share his emotions. Whenever Olivier's a producer, it's his habit to focus the audience's attention mostly on the main character. Sometimes I think his selection of plays for filming was determined by the amount of time his hero must be on the stage. Well, to say the truth, it's perfectly justified! There never was and never will be any Shakespearean actor comparable to Laurence Olivier! His performance is superb. In the part of Henry the Fifth he is absolutely fascinating, far above any real monarch in dignity, nobility and attractiveness. In fact the whole film is fascinating and picturesque. Princess Katharine is very charming and adequate, and other actors are well chosen too. The way English actors pronounce Shakespearean text is always more natural and expressive than the way of any other nation's actors, distinguished as they may be. I dare say that Englishmen understand something about Shakespeare that we can't get. Anyone who truly estimates Shakespeare must love this film.
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