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Othello (1951)

The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama, History, Romance | 12 September 1955 (USA)
The Moorish general Othello is manipulated into thinking that his new wife Desdemona has been carrying on an affair with his lieutenant Michael Cassio when in reality it is all part of the scheme of a bitter ensign named Iago.

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Cast

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Storyline

Desdemona, daughter of a Venetian aristocrat, elopes with Moorish military hero Othello, to the great resentment of Othello's envious underling Iago. Alas, Iago knows Othello's weakness, and with chilling malice works on him with but too good effect... Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

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Orson Welles' magnificent screening of Shakespeare's immortal tragedy See more »

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Drama | History | Romance

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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12 September 1955 (USA)  »

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Othello  »

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| (TCM print)

Sound Mix:

(re-release)| (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Micheál MacLiammóir (Iago) and Hilton Edwards (Brabantio) were lovers in real life. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Narrator: There was once in Venice a moor, Othello, who for his merits is the affairs of war was held in great esteem. It happened that he fell in love with a young and noble lady called Desdemona, who drawn by his virtue became equally enamoured of Othello...
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User Reviews

 
Has its weak points, but some strong points make it a worthy Welles film
4 March 2002 | by (Saint Paul, MN) – See all my reviews

Orson Welles' Othello is certainly not to be counted amongst the director's best films, which are, of course, amongst the very best ever made, but it's good.

The opening is gorgeous: it begins in medias res, with Othello and Desdimona being carried away, corpses, and Iago being suspended from a castle turret in a small cage. Unfortunately, the adaptation falters all the way until the very end. I can't say that I am any kind of expert on the play, but I know that there is a lot missing. The film moves at the speed of sound, when it really shouldn't. Suspense has no time to brood. The play loses a great deal of its power through most of its run. It's simply dry of emotion for about an hour or more of the 93 minute running time. Most likely, this wasn't Welles' fault. There were a lot of problems on the production, and it took many years to complete it (the credits list no fewer than five photographers), and it's probably the case that not everything was completed by the time they edited it all together.

The pace is the biggest problem. The actors, too, are not strong. Welles himself is great, of course. Unfortunately the character of Othello really doesn't have all that big a part in the original play. Well, he begins to come in more nearer the end, but, as far as the "main character," Iago is it. Until the very end, the play is told from the point of view of Iago. The actor who plays him is decent, but decent isn't nearly good enough. Many of the other actors are weak, too. Cassio, heck, I didn't even know which actor was playing him most of the time. Desdimona is played by a truly beautiful young actress, but she isn't worthy of the role, sadly. To tell you the truth, the only character besides Othello who has a worthy actor in the role is Emilia, Iago's wife, who really, like Othello, doesn't have much to do for most of the film.

So for most of the film's run, we're left to sate ourselves on Orson Welles' beautiful visions. They're great, of course. They are better, however, almost everywhere else in Welles' world. It only beats F for Fake, which can hardly count in this contest.

Fortunately, the film pulls itself together by the climactic sequence. Welles is especially good, both as an actor and a director, in the bedroom scene. There is an absolutely stunning moment where Desdimona's white radiance fills most of the screen. Suddenly, Welles (in black face, of course) turns his face and reveals himself - mere centimeters above her head. I jumped.


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