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  • Since "Shakespeare in Love" made that particular playwright happening and new, check out this, Warner Bros.' wild, expensive, free-wheeling adaptation of "A Midsummer Night's Dream".

    For me, James Cagney makes the movie. He's Nick Bottom, the leader (or so he believes) of a traveling troupe of actors. He gives an invigorating performance--the screen is his. At one point, he gets to wear a donkey's head (if you know the play, you know what I'm talking about), but it doesn't faze him in the least. Cagney, the most energetic screen actor, doesn't let his over-the-top approach mar his skill or care with The Bard's great words. It's the test of anyone wishing to act out a part in a Shakespeare play, which Cagney passes, to "speak" the dialogue, and by doing so, make what might be confusing on the page understandable to audiences on the screen or stage.

    Warner really spared no expense with this production, which I think might have been the costliest of that year. The whole affair is like a dream in every way--it seems to sway in the wind, fragile to the touch. It features Mendolssohn music, soft-white photography (the great Hal Mohr), and some of the most incredible sets and costumes you're likely to see in a 1930s film.

    Nominated for three Academy Awards: Picture, Cinematography and Editing. Bested by "Mutiny on the Bounty" for the first, it won the other two.
  • I came across this movie one rainy afternoon on TV. Jimmy Cagney doing Shakespeare? Surely not! My expectations were, frankly, low. We English are a bit funny about Shakespeare, as you can imagine, and the thought of the dirty rat as one of the bard's greatest comic creations was worrying, to say the least. The whole film is, however, magical. I laughed out loud at the wall joke, even though I knew what was coming, and Roony's Puck was, as another contributor says, probably his best performance. Bottom's realisation that he is now the proud possessor of an ass's head is quite affecting. It's Titania's fairies, though, that make this such a wonderful experience. I have seen this a couple of times since that rainy afternoon, and am always convinced that it will not live up to my expectations. It always does, though. The sheer beauty of the scene where the fairies awake is, as we say over here, gob-smacking. I am sure that this could never be done with such picturesque quality in colour. I had this on tape for a long time, and then I lent it to some eejit who erased it. I scan the listings every week to see if it's on TV, and when it is I shall make sure that it never leaves my possession.
  • artzau2 April 2001
    Thalberg's pledge to give back to the people something good is seen in this project realized 66 years ago. Everyone is acting! No one struts or swains, dying to be a star. The young, superlovely Olivia de Havilland is a gorgeous and fun Hermia in her maiden role. Dick Powell and Ross Alexander as the two Athenian youths confused by Puckish Mickey Rooney Robin Goodfellow are wonderful in their entanglement with beautiful Jean Muir's Helena. The players, Frank McHugh, Dewey Robinson, Hugh Herbert, Grant Mitchell and the wonderful snob's snob, Arthur Treacher are topped by Jimmy ("you dirty rat") Cagney [trivia buffs know he never said those lines except in response to Gorshen and Rich Little's impressions of him at a roast before his death] and Joe E. Brown's Flute. Victor Jory, often cast as a villain is great as Oberon, as is lovely Anita Louise as Titania. There's not a weak spot in this cast and the entire play, in living Black and White, is soft, diffused and whispery as a summer night. Erich W. Korngold's music is supplemented by the exquisite Mendelssohn score and look for a tiny Billy Barty as Mustardseed, one of the sprites. There are other fine ones, the RSC's 1968 and the recent 1999 are wonderful, but, fans, take it from an old Shakespeare buff, this one is an immortal production.
  • montebank24 December 2002
    The movie is dated, true. In fact, seeing 30's Hollywood's version of Shakespearian England's version of Athenian costuming is a delight in itself. But the actors in this rendition are just amazing. Not only is the cast impressive (Cagney, Brown, Rooney, D'Havilland, Powell), but they are doing the roles with the right mixture of buffoonery and dedication to Shakespeare's love of high and low comedy together.

    The casting of Cagney as Bottom was brilliant, his mixture of swagger and obliviousness is perfect, especially when played off of the great Joe E. Brown, who's rubber faced quiet performance is uproarious. Young Mickey Rooney is a wonderful puck, light and athletic, it may be his finest work. The special effects manage to give off the feeling of faerie, without overpowering what is going on. And the weaving of the two stories together works as well as might be hoped for.

    I consider this to be the classic definitive Midsummer's Night Dream films. No other can ever measure up.
  • What?! James Cagney, Mickey Rooney & Dick Powell doing Shakespeare? Yes, indeed, and very well, too.

    This is one of the most magical films of the 1930's. Warner Brothers lavished great care upon it and it glows like the moonlight in many of its most famous scenes.

    The plot is a familiar one to all lovers of Shakespeare. Four desperate lovers steal away into the enchanted forest outside ancient Athens. There they are spied upon by the King of Fairies, Oberon, who is having domestic difficulties of his own with his fair Queen, Titania. Meanwhile, seven intellectually-challenged Athenian rustics have come to the same woods to practice a play they wish to perform at the nuptial celebrations of the local nobility. Puck, the fairy mischief-maker, has a ball causing difficulty for nearly everyone.

    Hal Mohr, the Cinematographer, did a marvelous job. He makes you think he was filming by moonlight. For this film he was awarded the only Oscar ever won due to a write-in vote. The dreamy Mendelssohn music is also used to great effect.

    The entire cast is excellent and the American accents of many of them does no injury to the Shakespearean verse. This was Olivia de Havilland's film debut and she is beautiful. Others include Ian Hunter, Joe E. Brown, Anita Louise, Victor Jory, Frank McHugh, Jean Muir, Hugh Herbert, Arthur Treacher & Billy Barty. Ross Alexander, groomed for stardom by Warners, had his best role here as one of the young lovers. Fame never smiled on him and two years later, relegated to minor films, he was to die a suicide.
  • Max Reinhardt's theatre production, together with William Dieterle's directorial flair, brings Shakespeare to Hollywood. The ideas and effects within this vision are brilliant, although the detail has undoubtedly diminished with the wear and tear of several decades.

    Best in the actors are Mickey Rooney as Puck, and Joe E Brown as Flute. James Cagney is Bottom, Anita Louise is Titania, Victor Jory is Oberon, Olivia de Havilland and Dick Powell are amongst the lovers. All are ok but nothing special. The little changeling is Kenneth Anger, who would later be vitriolic in his book 'Hollywood Babylon'.

    Perhaps the best thing about this film is how it looks. It truly is magical, and you get the sense of fairies and sprites causing mischief and confusion deep in the woods. I have the feeling it would look superb in colour.
  • Though another commentator disagrees, if Rooney is not the greatest Puck you've ever seen, then tell me who is. With all respect to a talented actor, the sad part is that he played his greatest role when he was, what, 14?

    The greatest Shakespeare movie of all time, in my opinion. The dazzling cinematography for its age. The fact that they got the mostly American actors to speak the lines properly. That inspired scene with a fairy jazz band. The special "star spangled" effect.

    The criticism that scenes are overly long is related to a more modern perception of how long a scene should be, and alas, Shakespeare is mostly unmercifully cut (look at Olivier's last "King Lear"--Branaghs "Hamlet" would be an exception). Shakespeare just wrote long scenes. You woulnd't have Juliet on the balcony just say "I love you, Romeo," and disappear.
  • What a wonderful congregation of talent! Newer versions may have color and language easier for the modern ear to understand, but lovers of Shakespeare should make a point of watching this classic! Although sometimes dim and patchy, for its time, this movie contained some very inventive visual effects, effectively drawing the viewer into the fairy world. And, considering the materials of the era, one has to wonder at the time and effort involved in the construction of the fairy costumes and environment.

    James Cagney's portrayal of Bottom, the tinker, shows a seldom seen side of the actor, who is more often remembered for his tough guys and dancing roles. While wearing a full-face donkey head, he was able to convey all the emotions from fright to joy through body language.

    Mickey Rooney's portrayal of Puck, the mischievous wood sprite, showed his early natural talent for mimickry and comedy that would evolve in the coming years.

    Other actors, who were known but not yet as famous as they would be in later years, and stars from the earliest years of film also lent their talents to this picture. Joe E. Brown, Hugh Herbert, Olivia de Havilland, Dick Powell, Victor Jory, Ian Hunter, and many others make this film a true Classic!
  • Early Hollywood wasn't known for its high-brow culture, and this film was an important step in enriching the cinema. The opening titles reveal how proud Warner Brothers were to have done it, and what a production it was indeed: all the top Warner's stars, the best technical support in the world, a top composer of the day in Erich Korngold, ballet choreography by Nijinska, and the highly respected Max Reinhardt as director. You couldn't have asked for more in those energetic movie days.

    And, happily, it works! It's still beautiful, exciting, technically enthralling--and very funny! There are too many great performances to single out even one; but as an ensemble, the "players" are marvelous. No one seems stilted; everyone is right at home; even though most of these individuals hadn't been trained to the classical stage--they were just good! and, incidentally, it just goes to show the timelessness of the play itself.

    Some scenes today seem overlong, and I think someone should have toned down little Mickey Rooney a good bit, but all in all it's a triumph. Midsummer or not, it's a sweet interlude.
  • 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.
  • dch_0007 January 2007
    I don't know why it is so difficult to find this movie on DVD. It should have been already re-mastered and restored, as it has been done with many other movies. I have been told that the Library of Congress has a group or section in charge of preserving and restoring films considered masterpieces. Supposedly, they digitalize both the audio and the image in these films, before transferring them to DVD format. When are they going to do the same with this one? This movie is one of those pieces of art impossible to surpass. None of the other versions have been able to achieve and preserve the fairy-like, unspoiled, Shakespearian atmosphere of this one. This is a real masterpiece.
  • dshsfca23 October 2000
    While the 1999 version is receiving mixed reviews, this classic version with a star-studded cast is delightfully mischievous. Mickey Rooney, a very young boy, has never been better cast, nor delivered a better performance. And despite the dream sequences not always being clearly distinguished from real time motion, one catches on quickly enough. Everyone, even Dick Powell, delivers his lines mellifluously, something that cannot be said for the 1999 version. There's more energy and zeal, more mystery and charm, more color(though B&W) and clarity, despite its age. Remarkable performances under exellent direction work together to make the Bard sparkle, and the film enchant.
  • pjpaix2 February 2001
    Even in these modern times, when it's so hard to suspend our disbelief unless the special effects are indiscernible from real life, this movie will charm your pants off. Give it just the least benefit of the doubt (it was made in 1935!) and it will reward you greatly. And what a cast!
  • A refurbished 'Midsummer Night's Dream' is now available. A 1935 rendering of Shakespeare's play with the 16 year old Mendelssohn's masterpiece as background music. Austrian born theater impresario Max Reinhardt co directed it with German-born William Dieterle a Hollywood filmmaker. The influence of German expression is noticeable, but it takes nothing away from the Bard's fairy tale. A parade of Hollywood stars and character actors parade across the screen with Shakespeare's meter and line as dialogue. Romantic leads, song and dance men, comedians and what ever you would find in a Studio's rooster of the Golden Age of Hollywood Studios. Victor Jory, Tina Louise, Ross Alexander, the young Olivia DeHavilland (still alive at 97), Dick Powell, Jane Muir. Then there the eternal laughter of Hugh Herbert as Snout, the plastic faced Joe E. Brown as Flute, the eternal harassed backstage guy in musicals Frank McHugh as Quince and a trim Arthur Treacher without much to say. The ensemble turns in a stellar performance. But it's the 13 year old Mickey Rooney as Puck that is a wondrous delight as his name implies. His performance is almost matched by Jimmy Cagney as Bottom the weaver who is transformed in an ass. And then there is the eternal play of night and day, the aerie lightness of the fairies and the dark brooding of the Teutonic nights of Oberon. This is a film that 80 years on doesn't creak, but is a surprise to the unsuspecting eye that comes up this version of 'Midsummer Night's Dream'. The play has been brought to the screen many times over, but no version has and can match the Reinhardt production, a savvy fixture of theater and cinema. It should and deserves to be seen!
  • coach2130 December 2003
    There are a number of problems with this production of Shakespeare's classic comedy, but overall, it is a joy to watch. I have always loved the work that Olivia de Havilland has produced, but there are a number of times in this film where she literally screams lines that call for a bit more subtlety. Another problem at least in my mind is that the long ballet sequences lengthen the film unnecessarily. These flaws are easily overlooked though thanks to perhaps the best performance of the play "Pyramus and Thisbee" that I have ever seen. I never dreamed that Cagney and Joe E. Brown could make such an excellent comedic team.
  • Not a way in the world to tell that this was a low-budget fast production of one of the world's most charming plays.

    Tough guy James Cagney as Bottom, member of a crew of traveling Thespians,; Olivia De Haviland, co-star of Gone with the wind, as a beguiling a bewildered Hemria, stumbling abut in he woods in he dark of night...sparkle with fairy dust as Oberon and the Queen of the fairies fight over custody of a tiny fairy prince.

    Though he was not happy in the role, one could not tell that Mickey Rooney, as the unifying character PUCK, was anything but the rowdy sprite who caused the mischief to be performed, to his own running commentary.

    Had Will had such thngs as cameras, film and space, he could have wanted no better a production to result from his own Midsummer Night's Dream
  • Prior to the first time I was privileged to watch "A Midsummer Night's Dream," I had seen a few filmed versions of William Shakespeare's plays, but never could get into them as I knew I should have. After all, this is the greatest author in the history of the English language -- right?

    Then, I got to watch this masterpiece the first time, several years ago -- and suddenly, Shakespeare came all together for me! Great acting, by a mostly American cast, that made the dialogue for a Midwestern Yank like me easier to understand. A bunch of REALLY funny scenes -- especially of James Cagney as Bottom the Ass. Some wonderful music -- no, a LOT of wonderful music. The actors really "got into" their parts -- especially Olivia DeHavilland, just 19 years old at the time (and still living at age 102, by the way). And of course, Victor Jory as the fairy prince -- evil, but fascinating.

    An air of a magical world that was SOOO believable! I think it's just as well that the movie was filmed in black and white, as it would seem a little too "real life" in color.

    Anyway, if you were like me, finding Shakespeare hard to understand and enjoy, you need to watch this movie. It is one of a kind!
  • All playwrights are confined to the physical restrictions of the stage to bring their works to life. But, surely, in dreaming up their stories, their imaginations are not so constricted. If William Shakespeare had lived to see this movie in 1935, I think he would have said that Max Reinhardt had captured "A Midsummer Night's Dream" on film – just as he had imagined it when penning the play in the 16th century.

    Indeed, the technical and production achievements in this film -- from the early years of talking movies, are so great that no one has ever made another movie of the story to rival it. And, there have been more than 40 silver screen and TV productions of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" as of the early 21st century. Shakespeare's comedy fable of romance, love, mythology and early stage life comes alive in this film with lavish sets, marvelous costumes, outstanding special effects and superb cinematography, direction, and editing. Of course, this is to take nothing away from a stellar cast that included some of the best actors and up-and-coming performers of the day.

    The film won two Oscars, for cinematography and best film editing. It was nominated for best picture and best assistant director. Mickey Rooney is fantastic as Puck, the fairy servant to Oberon. Rooney was just 15 when the movie came out, and had been a child actor since age six – appearing in nearly 100 film shorts and pictures before this time. This was the third film of Olivia de Havilland's debut year in Hollywood, and her portrayal of Hermia put her on the road to star status. Bigger name stars of the time gave superb performances. Dick Powell plays Lysander, James Cagney is Bottom, Joe E. Brown is Flute, Victor Jory is Oberon, Ian Hunter is Theseus, Jean Muir is Helena, Grant Mitchell is Egeus, Anita Louise is Titania, and Frank McHugh is Quince.

    The quality and technical achievements in this film were so great that it was many years before anyone even tried it again, beyond the stage. The first TV movie rendition came 24 years later -- in 1959, and the next silver screen rendition came out in 1968 – 33 years after this films. This 1935 film is the benchmark for Shakespeare's great comedy on the silver screen. It's one that's not likely ever to be equaled or bettered. The bard's comedy is there in any good stage production, but this film adds the wonderment of fantasy. The audience sees the spectacle in the sky with fairies that fly. And nowhere is there a wire to be seen or a support revealed. It's as much fun watching this film for the technical and "magical" aspects as for the story itself.

    The 2007 Warner Brothers DVD of this film has a "Vintage Featurette" short that IMDb doesn't have in its vast array of all things film and video. "A Dream Comes True – The Making of a Classical Motion Picture" is a Vitaphone short of 1935 that runs seven minutes. It has scenes of celebs attending the Hollywood premiere of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," and background on the making of the movie. To build the giant forest on a huge sound stage, studio technicians roamed the countryside for trees of unusual shapes. They added waterfalls and rivulets for reality, and brought in birds and animals.

    The short runs through the casting selection of 20 prominent actors cast in lead roles. Rex Reinhardt, the renowned stage producer and director had put the play on in the Hollywood Bowl the year before. It was a huge success, and Warner Brothers signed him to produce and direct the movie. Reinhardt brought Wolfgang Korngold from Vienna to arrange the music by Felix Mendelssohn for the film.

    The electricity for the lighting needed to illuminate the huge forest and set was enough to run a small city. It created a great deal of heat on the set, and the cast "melted" under their heavy costumes. The short shows performers cooling off in front of a giant fan, while Dick Powell treats the children fairies to double-scoop ice cream cones.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Probably my choice for Shakespeare's most overrated play. I actually think this thing is a very dark comedy. It's views on love are twisted and cynical and cute little Puck is a sadistic little bastard. If I were to direct a production it would probably depress people.

    This particular production has great things about it, namely Jim Cagney as Bottom. Brilliant performance and one of the best Shakespeare to screen interpretations I've ever seen. He has such manic energy and excitement which is perfect for the character. The problem is when he get's his ass's head which is painfully fake looking it really takes away from the performance. I suppose this might be an instance where I might crave for CGI but I don't see why every production of this play insists on making the ass head so literal. Some practical make-up effects and a humanized ass head allowing for expressiveness from the actor are sorely craved.

    Reinhardt was a brilliant theatre director and this is really the only thing we have left of his work. It gives us a nice feel of what his production of this play would have looked like theatrically. He seems to really love the close up though and I kind of wished he would move back so it would be closer to a theatrical experience. There are elaborate spectacles with the fairies which are beautifully choreographed and sung.

    My big problem with the film? The Mickster as Puck. A little bit of Mickey Rooney goes a long way. Of course they wanted him in this thing to show how cute he was and hearing his voice go through Shakespeare is irritating.
  • Spondonman31 August 2013
    When I saw this movie for the first time I knew I'd never seen anything remotely like it, well I was 10 years old after all. But over 40 years later that still holds – this is a unique experience, a revelatory motion picture that entertains, educates and manages to inform you who you are too. Are you a Shakespeare or a movie purist or simply someone who can accept nobody and nothing is perfect and that therefore Shakespeare and movies can possibly be complemented or improved upon by later (agreed, exceptional) talent? I read the play a few years later and was entranced but would still prefer to have this gossamer Max Reinhardt masterpiece with me for company on a desert island instead.

    Various young people in Athens fall asleep in wood and various fairies, nymphs and elves come out to play and play the fool with them. It's the relentlessly dreamy and inventive Oscar winning camera work that takes the attention first, but the brave casting of currently popular Warner Brothers stalwarts then takes the breath away. I wish Dewey Robinson could've been given a meatier role! From his er, exuberant performance as Puck I grew up thinking Mickey Rooney must've been a marvellous actor! I always had a soft spot for James Cagney after seeing him in his key role here as Bottom – his tearful realisation of his newly acquired animal magnetism had me transfixed. Olivia de Havilland never looked lovelier when she was being washed by the gleaming arc-moonlight or lying on the gleaming grass. But everyone else was gorgeous too, male, female or otherwise - and I don't care either, I almost wished Dick Powell and Ross Alexander had launched into a croony duet over Hermia! It was Victor Jory's strangest role but he never bettered it. All manner of glimmering glossy shiny tricks were used to promote the astounding ethereal atmosphere, so much so that if I saw the play at the Globe it would probably still look incomplete even if it obviously sounded more authentic.

    Just referring to this film version mainly as a stand-alone piece of entertainment and not as in direct comparison to the play, I can hardly fault it. So I would have to summarise that in the main: We shall not see the likes of this again.
  • Pre-1950 film adaptations of Shakespeare's plays have varied in quality. Some were good and more, especially Laurence Olivier's brilliant 1948 adaptation of 'Hamlet', though that is something to see on its own terms. Others were average or less, with one example being the 1936 film of 'As You Like It', which was very static and stagy and had a badly miscast Rosalind. Had little doubt that this film would be at least above average, considering that the play is one of Shakespeare's best and because the cast is so good.

    1935's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' is a dream. To me it is not just the best screen/film adaptation of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' (bar none), it is also one of the best film versions of any Shakespeare play pre-1950 and perhaps overall. As well as one of the best adaptations of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' full stop, for me only the National Theatre Live and Julie Taymor productions are better though once again as standalones. It has very few if any of the things that other early Shakespeare film adaptations did and is full of magic and entertainment value. It's not perfect, but there is so much to adore here.

    For one thing, the photography is exquisite and the settings and such are very lavish and rustic. The world one is immersed in being truly fantastical. Also loved the use of Mendelssohn's music, the music itself some of his best loved for good reason (and he was only 16 when he wrote it!) and it is used cleverly and tastefully. Korngold's, one of my favourite film composers, contribution is typically lush and rousing without being over-scored.

    The dancing is beautifully choreographed and danced with great grace and elegance, as well as shot and edited in an appropriately dream-like way. The writing is still incredibly funny, without trying too hard, and also beautifully poetic. The story is incredibly charming and told with great spirit, doing nothing to confuse a story that is already quite complicated. The action is opened up enough to not betray stage origins and the atmosphere is suitably magical. The direction is beautifully theatrical, Reinhardt's theatre roots are evident without hurting the drama. The comedy hits the mark, especially with Bottom.

    Most of the performances are great, with two exceptions. James Cagney is a sheer delight as Bottom in a role that is so different to what he was usually cast as and shows that he did have a light and funny side to him. Mickey Rooney's performance has left people more mixed, count me in as one of the people that loved his Puck and consider it one of his better performances. The mischievous energy he embodies is infectious. Olivia De Havilland is a charming Hermia and Victor Jory a sinister, amusing and textbook Oberon. Anita Louise's Titania is spirited and regal and Ian Hunter and Joe E. Brown are very good.

    Only two performances don't come over as well. One is Dick Powell, who is very bland and too earnest. The other is the very irritating Hugh Herbert, who was always an acquired taste and was very take and leave for me.

    Also found the finale on the overblown side.

    Concluding however, great. 9/10.
  • James Cagney does Shakespeare - who'd thunk it? And he does well, though the Cagney stereotypes linger in your mind, esp as he sounds like a Jimmy Cagney the hoodlum, Jimmy Cagney the G-Man...

    Overall, a good adaptation of the Shakespeare play. Some annoying features, especially the kid/fairy, but mostly quite likable.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Say, who is this Shakespeare guy anyway? He had some imagination.

    This film has been on my must see list for some time, and the truth of the matter is because James Cagney was in it. I didn't think his role in the story would be as prominent as it was, but he rose to the occasion quite well considering he had to step out of his more familiar characters as a gangster or tough guy. You had to wonder how audiences of the day reacted to his being turned into a jackass; Cagney himself seemed to delight in the portrayal.

    The other surprise for me here was Victor Jory in the role of Oberon, King of the Faeries. He played the part with a touch of malice and it occurred to me that he was more effective here than in any villain role I've seen him in. Quite comically, his instructions to mischief maker Puck (Mickey Rooney) ran the gamut of unintended consequences for a pair of star crossed lovers, not to mention Cagney's ill fated turn as a pointy eared mule.

    Above all however, I was impressed by the stunning cinematography, costuming and special effects. Quite honestly, for 1935 I can't imagine how the film makers achieved those wonderful sequences involving the flight of the Faeries and those dazzling dance scenes. I realize it was still too early for the use of color in movies, but wouldn't that have been a glorious enhancement?

    The only downside for this viewer was the extended finale that cast Cagney as Pyramus and Joe E. Brown as Thisby. It felt as if the excitement and glamour of the main story had already achieved it's desired effect, so sitting through those final moments felt like a chore to get through to make it to the end.
  • An appreciation for this version of William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is likely to depend on how you feel about seeing the Warner Bros. stars as its repertory company. At the time, the studio's three biggest box office draws were Dick Powell, Joe E. Brown, and James Cagney; and, they receive three of the play's meatier roles. In 1935, Mr. Brown's fey characterization of "Flute" was the film's highest praised. Over the years, Mr. Cagney's boisterous "Bottom" has risen with his in correspondingly increased stature. Most everyone, including the actor himself, has panned Mr. Powell's love-struck "Lysander".

    Efforts to trim the running time couldn't make the film much of a hit, but those who saw it could tell horned teenager Mickey Rooney was going places, though his "Puck" remains an acquired taste. The beautiful Olivia de Havilland's lovely "Hermia" definitely increased her Warners stock. Ross Alexander, Jean Muir, and Victor Jory shine by being less familiar. The film's art/set design and Hal Mohr's photography of such are the film's greatest strengths. But, this is Shakespeare, after all; cinematography shouldn't be the main calling card. Mr. Mohr won an "Academy Award" as a write-in; henceforth, they were forbidden.

    ***** A Midsummer Night's Dream (10/9/35) Max Reinhardt ~ Mickey Rooney, James Cagney, Dick Powell, Olivia de Havilland
  • This is the great Max Reinhardt's only Hollywood film venture and, as such, is a precious gem.

    Here is a rare example of how being dated improves a film. Much in the way it helped Dreyer's "Vampyr," the distance of early cinematography endows "Midsummer Night's Dream" with an eerie, slightly alien aura, perfectly in keeping with an Arcadian fantasy-myth.

    Victor Jory is perfect as Oberon, and the visual effects are the stuff of - what else - dreams. Mickey Rooney's Puck is, however, over the top. Otherwise this "Midsummer Night's Dream" should have rated a 10.
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