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Shakespeare on Silent Film

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  • Page extent: 340 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.68 kg

Hardback

 (ISBN-13: 9780521871990)

Shakespeare on Silent Film
Cambridge University Press
9780521871990 - Shakespeare on Silent Film - an Excellent Dumb Discourse - By Judith Buchanan
Frontmatter/Prelims

Shakespeare on Silent Film

Several hundred films based on Shakespearean material were made in cinema’s ‘silent’ era. What economic and cultural ambitions combined in order to make Shakespeare such attractive source material for the film industry? What were the characteristic approaches of particular production companies and of particular national film industries? How were silent Shakespeare films marketed, distributed, exhibited and received? Through a series of close readings, and drawing upon a wealth of fresh primary research, this engaging account tells an evolving story that both illuminates silent Shakespeare films already known, and brings into critical circulation other little known films not yet commercially available. Subjects covered include nineteenth-century precursors of silent Shakespeare, the film industry’s transitional era, the many Shakespeare films of the Vitagraph Company of America, films of the 1916 Shakespeare tercentenary, silent films of Hamlet and Asta Nielsen and Emil Jannings as the stars of German Shakespeare films of the 1920s.

Judith Buchanan is Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of York and the author of Shakespeare on Film. With a background in early modern literature, she now writes on silent cinema, on literary and biblical adaptation in the cinema, cinematic authorship, bodies on film and cinema’s material legacies. She provided the introduction and voice-over commentary for the British Film Institute’s Silent Shakespeare DVD.


Shakespeare on Silent Film

an Excellent Dumb Discourse

Judith Buchanan


CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS
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Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York

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Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9780521871990

© Judith Buchanan 2009

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2009

Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge

A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library

Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication data

Buchanan, Judith.
Shakespeare on silent film : an excellent dumb discourse / Judith Buchanan.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-521-87199-0 (hardback) 1. Shakespeare, William, 1564–1616–Film and
video adaptations. 2. English drama–Film and video adaptations. 3. Silent films–
History and criticism. 4. Film adaptations–History and criticism.
I. Title.
PR3093.B775 2009
791.4396–dc22  2009006846

ISBN 978-0-521-87199-0 hardback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication, and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.


for Maureen, aunt and friend


I cannot too much muse
Such shapes, such gestures, and such sound, expressing –
Although they want the use of tongue – a kind
Of excellent dumb discourse.
The Tempest

[In these silent films] it struck me that I was witnessing a dead art, a wholly defunct genre that would never be practiced again. And yet, for all the changes that had occurred since then, their work was as fresh and invigorating as it had been when it was first shown. That was because they had understood the language they were speaking. They had invented a syntax of the eye, a grammar of pure kinesis …It was thought translated into action, human will expressing itself through the human body, and therefore it was for all time … They were like poems, like the renderings of dreams, like some intricate choreography of the spirit, and because they were dead, they probably spoke more deeply to us now than they had to the audiences of their time. We watched them across a great chasm of forgetfulness, and the very things that separated them from us were in fact what made them so arresting: their muteness, their absence of color, their fitful, speeded-up rhythms. These were obstacles, and they made viewing difficult for us, but they also relieved the images of the burden of representation. They stood between us and the film, and therefore we no longer had to pretend that we were looking at the real world. The flat screen was the world, and it existed in two dimensions. The third dimension was in our head.

Paul Auster, The Book of Illusions


Contents

List of illustrations
ix
Acknowledgements
xi
List of abbreviations
xiv
Preface
xvii
Introduction: wresting an alphabet
1
1     Shakespeare without words: the nineteenth-century legacy
23
2     Biograph’s pioneering film of King John (1899)
King John (BMBC: W.K.-L. Dickson and Walter Pfeffer Dando, 1899)
57
3     Conflicted allegiances in Shakespeare films of the transitional era
The Tempest (Clarendon, 1908), Otello (FAI, 1909)
74
4     Corporate authorship: the Shakespeare films of the Vitagraph Company of America
Vitagraph’s Julius Caesar (1908), Macbeth (1908), Romeo and Juliet (1908), Othello (1908), The Merchant of Venice (1908), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1909), King Lear (1909), Twelfth Night (1910); Georges Méliès’ La Mort de Jules César (1907); Cines’ Brutus (1910); Thanhouser’s A Winter’s Tale (1910); Film d’Arte Italiana’s Re Lear (1910)
105
5     Pedigree and performance codes in silent films of Hamlet
Hamlet (Gaumont-Hepworth, 1913), Amleto (Rodolfi-Film, 1917)
147
6     Shakespeare films of the 1916 tercentenary
The Real Thing at Last (J.M. Barrie), Macbeth (Triangle-Reliance),Romeo and Juliet (Fox), Romeo and Juliet (Metro)
190
7     Asta Nielsen and Emil Jannings: stars of German Shakespeare films of the early 1920s
Hamlet (Art-Film, 1920), Othello (Wörner-Filmgesellschaft, 1922)
217
Afterword: ‘No tongue, all eyes! Be silent’: performing wordless Shakespeare today
252
Filmography (a) Commercially available Shakespeare films of the silent era (b) General filmography
260
Bibliography
279
Index
299

Illustrations

I.1   Frederick Warde in Richard III (James Keane, 1912)
14
1.1   Magic lantern slides of Ophelia from Briggs’ ‘Shakespeare Illustrated’ series, 1890s
37
2.1   Stills from King John (BMBC, 1899), The Sketch (27 September, 1899)
65
3.1   Stills from The Tempest (Clarendon, 1908)
83
3.2   Pathé advertising poster (1910)
89
3.3   Stills of exteriors in Venice: Othello (FAI, 1909)
92
3.4   Stills of interiors in Cyprus: Othello (FAI, 1909)
97
4.1   A title card and still from Julius Caesar (Vitagraph, 1908)
117
4.2   Stills from the Vitagraph Macbeth (1908) and Romeo and Juliet (1908)
120
4.3   Still from Julius Caesar (Vitagraph, 1908)
122
4.4   Still from Julius Caesar (Cines, 1914)
123
4.5   Still from King Lear (Vitagraph, 1909)
124
4.6   Stills from A Winter’s Tale (Thanhouser, 1910)
128
4.7   Stills from A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Vitagraph, 1909)
134
4.8   Still from Twelfth Night (Vitagraph, 1910)
140
4.9   Still from Twelfth Night (Vitagraph, 1910)
142
5.1   J. Glulick’s charcoal drawing of Forbes-Robertson as Hamlet in the Farewell Season Souvenir Programme
153
5.2   The Play Pictorial (June 1913), front cover
154
5.3   Amerigo Manzini, Ruggeri (1920), front cover
165
5.4   Frontispiece and line-drawings from Gustave Garcia, The Actors’ Art (1880)
176
5.5   Frontispiece and line drawings from Charles Aubert, The Art of Pantomime (1901)
177
5.6   A commemorative postcard of Forbes-Robertson as Hamlet
180
5.7   Commemorative postcards of Forbes-Robertson, painting and relaxing by a fire
182
6.1   Publicity shot of Theda Bara as Juliet
204
6.2   Still from Romeo and Juliet (Metro, 1916)
208
6.3   Still from Romeo and Juliet (Fox, 1916)
209
7.1   Stills from an early film fragment of an unidentified Hamlet
222
7.2   Asta Nielsen as Hamlet, Lilli Jacobsson as Ophelia. Tie-in star card
226
7.3   Stills from Hamlet (Art-Film, 1920)
237
7.4   Stills from Othello (Wörner-Filmgesellschaft, 1922)
244
7.5   Stills from Othello (Wörner-Filmgesellschaft, 1922)
245
7.6   The murder of Desdemona from Othello (Wörner-Filmgesellschaft, 1922)
249
8.1   Paata Tsikurishvili in Hamlet … the rest is silence (Synetic Theater, 2007)
258



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