A big thank you to Scott Newstock who, out of a conversation we were having relating to my last post, recommended a great book by Michael AndereggOrson Welles, Shakespeare and Popular Culture. I have quickly consumed this book along with another book by Anderegg, Cinematic Shakespeare. These are both excellent explorations of Shakespeare's role in 20th-century popular culture, a subject that has long interested me.
Cinematic Shakespeare approaches the Shakespeare film as a genre, examing the generic elements that mark it, especially as a specific subgenre of the literary adaptation and the star vehicle. It is wide-ranging and open-minded, covering familiar ground such as Olivier's films and Luhrman's R&J but also lesser-known TV adaptations such as the 50's Hallmark Hall of Fame teledramas and the 80s BBC Complete Plays series (the bane of many a high schooler's existence). Alderegg is generous to controversial adaptations such as Luhrman's, but does not acquit any film entirely, finally leading to the conclusion that while every adaption ultimately falls short of the original play, every film also has something to teach us about Shakespeare.
Inspired by Anderegg, I have committed to a more serious study of Shakespearean film adaptations. I am going to start by viewing the groups of films by the three great Shakespearean actor-directors (Olivier, Welles and Branagh). I am starting with Olivier and going in chronological order, meaning that I am starting, appropriately enough, with Henry V, the play that first led me down this path.