Monday, October 31, 2005

And Now A Word From My Muse


Helen Westcott as "Cobweb" in the Warner Bros. Production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" directed by Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle [1935]. Cinematographer Hal Mohr is the only "write-in nominee" ever to have won an Academy Award -- for his brilliant contribution to this work.

"Erich Wolfgang Korngold, a brilliant modern opera composer from Vienna, was hired to do his very first film score, based on Felix Mendelssohn’s 1843 music for the play. The cast was a mixture of Ellis Island and Castle Garden, for, in collecting his famous stock company, Warner had unconsciously created a brilliant tapestry of American urban types, a miniature of the immigrant and working class culture he was so inescapably a part of. There was Jimmy Cagney as “Bottom,” from Ireland via Manhattan’s tough Yorkville neighborhood, where he grew up speaking fluent Yiddish and playing exquisite drag roles in settlement house revues. There was Joe E. Brown as “Flute,” an already well-cured ham from the vaudeville and burlesque boards, a Midwesterner who’d first seen the country from a circus train and the outfield of a barnstorming semi-pro baseball team. From Brooklyn by way of Hollywood came 15 year-old Mickey Rooney to play “Puck,” a trouper who’d been on stage and screen since the age of 15 months. Dick Powell’s “Lysander” was a boy singer from Mountain View, Arkansas. Victor Jory’s “Oberon” came all the way from Gold Rush-era Dawson City, Alaska, and the strenuous life of a Coast Guardsman and amateur boxer. As “Hermia,” there was even bewildered Olivia DeHavilland, girlish scion of the British merchant gentry, born in Tokyo and brought to California at age three."

Source: Kevin Hagopian, Penn State University


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