Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Happy Birthday William Shakespeare!

posted by Nell Minow

It’s Shakespeare’s birthday! Try to talk like Shakespeare. Or check out Turner Classic Movie Channel’s list of their favorite Shakespeare adaptations. Can you name three movies inspired by Shakespeare set in high school? Two that became Broadway musicals? Or one set in outer space?

All of Shakespeare’s plays have been filmed, many more than once. Some of my favorites are:

1. Twelfth Night A shipwreck survivor disguises herself as a man and gets involved in many mix-ups as she finds herself falling for her boss and being fallen for by the woman he has asked her to woo on his behalf.

2. A Midsummer Night’s Dream An all-star cast appears in Shakespeare’s merriest romantic comedy, with the entanglements of three romantic couples and a little fairy dust.

3. The Taming of the Shrew Famously bombastic couple Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor play famously bombastic couple Petruchio and Kate in this raucous battle of the sexes. It is not only the shrew who is tamed.

4. Henry V Kenneth Branaugh’s fierce version of one of Shakespeare’s most thrillingly heroic stories is brilliantly done — and a lot of fun to compare with Laurence Olivier’s very different WWII-era version.

4. Hamlet Mel Gibson stars in one of several great versions of the play about the conflicted Danish prince.

5. Romeo & Juliet and Romeo + Juliet are two sensational takes on Shakespeare’s most famous love story.

6. The Merchant of Venice Al Pacino plays Shylock in the story of a money-lender driven to revenge by the defection of his daughter. Lynn Collins is luminous as the heroine Portia.

7. As You Like It Another woman-disguised-as-a-man story and another lovers-in-the-forest story — but this time transplanted by the film-makers to Japan in a very colorful production with a radiant Bryce Dallas Howard as Rosalind.

8. Macbeth Orson Welles’ version of the Scottish play is arresting and provocative.

9. The Tempest I’m still waiting for a worthy version of my favorite Shakespeare play, but until that happens, this version of the story of the shipwreck survivors on an island with a sorcerer and his daughter is worth seeing.

10. Shakespeare in Love This multi-award winner makes no pretense of historical accuracy but it is wise, exciting, and ravishingly romantic.



  • jestrfyl

    O man – I forgot to get him a card! Do you suppose I could send an e-card?
    I also like the Tempest – early sci/fi. It would be fun to do this well. CGI could make it quite possible. But the role I have always wanted to play is Falstaff – a man of significance in appetite and proportion. Alas, I am left to play a feeble shadow of Brother Lawrence (what, no “West Side Story”?)
    “Shakepeare in Love” is an extraordinary film, worth the attention it received.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shakespeare Annapurna Moffatt

    According to Wikipedia, April 23rd was his death date (1616)–he was baptized on April 26th, 1564 (actual DOB unknown). He’d be 445 this year.

  • Tim1974

    I remember reading Macbeth and wondering what if there was a movie which followed the script exactly. With the brutality and cruelty would it earn an NC-17 rating or fall into the genere of things like “Friday the 13th ?” If the director wanted to make things visual and not implied it would certainly be very disturbing, at least to me anyway. A strange play which has stayed in my mind. Maybe the mental pictures which I envisioned while reading were worse than what could have been shown. Anyway, happy birthday Will !!!!

  • Wendy

    Julie Taymor has directed a version of The Tempest that may be promising. Helen Mirren is playing a female Prospero character. IMDB says it is in post-production. I look forward to seeing if it will get any sort of theatrical release. Her Titus based on Titus Andronicus is fascinating if a bit disturbing, but the source material on that one is highly disturbing. I’d like to see The Tempest as a true comedy/romance rather than the drama it seems to have become in the last few decades (though I have a fondness for The Forbidden Planet).

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks for the great comments! We don’t know the correct date of Shakespeare’s birth — and the calendar was different, anyway — but it is celebrated on April 23rd. Tim, as Wendy notes, Titus Andronicus is even more brutal than Macbeth. One guy chops his rival’s children into bits and feeds them to him in a pie! The movie version is very graphic.
    Wendy, I will look forward to Taymor’s Tempest! Anything she does is going to be visually arresting.

  • Toby C

    I don’t enjoy reading Shakespeare, but I can’t deny the power of his stories, which is why I love most of the film adaptations I’ve seen. My personal favourite would have to be Roman Polanski’s Macbeth. There was an Australian update of it made in 2006 using the original dialogue set in the Melbourne ganglands. It’s not brilliant, but it’s worth checking out.
    My favourite Shakespeare update is the ShakespeaRe-told version of Much Ado About Nothing, which put Beatrice and Benedick as bickering news anchors, much like Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton on Back to You. I also like 10 Things I Hate About You and Michael Almareyda’s Hamlet – I know what you think about it, but at least the attempts to make the original dialogue work aren’t as lame as making “sword” and “rapier” the brand-names of handguns.
    I also love the Doctor Who episode “The Shakespeare Code” features a hilarious running gag where the Doctor quotes Shakespeare’s plays to him before he’s written it.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    A great comment, Toby! I like “10 Things I Hate About You” — Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger really are terrific and have great support from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Alison Janney. The “Hamlet” you refer to is more uneven in my view, but Liev Schreiber makes a great Laertes.

  • jestrfyl

    Somehow, at some point, I expect Terry Gilliam to do a challenging but rewarding version of the Tempest. Forsooth, Of all the Bard’s plays, I think this might be the one most worthy of film and all of its possibilities.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Oh, what a spectacular idea! It’s my favorite Shakespeare play and Gilliam would bring such visual imagination to it.

  • jestrfyl

    Shall we ring Mr Gilliam up and let him know what he will be doing next? Any suggestions to make regarding the lead roles?

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    What a delightful question! Maybe Michael Gambon as Prospero, Zooey Deschanel as Miranda, Sean Penn as Caliban, Matthew Goode as Ferdinand, Paul Bettany as Ariel, Paul Giamatti as Trinculo?

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