Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sir Laurence Olivier as Orlando, in As You Like It, in 1937

I love when I find things. I had no idea that Sir Laurence Olivier's first Shakespearean role was Orlando in As You Like It. I think there's probably a debate about that claim - do we mean his first filmed role? - but either way, thanks Amazon!

I absolutely love some of the perspective that time brings (this being 1937!):

* Sir Laurence is listed as nothing more than "with Laurence Olivier", among others. Not even a starring role.

* The "treatment suggested by" J. M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan. Barrie died in 1937, so I'm not sure whether this movie came out while he was still alive or if that credit was in honor of his contribution.

Unfortunately, the 2 minute free preview is all credits, we don't get to see Olivier at all. I think I'll probably rent this, I'm just going to avoid it for now because I'm at work and if I do hit the button I won't be able to stop myself from watching it at my desk :).


Jon said...

Definitely "first filmed Shakespeare role." I seem to remember that his absolute first S. role was Juliet (ah, those British boys' boarding schools!).

It's an odd movie, very different from the famous 1940s-50s trilogy. The director and "muscle" in the production was Paul Czinner (later to be associated primarily with filmed opera), and the star was definitely his wife Elisabeth Bergner. Olivier was definitely "just another actor" in movies during this period (he himself was always frank about giving William Wyler, in Wuthering Heights, the credit for teaching him how to act for the camera -- and that was 3 years after this film, about which Olivier was thoroughly embarrassed later in life).

AYLI used to turn up on TV late-movie slots from time to time; that's how I remember encountering it. One can see why Bergner was popular at the time; she's charming and likable. But it's the wrong kind of charm for Rosalind -- coquettish, fluttery -- and the German accent surrounded by native speakers is just about fatal. It's also a very obvious early-talkies studio production, with a lot of hearty galumphing.

The music, quite coincidentally, is a link to the later Olivier Shakespeare films: it's by William Walton.

Ed said...

Ditto, Jon. Bergner is charming and all, but she's like a Teutonic Glinda the Good Witch. The movie itself is alive with sheep and rural folk. It always reminds me of "March of the Wooden Soldiers" with a bigger budget. Maybe it should have been scored by Victor Herbert.