A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1909)
This is the first American attempt to interpret Shakespeare that I know about. Unlike the ambitious British efforts I’ve reviewed before, they took Shakespeare’s lightest, most accessible comedy, and gave it a child-friendly treatment. At just over 11 minutes long, it doesn’t get into a lot of the plot complications, and there’s no effort at all to utilize Shakespearean language for the intertitles. Each scene begins with a forward-facing intertitle to tell the audience how to interpret the action, albeit the first one that sets the action is rather complicated (as is the plot of the play, if you think about it). The static camera frames everything in long-shots, and most of the characters are hard to tell apart, although Bottom is quite memorable and over-the-top, as he should be (he also has about the least convincing ass’s head I’ve ever seen). Puck, the fairie, gets most of the effects (and also the skimpiest outfit), which are generally simple appearances and disappearances, with one flying scene that reminded me of “The Dream of a Rarebit Fiend.” Again, I’m inclined to read this as being intended for an audience that was either already familiar with the play, or as an introduction for younger viewers that showed them the light side of Shakespeare without the heavy language.
Directed by: Charles Kent, J. Stuart Blackton
Starring: Willaim V. Ranous, Maurice Costello
Run Time: 11 Minutes