Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Tag: Charles Kent

Twelfth Night (1910)

Twelfth Night

This Shakespeare play remains a popular film subject, with its themes of gender confusion and romantic frustration, blended into a safe, comedic resolution. This was its first known film rendering, and it suggests that by 1910 we are moving into a different context for silent film adaptations of classical works. This time, we get a recognized “star” in the lead: Florence Turner, who would be in hundreds of movies during her career, and had appeared as Titania in the earlier “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Moreover, this is the first effort I’ve seen to preserve some of the Shakespearean dialogue by placing it into intertitles, about halfway through the film. This movie also generally preserves the full storyline, although it is much shortened to a length of twelve minutes, and the titles give enough information for an audience with no prior knowledge of the play to follow along. One gets the sense that, rather than simply giving a vignette or snippet of the Bard, it was the director’s hope here to actually render the play in the new medium of film. By modern standards, it may be only marginally successful, but it still seems like a sophisticated use of the technology to present something complete in itself.

Director: Charles Kent

Starring: Florence Turner

Run Time: 12 Min 27 seconds

You can watch it for free: here.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1909)

A_Midsummer_Night's_Dream_(1909_film)

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

You can watch it for free: here (silent) or here (with music)