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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: February ::
Re: Barrymore
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0259  Saturday, 5 February 2001

[1]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Friday, 02 Feb 2001 09:30:19 -0800
        Subj:   SHK 12.0243 Re: Shakespeare Silents on Video

[2]     From:   Stephen Michael Buhler <
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        Date:   Friday, 2 Feb 2001 12:33:00 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0243 Re: Shakespeare Silents on Video

[3]     From:   Douglas M Lanier <
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        Date:   Friday, 2 Feb 2001 16:48:56 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   RE: Shakespeare in silent film


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Friday, 02 Feb 2001 09:30:19 -0800
Subject: Re: Shakespeare Silents on Video
Comment:        SHK 12.0243 Re: Shakespeare Silents on Video

There is a complete list and discussion of all John Barrymore's film and
radio Shakespeare work in Michael Morrison's excellent *John Barrymore,
Shakespeare Actor,* Cambridge, sorry, but I don't remember the year.
Around 1997.

BTW, Paul, there is a surviving screen test for Hamlet.  Very sad.
Barrymore was drunk when he made it.

Mike Jensen

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephen Michael Buhler <
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Date:           Friday, 2 Feb 2001 12:33:00 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 12.0243 Re: Shakespeare Silents on Video
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0243 Re: Shakespeare Silents on Video

Douglas Lanier (Hi, Doug!) is rarely mistaken on such matters, but the
speech recited by John Barrymore in *Playmates* is taken from Hamlet's
"To be or not to be" soliloquy.  The film overall is a fascinating mess:
Barrymore plays himself or, rather, his public persona--complete with
tax woes that, here, force the actor into a collaboration with Kay Kyser
(he of radio's College of Musical Knowledge).  The attitudes toward
Shakespeare ("Tough stuff to peddle these days," notes one character)
are deeply mixed, as southern U. S. accents speaking the lines and
Barrymore's snobbery toward those accents are both treated as comic
material.  It's in the context of Barrymore supposedly coaching Kyser in
the delivery of verse that the passage from *Hamlet* is heard--and the
movie's tone briefly changes.

Barrymore prefaces the recitation by saying "It's been a long time,"
recalling not only his 1920s appearances in the role but also the series
of unsuccessful screentests and negotiations for a film version of the
play in the early years of the subsequent decade.  Given his self-parody
as a ham actor, Barrymore surprisingly utters the excerpt in a quiet,
underplayed manner.  The onscreen audience, Kyser and members of his
band, listen respectfully and applaud with enthusiasm.  It's a moving
scene--if calculatedly so--in allowing Barrymore to express regret that
his Hamlet was not fully recorded (or translated) for the screen.

Regards,
Stephen M. Buhler

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[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Douglas M Lanier <
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Date:           Friday, 2 Feb 2001 16:48:56 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        RE: Shakespeare in silent film

One correction to my last post on Barrymore films on video:  Barrymore's
oration in PLAYMATES is the "to be or not to be" soliloquy from HAMLET,
not Marc Antony's funeral oration.  Barrymore offered the funeral
oration in the same year as PLAYMATES in a radio broadcast, but not on
film.

Cheers,
Douglas Lanier

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