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Old Globe Presents Summer Shakespeare Films

Four films screen for free on select Mondays at Old Globe theaters in Balboa Park

Henry V, directed by and starring Sir Laurence Olivier in 1944, will play at ...

Credit: The Old Globe

Above: Henry V, directed by and starring Sir Laurence Olivier in 1944, will play at The Old Globe on Monday, June 29 at 8:15 p.m. as part of the Globe's summer film series, highlighting the best of Shakespeare on the big screen.

Barry Edelstein, artistic director, Old Globe
Beth Accomando, arts and culture reporter, KPBS


Summer Shakespeare Film Series

"Henry V" (1944)

When: 8:15 p.m. June 29

Where: Lowell Davies Festival Theatre

"Chimes at Midnight" (1965)

When: 7 p.m. July 13

Where: Shiley Stage

"Much Ado About Nothing" (2012)

When: 7 p.m. Aug. 3

Where: Shiley Stage

"West Side Story" (1961)

When: 8 p.m. Aug. 24

Where: Lowell Davies Festival Theatre

It’s summer so that means Shakespeare takes the stage at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. But for its 80th anniversary, the Globe is adding a twist to the Summer Shakespeare season — films.

Artistic Director Barry Edelstein has chosen four film adaptations of the bard's work to screen on four Monday nights over the summer, beginning this Monday with Sir Laurence Olivier’s "Henry V."

In addition to the Old Globe marking a significant birthday, Balboa Park this year is celebrating the centennial of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition and has asked organizations in the park to help join in with the festivities. The Globe's answer was to present the Summer Shakespeare Film Series, four great cinematic adaptations of the bard's work for free.

"This is a wonderful way for us to say, 'Hey, San Diego. Shakespeare is really central to the life of this park and there are a lot of different ways we can engage with Shakespeare and celebrate him, and this is one," Edelstein said.

For the series, Edelstein picked four of his favorite Shakespeare films that display the great range of adaptation, from classic period interpretations to radical re-imaginings.

Olivier marked his directing debut with 1944's screen version of "Henry V." He also starred as King Henry in what Edelstein called a most "dashing performance."

The film, which will be shown this Monday, is Olivier's most cinematically innovative with the movie opening on the stage of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. It then leaps off the stage to huge battlefields that convey the epic tale of Henry V of England, who has grown from the wayward youth of the "Henry the IV" plays to a powerful and inspiring leader.

The film was made during World War II with funding from the British government so the intent is clearly to stir patriotism with Henry's rallying speeches on the eve of battle. Olivier's film marks a distinct contrast to the more darkly nuanced take on the text from Kenneth Branagh with his 1989 film version of "Henry V." The Globe will screen Olivier's "Henry V" on the outdoor festival stage, which will provide the perfect venue for the film's grand battle scenes and epic sweep.

Trailer: 'Chimes at Midnight'

An epic of a very different kind screens on July 13: Orson Welles' "Chimes at Midnight."

Welles was a lifelong lover of the bard and conceived multiple theatrical and cinematic adaptations of Shakespeare's plays. But because Welles fell out of favor in Hollywood, he sadly never had sufficient funding to bring his film adaptations to full life without facing massive financial hurdles.

For "Chimes at Midnight," Welles cleverly stitched together elements from all the plays featuring the bawdy Sir John Falstaff to create one brilliant portrait of the character that played a supporting role in the history plays of "Henry the IV" and "Henry V." Welles has cited this as his favorite film and for good reason. He is brilliant as both Falstaff and as a master craftsman who had to shoot the film on and off for years, and sometimes without sound equipment (dialogue or voiceover would be added later).

The film is a perfect example of how to make Shakespeare come to vivid life on the screen. Do not miss this hard to find film on the big screen.

Trailer: "Much Ado About Nothing"

Trailer: "Much Ado About Nothing"

On Aug. 3, the series serves up a much more contemporary take on Shakespeare: Joss Whedon's 2013 "Much Ado About Nothing." The setting is the present but all the dialogue is Shakespeare's. Whedon financed this on his own and shot it at his own home. The result is a delightful interpretation of the play and features a hilarious Nathan Fillion (a Whedon regular).

Photo caption:

Photo credit: The Old Globe

West Side Story, directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins in 1961, will play at The Old Globe on Monda, August 24 at 8:00 p.m. as part of the Globe's summer film series, highlighting the best of Shakespeare on the big screen.

The film series closes on the festival stage with "West Side Story," a musical that reimagines "Romeo and Juliet" on the streets of New York with the lovers coming from different ethnic factions. The film was not the first to shoot musical numbers on the streets of New York ("On the Town" gets that distinction), but it did so on a grand scale.

Russ Tamblyn and Rita Moreno are standouts. There's not any of Shakespeare's dialogue on hand, but the play — with its focus on gang fighting — shows how resonant Shakespeare's work could be.

The Summer Shakespeare Film Series is proving popular before the first film even screens. Screenings are free but most are already near capacity. To reserve a seat, call (619) 234-5623.

The success bodes well for the Globe mounting another film series in the future. Edelstein says there are at least 30 outstanding film adaptations of Shakespeare, many of them foreign, that he could pull from in the future. So now it's not just the play that's the thing at the Globe but film too.

Here's a list of recommended Shakespeare films.


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