Full disclosure: I love William Shakespeare and have since high school, when I read Romeo & Juliet and saw the (1968) movie. In college my advisor was a Shakespearean scholar. I own a copy of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare and have read or seen most (?) of them. One of Shakespeare's friends was named Richard Burbage, the lead actor of his troupe. It is usually assumed that he was the first actor to portray not only Hamlet but also King Lear and Othello, among other characters. So I sometimes wish I knew for sure that we were related. I like to think that we are.
Hamlet is a story about a man who initially cannot make up his mind as to what he should do. When he does decide on a course of action, he has to pretend to be crazy in order to hide his true ambitions. So as an actor it is a plum role. You are a man in mourning in Act One, you have to argue with yourself to decide what and who you believe in Act Two, you have to act crazy (or, perhaps, act on your insanity) in Act Three, you have to connive against your enemy in Act Four, and then you have to face the consequences of your actions in Act Five. So there is a lot of emoting to be done, and as an actor you are in the vast majority of the scenes. However, if you are not a likeable presence with a strong attraction to the audience your self-loathing and indecision becomes not tragic but annoying. You're not musing, you're whining. You're not plotting, you're confused. See where I'm going with this?
The actual play has been clocked at running 4 hours, but the film is only two, so there were quite a lot of things cut. The only thing I noticed, however, was the editing out of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two friends of Hamlet's whom Claudius uses in his plot to kill Hamlet.
There's a lot of fog in Denmark.
The set was impressive. However, how many times did we have to see stairwells, walls, windows, and halls in the castle? The huge room where Act Five is set was stupendous, but the rest seemed like just so many stages with tapestries on the walls.
wastes time. It would have been just as good if Horatio had come to Hamlet and told him that he had scene the ghost of the dead king....which is what happens, anyway!
Olivier as Hamlet seems old. He was born in 1907, which means he would have been about 40 here and, unfortunately, he looks it. Jean Simmons, who played Ophelia, was actually twenty years younger than he. Hamlet is supposed to be a young man, so right from the start I had trouble believing him in the role. His dyed-blonde locks didn't help, and their scenes together don't gel whatsoever. She played sufficiently crazy as the pawn between her father and the King and Hamlet, though.
*Academy Award Best Picture of 1948*
Produced and Directed
by Laurence Olivier
by Laurence Olivier
Based on the play by William Shakespeare
In lieu of a trailer, here is all you need to know about Hamlet.
(in alphabetical order)
The Red Shoes
The Snake Pit
The Treasure of the Sierra MadreI have seen Johnny Belinda, which is a melodrama about a deaf-mute woman who is raped and believed to be an idiot by the towns-people but who is actually smarter than most of them. Jane Wyman, who had co-starred with Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend, won Best Actress for her role It's a great role, but not a great film. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is the John Huston film that won Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor (Walter Huston, John's father). Humphrey Bogart is at his best at being bad as a drifter in Mexico who happens to hit it rich. If you have never seen this movie, you should see it. Unfortunately, the movie did not win; in my opinion, it should have. This is one of the few times that Best Picture and Best Director were not for the same film. This was a great year for John Huston, though, who also directed Claire Trevor in Key Largo to her Best Supporting Actress award. As for the other two, I had never even heard of them before doing research for this article. The Red Shoes is a British film about ballet. The Snake Pit is a film with Olivia de Havilland as a woman stuck in an insane asylum with no idea why she is there. Evidently it helped push for reformations of institutions after it was made.