A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935)

Genres - Comedy, Fantasy, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Fantasy Comedy, Romantic Comedy  |   Release Date - Oct 30, 1935 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 117 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Although it is not without flaws, the 1935 version of A Midsummer Night's Dream is by and large a delight. Given the casting, it's inevitable that there would be some grumblings with this Dream; for one thing, there's an awful lot of Hollywood in here and very little English. But, surprisingly, some of those Hollywood names turn in exceptional performances. Top of the list is the thoroughly delightful James Cagney as Bottom, leader of the mechanicals. His enthusiastic, audacious, ultimately captivating turn brings abundant life to the film and makes one forget that, really, this man shouldn't be so at home with Shakespeare. As one of Cagney's cronies, Joe E. Brown is also a surprising pleasure, making up for the misfire of fellow mechanical Hugh Herbert. An extraordinarily young Olivia de Havilland is fetching and entirely winning as Hermia, and Victor Jory is just about perfect as Oberon. On the down side, there's Dick Powell, entirely out of his depth as Lysander. Most controversial is the Puck of Mickey Rooney, which some find charming and appealing and others find busy and annoying; suffice it to say that while he admirably captures the feeling of youthful and irreverent mischief that is at the heart of the character, he does so in a manner that is often forced. Although the direction is a tad uneven, most of the film moves at a nice clip, and the co-directors create a convincing otherworldly feel to the proceedings. They are helped immeasurably by the sensational cinematography of Hal Mohr, which adds a gossamer sheen to even the deepest, darkest part of the forest and is in all ways magical.