Henry V (1944)

Genres - Historical Film  |   Sub-Genres - Historical Epic  |   Release Date - Nov 22, 1944 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 127 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Laurence Olivier's Henry V confounded almost every assumption about bringing Shakespeare's work to the screen. In contrast to previous Shakespeare adaptations, it was fresh and lively -- even challenging and daring -- in its presentation and structure; it had fun with its subject, while other versions had been reverent and respectful; and it delighted audiences, scholars, and critics alike, becoming the first screen adaptation of a Shakespeare play to receive mostly enthusiastic reviews and turn a profit. Olivier made his movie in the middle of World War II, convincing the British government of the morale-boosting potential and propaganda uses of a good adaptation of the original play, about an English invasion of France in the 15th century; he then took off for the neutral wide-open spaces of Ireland with the best cast he could assemble from actors too old to be in uniform, a handful of actors borrowed from the armed services, highly sought-after Technicolor cameras, and a script that kept intact the core of Shakespeare's play. The movie earned him a special Academy Award. Equally important in broader historical terms, Henry V paved the way for all other Shakespeare films, from Olivier's versions of Hamlet, Richard III, and Othello through to Kenneth Branagh's more contemporary adaptations.