Monday, February 12, 2007


Shakespeare a drag? Then you haven't heard Laurence Olivier.

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visaged war hath smooth'd his wrinkled front;
And now, instead of mounting barbed steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers nimbly in a lady's chamber
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.
But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
I, that am rudely stamp'd, and want love's majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail'd of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deformed, unfinish'd, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them...

"The measure of Sir Laurence Olivier's genius for putting Shakespeare's plays on the screen is beautifully and brilliantly exhibited in his production and performance of Richard III... [His] Richard is tremendous--a weird, poisonous portrait of a super-rogue whose dark designs are candidly acknowledged with lick-lip relish and sardonic wit. Heavily made-up with one dead eyelid, a hatchet nose, a withered hand, a humped back, a drooping shoulder, and a twisted, limping leg, he is a freakish-looking figure that Sir Laurence so articulates that he has an electric vitality and a fascinatingly grotesque grace." -- Bosley Crowther, New York Times, 12 March 1956

Up next: Olivier's "To be or not to be" (from "Hamlet") and St. Crispin's Day speech (from "Henry V")


Bill Mitsuru Shimizu said...

i used to watch his movies in the old British Council near Broadway Centrum eons ago.

i don't know kng pg gigibo pa ninda yan ngonian. they have an excellent collection kan mga plays ni shakespeare.

that was my past time then when i was in uermmmc. yung mga plays din pala sa goethe institute kasi malapit lang.

gibbs cadiz said...

same here, MITS! saw 'henry V' for the first time at the british council. :)

beektur said...

good stuff. there's really so much actors can learn from shakespeare. when you can please post the speech from hamlet re: his advice on acting. "Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus, but use all gently; for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say, the whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness..." doesn't this perfectly picture the iwagayway ang kamay" school of acting? how about "O, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings, who for the most part are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumbshows and noise:" visualizing the "ngiwi to death and kunot-kilay hagulhol (lingering close up yet) performances? olivier delivers this line with wisdom. kevin kline performed it on tony's with wit and bemusement.

by the way, just saw the revival of a chorus line and also julianne moore in david hare's the vertical hour." pamela, other friends and i are watching lea in april. we'll see how that goes... :)

Dennis said...

Almost thirty years ago, the British Council had a Shakespeare Film Festival at the Guerrero Theater which afforded us (especially a boy prom da prabins of Batangas like me) to watch the Laurence Olivier in Hamlet, Othello, Richard III and Henry the V. It is interesting to see Olivier's take on Henry (for which he won a Special Oscar) as compared to that of Kenneth Branagh. Olivier's was a call to arms, having been made during World War II. Branagh's was anti-war. The difference is more marked in the St. Caspian day's speech at the end -- Olivier's is rousing and makes you want to take up arms and rise against the French (or the Germans) while Branagh's speech was in the midst of dying and disfigured men mired in mud. But the other interesting thing about seeing all the Olivier Shakespeare's in a week was taking note of the length at which he went to change his appearance (and noses) to match the character -- from the aquiline nose of Hamlet (where he won for Best Actor), to the hunchback with the disgfigured nose in Richard III, to the black Othello, and the nearly saintly Henry.

Speaking of Shakespeares, I had the privilege of watching Ian McKellen in Richard Eyre's Richard III set in pre-world war II Nazi Germany live at the National Theater. (I also saw him in Eduardo de Filippo's Napoli Millionaria which he was also doing at the same time in repertory, and got several chances to ride the elevator with him. I have to admit that I did not know him well at that time, I knew the other Ian -- Holm -- better because of Chariots of Fire. He had just been or was about to be knighted at that time and there was big to do about his being openly gay.) That was another magnificent performance. He did the "Summer of Discontent" speech while changing costumes on stage using only one arm (his Richard III had effective use of only one limb). The scene made its way into the film version, also by Richard Eyre. Pity I didn't get a chance to see Olivier live and in flesh.


Dennis said...

I was in a hurry to press the post button that it was only after reviewing my post that I realized I wrote "Summer of Discontent" instead of "Winter of Discontent". And in case it was not clear, it was Ian McKellen who was knighted and was openly gay, not Ian Holm.

Gibbs, you might want to know that the late Rudy Vidad had in his record collection an LP recording of great speeches from Shakespeare, including performances by Alec Guinness and Olivier, if I am not mistaken. We actully borrowed his recording to include segments in the film "Blue Jeans" by Josy Gosiengfiao.

Such trivia. You really shouldn't encourage me.


Dennis said...

Oh, and did I mention I actually shared elevators with Ian McKellen a number of times without realizing I was in the presence of greatness?


gibbs cadiz said...

BEEKTUR, kainggit that you're watching lea! :)

hi DENNIS, thanks for sharing these with us here. they're a marvelous read--puts things in context. tony mabesa has his wonderful stories too about having seen olivier, gielgud, richardson, etc. in london. hey, since you mention the late rudy vidad, you think there's a way we can still borrow those records? i'd love to listen to them! :)

keep the stories coming, please! :)

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