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February 28, 1960 - Image 10

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1960-02-28
Note:
This is a tabloid page

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

---- x -, - -' ~r -r ~ - - - - -

Broa adway

Pla.ys:

Alas, Poor Yorick!
The New Hamlet Wore Knk

The Industry's Antiquated Film Code
Prevents Effective Movie Productions
Of Some Important Stage Successes
By MARC ALAN ZAGOREN

By KATHLEEN MOORE

ALTHOUGH adapting Broadway
plays into motion pictures ac-
counts for an extraordinary num-
ber of the current releases, the
films which emerge rarely have
qualities satisfying to the more
discerning appetites.
Undoubtedly there are many
reasons accounting for this un-
fortunate phenomenon, but prob-
ably the most important is the
industry's stringent film code
which specifically forbids cine-
matic treatments of sexual per-
versions and immoral relation-
ships. And of course these are the
very themes which appear most
frequently in the contemporary
theatre.
The industry's blatant refusal
to sensitively handle and intel-
ligently discuss this more provoca-
tive material accounts for the
current overflow of diluted pro-
ductions that have been adapted
from some remarkably effective
American drama.
Instead of the studios concen-
trating their efforts on producing
a worthy screen translation, they
appear to aim directly at maneu-
vering the controversial material
without offending the Code. Im-
moralities that should be honestly
and forthrightly discussed are at
best only mildly suggested. As a
result the Code acts to completely
obliterate the original theme.

PROBABLY the playwright who
has suffered most extensively
from the Hollywood treatment is
Tennessee Williams. With the ex-
ception of the dynamic production
of "A Streetcar Named Desire"
none of Mr. Williams plays re-
ceived an adequate screen treat-
ment. Although the adaptation of
Williams' "Cat On A Hot Tin
Roof" was the most successful
financially, it was also the most
disappointing from an artistic
standpoint.1
"Cat" which is endowed with
some of Williams' most exquisite
prose, owes the bulk of its credulity
to its homosexual implication. In
the original Elia Kazan New York
production, the 'alleged homo-
sexual relationship between Brick
and Skipper was not only explicitly
stated but also sensitively treated.
But in the subsequent screen
translation this homosexual im-
plication was insufficiently ex-
plored and, even worse, entirely
camouflaged. For filmgoers who
were unfamiliar with the Williams'
play, Brick's refusal to go to bed
with his very sensual wife ap-
peared inadequately motivated and
totally implausable.
This was further emphasized by
the casting of the virile Paul New-
man as Brick and the highly vola-
tile Elizabeth Taylor as his wife;
Maggie.

UNFORTUNATELY, Williams'
"Cat" has not been his only
play to suffer from the -motion
picture medium. So has Gore Vi-
dal's adaptation of "Garden Dis-
trict" which is currently making
the rounds under the title of "Sud-
dently Last Summer."
The critically - applauded stage.
play contained homosexual and
cannibalistic elements which were
discussed entirely through the use
of Williams' artful dialogue. The
motion picture medium however
decided to carry things a bit fur-
ther.
Instead of restricting the play's
more seamy elements to the effec-
tive dialogue, director Joe Man-
kiewicz attempted to supplement
the work by graphically illustrat-
ing the many perversions present.
Not only was this effect far beyond
the confines of good tasto, but the
resultant images of the homo-
sexualism and cannibalism were
blurred to the point of being dis-
tracting. The end result was a
vulgar adaptation of Williams'
extraordinarily beautiful play.
PROBABLY the most defective
quality in the industry's code
is its tolerance of suggested im-
moral behavior-as long as moral
behavior eventually triumphs and
proper punishment is given those-
(Continued on Next Page)}

Suddenly Last Summer

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ANN

ARBOR

Genuine Imported Bleeding Madras

A poor Yorick! I knew him1
..The dapper young manE
in knickers gazed pensively at the
skull in his hand as he took an-s
other puff from his cigarette. f
Londoners flocked to see this
Unique Hamlet back in 1926. E
Later in the season, New Yorkersr
were greeted with another por-1
trayal of the same "young mod-
ern," stretched languidly on a gold
divan, immediately behind the
footlights. The scene was Hamlet's
"To be, or not to be" soliloquy and,
one critic described it as "a pleas-j
ing picture of a 1926 gold-coasti
undergraduate at Wittenberg in
the throes of contemplation."
A public used to seeing Shake-
speare's infrequent repl-esentations
in the theatre staged in Elizabeth-,
an splendor opened their eyes,
pricked up their ears, and avidlya
watched the tale of a modernized;
Danish Prince unfold.
A few years earlier, England and;
America had been treated to a,
modern-dress version of Hamlet
presented by the German producer
Max Reinhardt, but the accents of'
the actors had been so thick that
the illusion of present-day reality
suffered considerably.
O THE YEAR 1926 was really
the first time big city audiences
had been exposed to up-dated
Shakespearean presentations. All,
in all, an evening with either of
the "Hamlets" was highly enter-
taining, if nothing else. But dress-
ing the tragic character in the
latest fashions, critics felt, had a
definite and not always desirable
effect on the play as well as the
audience.
"The play has been turned into
a sprightly modern piece, a trifle
melodramatic, but never for an
instant boring, and never for one
moment profound," a Londoner
observed at its opening there.
From the United States came
groans that "novelty is allowed to
run rampant," but when our own
production opened in New York
later in the year, reaction was de-
cidedly mixed.
BROOKS ATKINSON, for one,
stood up in favor of the in-
creased opportunity for pertinent
characterizations that such a pres-
entation permits. He especially en-
joyed what was done with Polonius
-"playing in formal and informal
dress of today, with monocle and
closely-trimmed beard, Mr. Law-
ford achieves a splendid character
portrait, fatuous, supercilious,
plausible to the extreme, yielding
nothing to the usual conception of
a doddering old fool, fit only for
the stage."
But another American hit on
the perennial problem that faces
all modern producers of Shake-
speare-one that was (and still is)
intensified by modernizing the cos-
tumes. "No one nowadays goes
about speaking blank verse, so
the most conscious effort of the
players is to keep the speech with-
in the same century as the
clothes."
As Prof. William Halstead of the
speech department pointed out,
actors in modern dress are "almost
forced to use a naturalistic acting
style" for today's audiences to ac-
cept them as moderns. Needless to
say, this approach does not fit the
poetry of Shakespeare's lines, but
Prof. Halstead is quick to add that
"most Americans play him na-
turalistically anyway," so modern
dress in itself is not particularly
injurious to the plays,
THAT IT can be very effectively
employed wasn't illustrated un-
til 10 years after the first Hamlet
productions appeared. By 1936 the
international situation was rapidly
decaying. The threat of war hung

heavily over the world, and a stark
and compelling version of Julius
Caesar was not intended to-ease
any tension viewers might already
feel.
Played on a completely bare
stage with a brick wall for a back-
drop Caesar,. according to Prof.
Halstead, became a powerful "in-
dictment of fascism." Costumes
for the Orson Welles production
were very real military uniforms
and the final touch was added
when an actor with an uncanny
resemblance to Mussolini was cast
in the title role.
"Parts of the play came to life
as I've never seen them," Prof.
Halstead recalled. Much of the
play's compelling drama may have
stemmed from its absolute conti-
nuity. There was no break in the
action or the words for scene
changes, no intermission. Shake-
speare the poet was respected by
Welles; Shakespeare the play-
wright didn't fare so well.
The modern treatment of ty-
ranny "warped the play," Prof.
Halstead noted, and the last half
(after Caesar has been killed by
Brutus and his other "chiefs of
staff") was "cut to ribbons." But
the total effect remained an "ex-
citing theatrical experience." New'
York critics were unanimous in
their praise of Welles' creation-
"an almost-unheard-of state of
affairs," one magazine insisted.
BUT WELLES' experiment has
not been repeated on so grand
a scale since. Every season there'
are a sprinkling of Shakespearean
productions billed as "modern
dress" versions, with costumes
from some definitely recallable or
only nebulously recent period in
history.
Tyrone Guthrie's 1955 produc-
tion of Troilus and Cressida fea-
tured the hobbled skirts of 1913;
the 1957 version of Much Ado
About Nothing had Katherine
Hepburn and Alfred Drake looking
very much at home on a late-
nineteenth - century Texas cattle
ranch.
Both approaches to costuming
were used by Shakespeare himself,
who dressed characters either in
the clothes of the day or in an

ethereal type of never-never land
fashion that was still fairly recog- -
nizable to the audience.
Identifiable but not quite con-
temporary settings and costumes
help the audience establish a play-
er's character at first glance, just
as an actor's motions and tone of
voice add to the total impression
he 'is creating. And this in turn
can add much to the viewer's un-_
derstanding of the social situation
on the stage while keeping the
action more in the realm of make-
believe than actuality.
N Much Ado About Nothing,
Shakepeare exploits the comic
potential of two civil servants,
Dogberry and his assistant Verges,a
whose main job involves locking
up towers at night and arresting
drunks on London streets.
The Hepburn - Drake version
transplanted the two lower class
bumblers onto the Texas range by
equipping them with sheriff and
deputy badges.
The humor was instantly more
obvious to modern American audi-
ences in this context-but Prof.
(Concluded on Next Page)

a

PRESENTED BY
THE UNIVERSITY MUSICAL SOCIETY
Pro grams
Philadelphia Orchestra Throughout
THURSDAY, MAY 5, 8:30 P.M:
Rudolf Serkin, Pianist. All Beethoven program: "Leonore"
Overture No. 3; Symphony No. 7 in a major; and Piano Con-
certo No. 5 (Emperor). Eugene Ormandy, Conductor.
FRIDAY, MAY 6, 8:30 P.M.
Andres Segovia, Guitarist-Concerto in D major (Castelnuovo-
Tedesco); and Fantasia for Guitar and Orchestra, (Rodrigo);
University Choral Union in "Alleluia" (Thompson); Sympho-
nie de Psaumes (Stravinsky); Choros No. 10 (Villa-Lobos);
and Corrido de "El Sol" (Chavez). Thor Johnson,-Conductor.
SATURDAY, MAY 7, 2:30 P.M.
William Kincaid, Flutist, and Marilyn Costello, Harpist. Over-
ture, "Le Corsaire" (Berlioz); Concerto for Flute and Harp,
K.299 (Mozart); Divertissement (Ibert); Variociones Con-
certantes (Ginastero); and "Till Eulenspiegel" (Strauss).
- William Smith, Conductor.
SATURDAY, MAY 7, 8:30 P.M.
Anshel Brusilow, Violinist, and Lorne Munroe, Cellist. Sympho-
ni No. 7 in C major, Op. 105 (Sibelius); Concerto for Cello,
Op. 107 (Shostakovich); Concerto for Violin, Op. 77
(Brahms). Eugene Ormandy, Conductor.
SUNDAY, MAY 8, 2:30 P.M.
Leontyne Price, Soprano; Frances Bible, Mezzo-soprano; Al-
bert Do Costa, Tenor; Kim Borg, Bass; University Choral Un-
ion; in Verdi "Requiem." Thor Johnson, Conductor.
SUNDAY, MAY 8, -8:30 P.M.
Lisa Della Casa, Metropolitan Opera Soprano, in operatic
arias. Toccata and Fugue in © minor (Bach--Ormandy); Sym-
phony No. 2 (Ross Lee Finney); and Suite from "Der Rosen-
kavalier" (Strauss). Eugene Ormandy, Conductor,
Season Tickets: $15.00-$12.00-$9.00-$8,00
Single Concert Tickets: $3.50, $3.00, $2.50, $2.00, $1.50
(On sale beginning March 15)
at University Musical Society
Burton Memorial Tower, Ann Arbor

Julius Caesar in m

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Since 1951

Kathleen Moore, a junior
in the literary college, is a
night editor on The Daily.

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