Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. United Kingdom, 1944. Two Cities Films. Based on the play by William Shakespeare. Cinematography by Robert Krasker. Produced by Laurence Olivier. Music by William Walton. Production Design by Paul Sheriff. Costume Design by Roger K. Furse. Film Editing by Reginald Beck. Podcast: My Criterions. Academy Awards 1944.
Laurence Olivier brought dramatic Shakespeare to the sound and colour screen for the first time, proving that even a historical play done in highly stylized prose could be exciting and entertaining. Its splashy colours and full-blooded performances contribute greatly to telling the story of the English king (played by Olivier) who defeated the insolent French at the battle of Agincourt only to be set upon by a crisis of conscience. Should might make right, and is war always the answer to solving problems between two unfriendly countries? We find out what he learns in the end when he woos the French princess onto his throne. Made near the end of World War II (shooting was often interrupted to watch fighter planes go by in the British skies), it even provides the added treat of showing the first half hour being performed in a recreation of a sixteenth-century theatre, giving a first-rate view of how Shakespeare was presented in his day before the film goes into a more cinematic format. Olivier followed this wonderful directorial debut with two more marvelous Shakespeare films, Hamlet and Richard III. He received Best Actor Academy Award Nominations for all three, winning for his portrayal of the Danish prince.