Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
November 26
October 9, 1935
A Midsummers Night's Dream premieres in NYC

In 1935, famed Austrian stage director Max Reinhardt (who fled to Los Angeles from Nazi Germany) staged his elaborate version of Shakespeare’s fantasy comedy A Midsummers Night’s Dream at the Hollywood Bowl. The production proved so popular that Warner Brothers hired him to bring his vision to screen. Warner Brothers, known for their hard-hitting (and profitable) gangster films, wanted to branch out into more prestigious fare, and nothing could be more prestigious than the first major sound production of a Shakespeare play. At the time, Variety described it as “ perhaps the biggest gamble ever taken by a picture company or producer.” The studio budget $1.3 million for a 70-day shoot. While Reinhardt would bring to the production his decades of theatrical experience, he also wanted to harness the power of cinema to capture the magical fairy realm. As such he hired a hundreds of extras to suggest the fairy realm. To boost the film’s marketability, Warner Brothers and Reinhardt opted to cast Hollywood names, rather than depend on stage actor. As such James Cagney took the part of Bottom, Dick Powell, Lysander, and most famously Mickey Rooney was Puck. Kenneth Anger, who would go on to be a major experimental filmmaker, was cast as one of the fairies.  The cinematographer Hal Mohr, who devised a new lighting system to handle the dense forests that Reinhardt had designed for the production, won the only write-in Oscar of the Academy Awards history. Yet despite Warner Brothers best effort, the film tanked at the box office, losing more than half a million dollars. And then to add insult to injury, Germany banned the film because the director and film’s composer, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, were Jewish.


More Flashbacks
Casablanca November 26, 1942
Casablanca released

In New York City, stars, including Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, gathered for the premiere of Casablanca.

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November 26, 1993
Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould released

Few knew what to expect from a film called Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould when it opened in New York.

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November 26, 1993
A Life in Fragments

In the same month and year that Jane Campion’s The Piano was released, going on be nominated for 8 Oscars and winning three, a little known filmmaker from Toronto, François Girard, released Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, a bio-pic of sorts about the man that many consider to be one of the world’s greatest pianist. Taking its structure from Bach’s Goldberg Variations, the film mixes short pieces of documentary, animation, narrative (with Colm Feore playing Gould), and performance to throw light on this complex artist. Girard commented that “as Gould was such a complex character, the biggest problem was to find a way to look at his work and deal with his visions. The film is built of fragments, each one trying to capture an aspect of Gould.” The film also helped break open the biopic genre to all sorts of experimentation and transformation, as well as becoming iconic for innovative cinema. In 1996, for example, The Simpsons released their own tribute "22 Short Films About Springfield."

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