Production Company: Warner Bros.
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Top Billed Actors: James Cagney, Dick Powell, Ian Hunter
Won 2 Oscars:
Best Cinematography - Hal Mohr
Best Film Editing - Ralph Dawson
Nominated for 2 more:
Best Assistant Director - Sherry Shourds
Plot: I don't even know.
Another highly acclaimed aspect of the movie is the music. Erich Wolfgang Korngold arranged a wondrous score of Felix Mendelssohn's music for the 1843 play. The use of the iconic Wedding March and the overture gives the movie great atmosphere. The melodies are not only recognizable, but serve the plot in many different ways. The music also goes hand in hand with the competent ballet choreography. The aforementioned cinematography is also a standout aspect. The glittering effects and shrouding fog in the fantastical forest scenes are visually stunning. It's a wonder that this movie wasn't officially nominated for this category.
Unfortunately, the praise ends at the music and camerawork. The adaptation of Shakespeare's play may be faithful, but it does not sit well with me. The acting is dated, awkward and overdone to a point of my face being in a constant grimace. The overenthusiastic James Cagney is irritating when he plays his Bottom character and when he is in the dreadful-on-purpose play for the Duke during the conclusion. His amateur acting cohorts are also abominable, with one character laughing at anything and everything. Nobody stands out in the group of four lovers, which includes a seemingly unanimous view that Dick Powell was miscast. However, Mickey Rooney takes the cake for the most annoying and appalling performance of the bunch. He was fourteen years old during the filming of the picture, but the character would best be served by a boy who wasn't smack dab in the middle of puberty. The character is an impish, barbaric jester for the fairy king and is meant to be somewhat cute. Rooney hams it up, cracking voice and all, and each and every scene is unbearable to get through. Couple these awful performances with a plot that is directionless and confusing to comprehend, and we get a rare Best Picture clunker.
Overall, the production design of the forest and the classic Mendelssohn music cannot redeem the dated and over-the-top performances by the Warner Bros.' actors. This film may have resonated with audiences of the mid-1930's and I appreciate that it exists, but by today's standards it totally fails.
My Score: 4/10