In part I of this compilation, we enumerated film musicals based on, or inspired by, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and The Taming of the Shrew. To conclude this list, here are some other movie musicals based on Shakespeare’s plays, which you should certainly take a look at:
Film musicals based on, or inspired by, Shakespeare’s plays – Part II
Film musicals based on Othello
Much like Hamlet, Shakespeare’s Othello has not been a favorite source of inspiration for movie musicals, perhaps due to its indisputably sinister subjects. However, a barely known film musical inspired by the story was manufactured in 1974 as a co-production between the United States and the United Kingdom.
The movie received the name of Catch my soul, based on one of Othello’s lines in the original play, and it was a stage-to-screen adaptation of the homonymous rock musical created by Jack Goods. The narrative retained many elements of the original, yet, faithful to the general style of rock musicals from the 70’s –think Jesus Christ Superstar, which premiered the year before- altered them to fit the spiritual atmosphere of the times.
Thus, Catch my soul sees Othello transformed into a hippie pacifist who stumbles upon Iago’s commune and marries the good-hearted Desdemona. In spite of this changes, the narrative does follow Iago’s wicked machinations, and concludes in a similarly tragic ending for the characters.
The critic’s reception was poor, and it received plenty of hostility due to poor dramatic performances, as well as an oversimplification of the tale.
Film musicals based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Perhaps one of the most iconic Shakespearean comedies, A Midsummer Night’s Dream has been adapted multiple times and appeared in a wide range of formats, from operas to ballets. And, of course, musicals. The narrative structure based in numerous misunderstandings has also influenced the romantic comedy, and it’s possible to find traces of it in some of the Rogers-Astaire films.
A more recent film musical loosely inspired by the play is Were the world mine (2008), which integrates A Midsummer Night’s Dream as part of the plot by having the characters work on a staged version of the play. Still, the narrative is quite different from the original story.
Were the world mine presents an openly homosexual protagonist who, inspired by the play, succeeds in recreating Puck’s flower of Love-In-Idleness, and proceeds to use it to turn every other member of his community into homosexuals. Needless to say, chaos ensues.
On the other hand, although not quite a full movie musical –even if it does present a few fun musical numbers-, Get over it (2001) also integrates Shakespeare’s story as a play-within-a-play which is being adapted into a modernized musical called A Midsummer Night’s Rockin’ Eve by some students and their drama teacher. However, things turn complicated, as the romantic relationships between the children are as convoluted as that of the characters in the play.
Film musicals based on Love’s Labour’s Lost
Unlike most of the plays we’ve mentioned previously, Love’s Labour’s Lost is the only one to retain its original name on its film musical adaptation. It was Shakespeare-veteran Kenneth Branagh who directed the movie musical version of the play in 2000 as part of his ill-fated deal with Miramax.
In Love’s Labour’s Lost, the plot remains mostly the same, yet Branagh made some alterations by adding characters, modifying the dialogue, and, of course, adding musical performances. As part of his reinvention of the play, Branagh employed songs from classic Hollywood musicals, and set the tale in the 30’s, thus continuing with the trend of adapting Shakespeare’s tales to modern times.
Unfortunately, the film was received with mixed reviews and didn’t do too well at the box office.
Film musicals based on The Comedy of Errors
Like 2000’s Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Boys from Syracuse (1940), the film musical based on Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, is a mostly faithful musical adaptation of its original material. It’s also the first musical to be based on a Shakespearean tale.
The Boys from Syracuse is a big screen adaptation of the homonymous stage musical, which follows the same narrative of the original play, with two sets of twins estranged and finally reunited after plenty of comical misunderstandings.
The film received two Academy Awards nominations in 1941: for Best Art Direction and Best Special Effects.
Any other film musical based on, or inspired by, Shakespeare’s plays we might have missed? Which one is your all-time favorite?