This week and probably many more to come will see Max Reinhardt's "Midsummer Night's Dream" at the Majestic Theatre. On the playbills some credit is given to one William Shakespeare for some work on the script, thus confirming the long-whispered rumor that the Bard of Avon was the first Warner Brother.
Of course the drama of Shakespeare affords limitless possibilities for the new medium, if it only be treated with a little dignity, but Herr Reinhardt's work is a climax of obscenity. The four lovers fill their sequences with hugging and mugging--a procedure which may fit in with "Petting in the Park" but hardly with Mendlessohn; Puck, whom we have always imagined as an elfin creature of some wistfulness and considerable dignity is played by one Mickey Rooney as a combination of an immature Tarzan and Peck's Bad Boy, uttering the most fearsome grunts and growls; Lysander who turns out to be none other than our own Dick Powell needs some more Shakespearean seasoning, and when his voice rises into the higher octaves, he is practically indistinguishable from Mustard Seed and Pease Blossom.
Jimmy Cagney and Joe E. Brown as the clowns are good--at least in comparison with the lovers. Cagney awaking from his dream is one of the high spots of the play, but their sequences do not run smoothly, and they too suffer from their novel surroundings.
The motley parade of Greeks and Elizabethans through Hollywood settings is odd, but no more odd than the whole conception of the film. What was an airy, dignified, wistful vision has been degraded beyond all measure. As an example of the Hollywood-Oriental influence on the English theatre it is supremely interesting, but as a representation of Shakespeare, it is miles off.