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Turner Classic Movies

All-Night Shakespeare Binging

If you want to do an all-night Shakespeare binge, Turner Classic Movies has it lined up for you over the course of 12 hours starting Wednesday, June 29 and ending past dawn on Thursday. All times are Eastern.

It starts off at 8 p.m. with Orson Welles's 1948 version of Macbeth, starring himself in the title role and Jeanette Nolan as Lady Macbeth. The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) offers a perfectly Welles-like summary of the plot: "In fog-dripping, barren, and sometimes macabre settings, 11th century Scottish nobleman Macbeth is led by an evil prophecy and his ruthless yet desirable wife to the treasonous act that makes him king. But he does not enjoy his newfound, dearly won kingship."

Same year, same-size ego, Laurence Olivier's 1948 Hamlet follows at 10 p.m. It seems a dated and, many critics say, misguided take on William Shakespeare's play, but it did win four Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Olivier (he also was nominated for Best Director). Look for Anthony Quale and Peter Cushing in bit parts.

The fare gets lighter and infinitely weirder with Max Reinhardt's 1935 A Midsummer Night's Dream starting at 12:45 a.m. An adaptation of Reinhardt's large-scale stage production at the Hollywood Bowl (and reviewed on click here), this was Warner Brother's attempt to move from gangster films and romantic musicals to highbrow fare. Thus, the cast includes James Cagney as Bottom, Mickey Rooney as Puck, Dick Powell as Lysander, and Ian Hunter as Theseus, plus the Hermia in the stage production, Olivia de Havilland making her screen debut.

More bizarre casting follows at 3:15 a.m. with the George Cukor 1936 Romeo and Juliet. A lot of effort went into recreating Verona for this MGM film, and then the studio cast 43-year-old Leslie Howard and 34-year-old Norma Shearer, respectively, in the title roles. John Barrymore, 11 years Howard's senior, plays Mercutio while Basil Rathbone does Tybalt (at least he's near the same age as his Romeo counterpart).

If you make it through the late 1940s' and mid-'30s' adaptations, you and the dawn will arrive at a more modern take on the Bard in the hands of Shakespearean genius Peter Brook. His 1971 version of King Lear with Paul Scofield in the title role begins at 5:30 a.m. Other notables in the cast are Irene Worth as Goneril, Cyril Cusack as Albany, and Patrick Magee as Cornwall, who would play Lear three years later in a British TV serial production.

Check your local cable supplier, Dish Network, or DirectTV for channel, or go to

June 27, 2016

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