Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Indiegogo Video: 'Dear White People' Breaks Domestic Box Office Record for a Crowdfunded Film Indiegogo Video: 'Dear White People' Breaks Domestic Box Office Record for a Crowdfunded Film These Films & TV Series Are Leaving Netflix's Streaming Library at the End of This Month (January) These Films & TV Series Are Leaving Netflix's Streaming Library at the End of This Month (January) Say Hello to the Cast of the All-New, All-Female 'Ghostsbusters' movie Say Hello to the Cast of the All-New, All-Female 'Ghostsbusters' movie Review: Nuance-Deprived "Race" Movie 'Black or White' is Actually About White Frustration (Opens Friday) Review: Nuance-Deprived "Race" Movie 'Black or White' is Actually About White Frustration (Opens Friday) Trailer: Musical Take on the Gospel According to John the Apostle w/ a Black Cast (Harry Lennix, Chaka Khan, Mali Music, More) Trailer: Musical Take on the Gospel According to John the Apostle w/ a Black Cast (Harry Lennix, Chaka Khan, Mali Music, More) ABC Picks Up New Pilot From Shonda Rhimes' Shondaland Titled 'The Catch' ABC Picks Up New Pilot From Shonda Rhimes' Shondaland Titled 'The Catch' First 'Fantastic Four' Reboot Trailer Surfaces! Watch It Now! First 'Fantastic Four' Reboot Trailer Surfaces! Watch It Now! Review: 'Girlhood's' Strength Lies in Its Naturalistic Depiction of Young Female Friendship (Opens Friday) Review: 'Girlhood's' Strength Lies in Its Naturalistic Depiction of Young Female Friendship (Opens Friday) Ava DuVernay & David Oyelowo Make It a Trifecta as They Re-Team for Katrina-Set Love Story/Murder Mystery Ava DuVernay & David Oyelowo Make It a Trifecta as They Re-Team for Katrina-Set Love Story/Murder Mystery Review: Lifetime's 'With This Ring' - So What Did You Think of It? Review: Lifetime's 'With This Ring' - So What Did You Think of It? Review: Nzingha Stewart Guides Lifetime's 'With This Ring' (Premieres Saturday, January 24th) Review: Nzingha Stewart Guides Lifetime's 'With This Ring' (Premieres Saturday, January 24th) Here Are 10 Reasons Why Many of You Aren't Going to Movie Theaters Anymore, According to a New Study Here Are 10 Reasons Why Many of You Aren't Going to Movie Theaters Anymore, According to a New Study 'Empire' Breaks Fox TV’s 22 Year Old Ratings Record 'Empire' Breaks Fox TV’s 22 Year Old Ratings Record Alexandra Shipp Has been Cast as Storm in 'X-Men: Apocalypse' Alexandra Shipp Has been Cast as Storm in 'X-Men: Apocalypse' An Open Letter to My Sister, Ava DuVernay An Open Letter to My Sister, Ava DuVernay 'Supremacy' Director Deon Taylor Talks Race, Horror, and Working With Lela Rochon (LAFF Premiere) 'Supremacy' Director Deon Taylor Talks Race, Horror, and Working With Lela Rochon (LAFF Premiere) Macy Gray, Bryshere Y. Gray (aka Yazz The Greatest) Will Have An Affair In Lee Daniels' 'Empire' Macy Gray, Bryshere Y. Gray (aka Yazz The Greatest) Will Have An Affair In Lee Daniels' 'Empire' It's A 'Hustle & Flow' Reunion! Taraji P. Henson Joins Terrence Howard In Lee Daniels' 'Empire' It's A 'Hustle & Flow' Reunion! Taraji P. Henson Joins Terrence Howard In Lee Daniels' 'Empire' Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie...

'Othello' w/ Laurence Fishburne On Warner Archive DVD This Week (But He Wasn't The First...)

Shadow and Act By Sergio | Shadow and Act January 23, 2013 at 6:56PM

The 1995 film version of William Shakespeare's Othello didn't light the box office on fire and was quickly forgotten as soon as it came out.
4
Othello

The 1995 film version of William Shakespeare's Othello didn't light the box office on fire and was quickly forgotten as soon as it came out.

Not that it's a bad film, but it seems to lack the certain spark necessary to make a classic. But when it came out, it was considered quite important, since it was declared to be the first time that a black actor, Laurence Fishburne, played the role in a film version of the play, along with Kenneth Branagh as Iago, and Irene Jacob as Desdemona.

Until then, of course it was always white actors in blackface, like Lawrence Olivier or Orson Welles in the part. However, the thing about this is that it wasn't exactly true.

There had been other black actors who had played Othello in earlier film productions, though those were smaller films, made outside the Hollywood mainstream, so in many people's eyes they didn't exist.

First there was Yaphet Kotto who played the role in an independently made film version of the play in 1980; and the next year, in 1981, William Marshall (forever to be in Blaxplotation glory as Blacula) played the role in a over 3 hour long, complete indie production that was released on video and DVD. Though there's no information on if it was ever shown in theaters anywhere or on television.

And of course there's the infamous "lost" film version starring and directed by Ted Lange. Yes that's right, Ted Lange.  The same guy who played Isaac the Bartender on the 1970's TV classic ABC's The Love Boat.  It was his long-time dream project and he actually got it made and released it in some theaters in 1989, but the film hasn't been seen since then. 

And then if we're talking about Othello inspired films, there's Richie Havens who played an Othello-type role in a rock musicial film version of Catch My Soul, which I wrote about recently HERE.

And then there's the 1962 British film All Night Long which is a jazz version of the story with Paul Harris, playing a jazz musician married to a white singer who a jealous drummer rival wants to sign up for his group, and convinces Harris that his wife is cheating on him. (The film is shown from time to time on Turner Classic Movies)

But getting back to Fishburne's Othello, one of the main problems with the film, which was the cause of much criticism at the time, was with the ruthless cutting down of Shakespeare's text.

Granted most of his plays are rather long, so some editing is necessary for a film version, unless audiences want to sit though four-hour-long movies like Branagh's own (and actually really excellent) 1996 film version of Hamlet.  But in the case of Fishburne's film, it is rather extreme, retaining only about a third of the play's original text. 

The director of the film, Oliver Parker, who also did the screenplay adaptation, defended the severe editing, saying he did it because he "thought it would be interesting to make it more of a punchy, pacy number.

Unfortunately the editing actually takes a serious toll on Shakespeare's words, removing a lot if its poetic flow, and much of the characters' motivations.

However, if you want to see Fishburne give it a go as Othello, now you can, since, starting this week, it's available through Warner Home Video's very successful DVD-on-demand label  Warner Archive.

Below is a clip from the film, and for your amusement, Olivier from his 1966 film version, and Anthony Hopkins from a 1981 BBC TV production - both who ham it up like crazy.

What is it about the role that makes actors go off the rails?


Shadow & ActNewsletter