Internet Shakespeare Editions

Shakespeare in Performance: Film

A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935, William Dieterle)

TitleA Midsummer Night's Dream
Release LocationsUSA
DirectorWilliam Dieterle
MediumColor video
Length2 hrs, 12 mins
Audiencegeneral public
high school
Play ConnectionsA Midsummer Night's Dream (interpretation)


An ambitious Hollywood production that is almost a paradigm for the large-studio production methods of the Golden Years prior to WW II. The star-studded cast includes the biggest names in Hollywood, such as Mickey Rooney, James Cagney and Joe E. Brown. The combination of the director's German expressionism (particularly apparent in the unforgettable ballet sequence when Nini Theilade portrays the coming of night) with Hollywood realism (gangster types like Cagney cast as one of the rude mechanicals) resulted in a curious hybrid that baffled the critics. Fifty years ago none had a vocabulary for coping with such a radical re-representation of a Shakespearean play. At one level the film seemed to be a Hollywood vulgarization, and at another a gigantic tribute to Shakespeare's timeless charm. Hence in its own day the production was alternately damned and praised. Although the film boldly and creatively adapted the play, it was neither quite a critical nor a commercial success. Its poor showing at the box office contributed to Hollywood's growing apprehension about Shakespeare's plays being "box office poison."

Description from Shakespeare on Screen : an International Filmography and Videography by Kenneth S. Rothwell and Annabelle Henkin Melzer. ©1990 Kenneth S. Rothwell. Cited by permission. — Added 2008-11-14

Cast Overview

TheseusIan Hunter
HippolytaVerree Teasdale
OberonVictor Jory
TitaniaAnita Louise
PuckMickey Rooney
EgeusGrant Mitchell
LysanderDick Powell
DemetriusRoss Alexander
HermiaOlivia de Havilland
HelenaJean Muir
BottomJames Cagney
QuinceFrank McHugh
SnugDewey Robinson
FluteJoe E. Brown
SnoutHugh Herbert
StarvelingOtis Harlan
MustardseedBilly Barty
First FairyNini Theilade
Ninny's TombArthur Treacher

Production Team and Crew Overview

DirectorWilliam Dieterle
DirectorMax Reinhardt
ProducerMax Reinhardt
EditorRalph Dawson
ComposerLeo F. Forbstein
ComposerErich Wolfgang Korngold
ComposerFelix Mendelssohn
ChoreographyBronislawa Nijinska
ChoreographyNini Theilade
Adaptor/TranslatorCharles Kenyon
Adaptor/TranslatorMary McCall
CostumesMax Ree
CosmeticianPerc Westmore
PhotographyByron Haskin
PhotographyFred Jackman
PhotographyHans Konekamp
PhotographyHal Mohr
ProductionAnton Grot

Production information courtesy of: Kenneth Rothwell