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Othello (1951)

The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama, History, Romance | 12 September 1955 (USA)
The Moorish General Othello is manipulated into thinking that his new wife Desdemona has been carrying on an affair with his Lieutenant Michael Cassio when in reality, it is all part of the scheme of a bitter Ensign named Iago.

Director:

Orson Welles

Writer:

William Shakespeare (play)
Reviews
1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Essay film shot for TV including Orson Welles reflections on Othello close to the Moviola, a chat with Hilton Edwards and Micheál MacLiammóir and fragments of a conversation with the audience in Boston after a screening of the film.

Director: Orson Welles
Stars: Orson Welles, Micheál MacLiammóir, Hilton Edwards
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Micheál MacLiammóir ... Iago
Robert Coote ... Roderigo
Orson Welles ... Othello
Suzanne Cloutier ... Desdemona
Hilton Edwards ... Brabantio
Nicholas Bruce Nicholas Bruce ... Lodovico
Michael Laurence Michael Laurence ... Cassio
Fay Compton ... Emilia
Doris Dowling ... Bianca
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Storyline

Desdemona, daughter of a Venetian aristocrat, elopes with Moorish military hero Othello, to the great resentment of Othello's envious underling Iago. Alas, Iago knows Othello's weakness, and with chilling malice works on him with but too good effect. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Orson Welles' magnificent screening of Shakespeare's immortal tragedy See more »

Genres:

Drama | History | Romance

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Italy | USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

12 September 1955 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Othello See more »

Filming Locations:

Mogador, Morocco See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$6,010, 27 April 2014

Gross USA:

$28,980

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$28,980
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (TCM print)

Sound Mix:

Dolby (re-release)| Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Orson Welles provides the voice for much of Roderigo's dialogue. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Narrator: There was once in Venice a moor, Othello, who for his merits is the affairs of war was held in great esteem. It happened that he fell in love with a young and noble lady called Desdemona, who drawn by his virtue became equally enamoured of Othello...
See more »

Alternate Versions

This film by Orson Welles, was 'restored' by a group in Chicago in 1991/2. The film was transferred to, and enhanced in video, (D1 format) retaining it as black and white. The audio was completely rebuilt, including the score, in Stereo Surround. All dialogue, however was original. This was a problem as some of the dialogue was distorted and unintelligible. John Fogelson, editor, was a major supervisor of the project. Ed Golya, Lorita DeLacerna, and Steve Wilke, were digital editors. And Ed Golya remixed the soundtrack. The process took 9 months. It was purchased for distribution by Castle Hill, and taken to New York where it went through another transformation before release. Unintelligible dialogue was replaced with 'sound-alikes'. This decision was made for the entertainment value of the film. The original mono music was then reintroduced into the final product. Basically, the film was retransferred, and the rebuilt sound effects tracks were added. This was done at Sound One, in NYC.. The credits were adjusted to place Lee Dickter (sp?) as Re-recording Mixer, and Ed Golya as Sound Effects Editor. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (2010) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Welles' images match the beauty of Shakespeare's language
3 January 2006 | by EddieKSee all my reviews

Considerable controversy has surrounded the 1992 restoration and re-release of Orson Welles' "Othello." First, the film was wrongly labelled a "lost classic" - not technically true, as Welles aficionados will realize. More seriously, the restoration crew (under the aegis of Welles' daughter, Beatrice Welles) re-synced the dialogue and re-recorded the musical score - an abomination to Welles purists. While it would have been preferable to adhere to Welles' vision for the film, such an endeavor becomes extremely difficult when no written record of Welles' intent exists (as it did with his famous 26-page memo to Universal regarding "Touch of Evil"). So it's true that the restored version lacks a degree of authenticity, but what are the alternatives? Grainy, scratched, poorly synced public domain prints (c.f. "Mr Arkadin" and "The Trial")? Or, worse, no available copy at all (c.f. "Chimes at Midnight")?

Anyway, on to the film. "Othello's" existence helps disprove the charges of profligacy and "fear of completion" that plagued Welles' career after "Citizen Kane." Shot over four years in Morocco and Italy, and financed largely by Welles himself, "Othello" manages to avoid a low-budget look, thanks largely to virtuoso editing that masks the incongruities of time and space. Welles' powers of invention are on full display here, most obviously in the famous Turkish bath scene (an improvised set necessitated by a lack of costumes). Set designer Alexandre Trauner's astute choice of Moroccan and Venetian locations instantly establishes a geographic authenticity; Welles initially exploits them for all their stark beauty before retreating into noirish interiors, underscoring Othello's descent into darkness.

Aside from Michael Macliammoir's chilling Method performance as Iago, the acting in Welles' "Othello" has been criticized as too restrained and modulated for Shakespearean tragedy. Such criticism is largely unwarranted, for this "Othello" is as much for the eyes as the ears: Welles' bold framing and expressionistic camera angles free the play from its theatrical moorings (pun intended), undermining the need for stage elocution. Indeed, the camera is the true star of this film, as Welles generates images that match the grandeur and eloquence of Shakespeare's language.


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