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Shakespeare & Beyond

America's Shakespeare: The Bard goes west to Hollywood

Hamlet costumes
Hamlet costumes
Hamlet costumes

The costumes for Alan Bates and Glenn Close in Hamlet (1990). (The Collection of Motion Picture Costume Design: Larry McQueen)

Shakespeare has provided rich material for Hollywood’s film industry over the decades, from The Taming of the Shrew (1967) with Elizabeth Taylor to 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) with Julia Stiles.

Given this, an exhibition about Shakespeare in America (and especially in California), such as the one on display at the Los Angeles Public Library through Feb. 26, 2017, would hardly be complete without a spotlight on the Bard in Hollywood history.

America’s Shakespeare: The Bard Goes West pulls from the Warner Bros. archives at USC, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences archives, the LA Phil’s Hollywood Bowl Museum archives, and private costume collections to showcase Shakespeare from the early days of silent films to more recent movies such as the 1990 Hamlet, starring Mel Gibson.

“There are two films that we are featuring as exemplary,” says curator Stephen Dickey, a senior lecturer in the UCLA English Department. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935) represents a Shakespeare play pretty straightforwardly transformed into a film, though some liberties are taken with the text, while Joe Macbeth (1955) represents an offshoot adaptation, in which Shakespeare’s plot is used, but not his language.