Warner Bros. took a big chance at the box office with this adaptation of William Shakespeare’s classic comedy: stories from “The Bard of Avon” were considered too high-brow for the box office. However, producer Hal B. Wallis sold the project to Jack Warner due to the success of legendary stage director Max Reinhardt’s lavish Hollywood Bowl production of the tale of young lovers and a troupe of amateur actors bewitched by fairies. They only used two actors from the stage production, a pre-stardom Mickey Rooney as Puck and an 18-year-old Olivia de Havilland as Hermia. They joined an all-star cast topped by Victor Jory and Anita Louise as king and queen of the fairies and James Cagney and Joe E. Brown as the amateur actors whose play within a play is the film’s comic highlight. Reinhardt insisted on working on a grand scale for authentic scenery, demanding a forest so thick nobody could light it until cinematographer Hal Mohr sprayed the trees with orange aluminum paint and used cobwebs and tiny metal pieces to reflect the light. Reinhardt also imported fellow Austrian Erich Wolfgang Korngold to arrange and expand Felix Mendelssohn’s incidental music for the play, starting Korngold’s long association with Warner Bros. (d. Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle, 133m, 35mm)
**From the Collection of the Library of Congress.