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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.

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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Nicholas Bruce ...
Michael Laurence ...
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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>

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Powerful drama of uncontrolled human emotion! See more »

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Drama | History | Romance

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

12 September 1955 (USA)  »

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Othello  »

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| (TCM print)

Sound Mix:

(re-release)| (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Trivia

Orson Welles' daughter, Beatrice Welles, spent over $1 million on a restoration of the film in 1992. This included enhancing picture quality, re-syncing the audio, adding extra sound effects and re-recording the score in stereo. However, many critics felt that the restoration was ill-advised as it seemed to be based on a re-edit and not the original print that was screened to great acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival in 1952. This, the 1952 version and the 1955 cut for the American market all remain out of print now, due to legal actions brought about by Beatrice Welles. 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...
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Connections

Version of Theatre Night: Othello (1990) See more »

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User Reviews

Welles' indomitable spirit in the face of penury shines in yet another Wellesian Masterpiece
10 January 2004 | by See all my reviews

THE TRAGEDY OF OTHELLO: THE MOOR OF VENICE/ US/France/Italy/Morocco 1952 (3.5 STARS)

The recent restoration of Othello brings to cinematic space the magic of another masterpiece from Orson Welles. To think that a whole master negative of this film (which won the Best film at Cannes in 1952) was lying abandoned in a New Jersey warehouse, was discovered by accident and is the reason for this print that we now have access to, is enough to send shivers down the spine of any Welles-phile. . Mise-en-scene: Like with many of his other works involving especially Shakespeare, be prepared for Welles' licenses and personal interpretation of subject matter pertaining to Othello. Yet at the end, we are left with a feeling of deep tragedy and loss for Othello, played by Welles himself, and though we feel that Othello was quite an idiot, we at least feel that he was a very unfortunate idiot at that! . The problem may have been that the critical scene where Iago poisons Othello's mind and fuels his suspicion is scrappy and left unexplored. This may well have had little to do with Welles' artistic choices, and more with his monetary situation at the time. Welles' penury through his European sojourn is widely known and the passion with which he would invest into his films, every penny earned through moonlighting his booming voice and above-average acting skills is legendary, and should put this in context.

. The figure behavior of Micheál MacLiammóir is utterly convincing as the detestable Iago who is consumed by jealousy and rage at being overlooked as the second-in-command. But the person to steal our hearts is Suzanne Cloutier who portrays the fair-dame Desdemona. She is every bit as dainty as we would have imagined her to be. . The stripped down set design works wonderfully for the film and even though budgets may have been the driving force, Othello's barren palace is preceded only by the barrenness of his blinding jealousy and irrational actions. . Cinematography: As we have come to expect, Orson Welles has a unique cinematic language, through which he creates a Wellesian world of skin-burning close ups, dutched crazy world-frames and low angle shots to create a tense atmosphere of foreboding. But there is no better example of exploring and using frame depth than in Othello. Time and again Welles plays with foreground element to reveal psychologically subjective and meta-diagetic moods while cleverly using the depth in the frame to forward the narrative and plot the next progression. The title shots of the film are harrowing in their effect, with the interplay of high-contrast earth and sky contours that at once establish the mood for an intense cinematic experience. . Sound & Editing: The restored version has a brand-new soundtrack mentored by Welles' daughter, and while it enhances the experience to telling effect, it is irony to note that just the new soundtrack cost much more than what Welles assembled the whole film for. The fact that parts of the film were shot MOS and other parts used ADR is distracting due to the obvious lack of lip-sync, but in the final analysis, we watch Welles with reverence almost as if on a visit to Sunday Mass, paying homage, never once forgetting that were are witness to a filmmaker stripped of resources, devoid of many essential tools, but one with indomitable spirit who refused to be cowed-down. Othello is magical in its story telling and another worthy showcase of the genius of Orson Welles.


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