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Thread: Henry V (1944)

  1. #1
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    A fascinating forum, and I can't resist putting in a word for my favourite British film.



    Made under wartime conditions that must have been incredibly difficult, but which seem to have inspired everyone to a magnificent contribution.



    Photography by Robert Krasker; music by Walton; great performances from Leo Genn, Leslie Banks, and many others; quality script by one W Shakespeare.



    And pulling all this together as director and producer, finding a dazzling amalgam of Elizabethan theatre and 20C cinema, and giving a superlatively energetic and glamorous performance in the central role, Laurence Olivier.



    No shortage of denigrators of Olivier these days, of course; it's never long before someone mentions The Betsy. And also some denigrators of this film, which has been unfavourably compared to a similarly titled effort by a Master Branagh.



    But every time I see this film I can't believe how fresh and vigorous it seems. If modern day fans of it are few, we are a happy few.....

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    And also some denigrators of this film, which has been unfavourably compared to a similarly titled effort by a Master Branagh.



    There's no doubt whatsoever that Henry V was the first really important Shakespeare film (it's a quantum leap over literally everything else attempted up to then, in any country), but you do have to make allowances for the circumstances of its production - not least the censorship of the text in order to make Henry come across as a more straightforwardly heroic character.



    It's all too easy to see why this was done, given the time it was made and its intentional dual function as a patriotic propaganda piece (rumour has it that Winston Churchill specifically asked Olivier to omit the scene where Henry orders the killing of French POWs), but in terms of fidelity to Shakespeare it suffers by comparison with Branagh's film. But on its own terms, it's an exceptional piece of work from a generally extraordinary decade.

  3. #3
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    Quote

    "There's no doubt whatsoever that Henry V was the first really important Shakespeare film "



    I am not sure that I would entirely agree with you here. Hollywood had two splendid attempts at Shakespeare in the 1930s Max Reinhardt's lavish 1935 version of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM with Cagney as Puck, and George Cukor's 1936 production of ROMEO AND JULIET which despite the rather elderly cast (Lesley Howard as Romeo at 46, Norma Shearer as Juliet at 36 and John Barrymore as teenage tearaway Mercutio at 54) works quite well and has a brilliant production design and mouthwatering black and white photography.

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    I am not exactly a fan of Shakespeare film,but Henry V was an an outstanding film for its time. The charge by the French cavalry and the whooshing of the arrows from Henry's men is still a brilliant piece of battle scenes. Walton's music was superb.

    By the way,I believe there is an ancient law which states that all able bodied men in England shall practice archery everyday. It was thus the law that helped us win the Battle of Agincourt.

    Ta Ta

    Marky B thumbs_u

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    I always thought Kenneth Branagh was a young pretender to Olivier and he was too pretentious for my liking,so I have avoided his version of Henry V and his Frankenstein pales compared to James Whales' version. However,since seeing him in Conspiracy playing Heydrich,I must admit his performance deserved all the plaudits it has received.

    Ta Ta

    Marky B thumbs_u

  6. #6
    Senior Member Country: UK Freddy's Avatar
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    When British cinema seemed to be in the doldrums wasn't Kenneth Branagh the one who seemed to halt its decline. From the late eighties to the mid nineties his produced, directed, wrote and acted. Some were Shakespeare and others were a bit clique but at least he DID something and he brought to the screen actors who had been in tv ie Richard Briers and also some young American stars to be.

    Having seen both versions of Henry I enjoyed them both, don't forget they are 50 years apart. After Branagh there did seem to be an awful lot of not very good and similar gangster films.

    I know he is not everybodys cup of tea but full marks to him for being there.



    As for the archers Robert Hardy actor and archery expert pointed out that the bows from the Mary Rose showed the extraordinary strength and build an archer would have had and that not many people today would have been able to draw a bow let alone string it.



    regards

    Freddy

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    Marky B:

    I am not exactly a fan of Shakespeare film,but Henry V was an an outstanding film for its time. The charge by the French cavalry and the whooshing of the arrows from Henry's men is still a brilliant piece of battle scenes. Walton's music was superb.

    By the way,I believe there is an ancient law which states that all able bodied men in England shall practice archery everyday. It was thus the law that helped us win the Battle of Agincourt.

    Ta Ta

    Marky B
    FYI...



    Edward IV passed a law that every Engishman from the age of 16 to 60 should own a longbow (of his own height) and to practice every Sunday after church and on feast days. In 1542 an Act established that the minimum target distance for anyone over the age of 24 years was 220 yards (the modern competition maximum is 80 yards)! A trained archer could shoot 12 to 15 arrows per minute and hit a man-sized target at a minimum of 200 yards. The maximum range of a longbow was about 400 yards.



    All men from 16 to 60 had a duty to protect the country in time of crisis (the posse comitatus). But a levy of archers for military service could also be taken in each county from anyone with land or rents worth from �‚£2 to �‚£5 (or they could pay for a substitute). In 1346 at the battle of Crecy, the English army of Edward III had 7,000 to 10,000 archers out of a total strength of 19,000 men.



    The bow used was the longbow, up to 78” in length and made of yew (the favourite being Spanish yew) or Wych Elm, Elm, or Ash. In 1510, Henry VIII purchased 40,000 yew bow staves from the Doge of Venice. The draw weight was up to a remarkable 120 pounds, with the bow drawn 'to the ear' (rather than to the corner of the mouth as is common in modern archery). The attachment points for the string were protected by horn ‘nocks’. There was no arrow rest on the handle as on modern bows, with the arrow resting on the index finger. At short range, an arrow could penetrate 4 inches of seasoned oak, and could penetrate the armour of a knight at 200 yards. A nobleman could therefore be killed by a common man.



    The use of archery declined during the 15th century as it became impossible to maintain the strict training needed to maintain the strength and skills needed to shoot a longbow. This may partly have been a consequence of a more mobile society with a shift of former labourers to the towns. In 1477, Edward IV banned an early form of cricket because it was thought to be interfering with regular archery practice. The invention of the musket in 1520 sealed the fate of the weapon. Although the musket had a slower rate of fire, it required far less training to use. Archers comprised 17 percent of the late 16th century Trained Bands but in 1595 all bows were ordered to be replaced by musket.

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    Sure thing, Marky B!





    HENRY V REDONE



    Henry V: Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more...



    Gibbie the Knave: Why sire? When we have such longbows a plenty.

  9. #9
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Tony in Ottawa:

    The best wood for longbows was yew, yet the succulent parts of this tree are poisonous to cattle. In the days of open field farming the churchyard was the only substantial fenced or walled area in the village, and since there had to be yews this is where they were grown. The tradition has survived to this day, and many churchyards are full of yew trees even today.



    Tony in Ottawa, Canada
    And some of those yew trees are very, very old. Some are even older than the churches in whose grounds they stand.



    Steve

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    (sunofyork @ Nov 26 2004, 12:30 AM)

    A fascinating forum, and I can't resist putting in a word for my favourite British film.



    Made under wartime conditions that must have been incredibly difficult, but which seem to have inspired everyone to a magnificent contribution.



    Photography by Robert Krasker; music by Walton; great performances from Leo Genn, Leslie Banks, and many others; quality script by one W Shakespeare.



    And pulling all this together as director and producer, finding a dazzling amalgam of Elizabethan theatre and 20C cinema, and giving a superlatively energetic and glamorous performance in the central role, Laurence Olivier.



    No shortage of denigrators of Olivier these days, of course; it's never long before someone mentions The Betsy. And also some denigrators of this film, which has been unfavourably compared to a similarly titled effort by a Master Branagh.



    But every time I see this film I can't believe how fresh and vigorous it seems. If modern day fans of it are few, we are a happy few.....
    we band of brothers.



    Let me join.



    Olivier's version is one of my favourite films. Blew me away in the mid 1960s and, as soy says, it still seems as fresh and vigorous today - or rather, last night when I watched it once again.



    FELL

  11. #11
    Senior Member Country: Scotland julian_craster's Avatar
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    Laurence Olivier's Henry V returns



    Daily Telegraph

    By Richard Alleyne and Alec Lom

    Last Updated: 1:08am BST 20/07/2007











    Sir Laurence Olivier's stirring adaptation of Henry V, credited with lifting morale during the Second World War and considered a masterpiece of British cinema, is returning to the screen in full, Technicolor glory.

    The pictures show how the film has benefited from digital enhancement



    The actor-director shot the film in 1944 for what was then the enormous sum of �475,000 but although the technique produced incredibly vivid colours and detail it left the celluloid susceptible to decay. Versions seen by all but the oldest generation have been poor imitations of what was originally released.



    Now, thanks to a year-long, �20,000 restoration and digital enhancement, the pictures and rousing soundtrack have become as good as new - and will be enhanced by modern projectors and sound equipment.

    So striking is the updated version that it has been decided to release the film nationwide.

    Olivier's widow, Dame Joan Plowright, who has seen the restored film, said: "I'm thrilled that they have done this. The whole family is. It's very exciting." She said it was fitting that Henry V should have been re-released as a tribute to Sir Laurence, who died in 1989 aged 82.

    Fiona Maxwell, a director at Granada International, whose team led the restoration work, said: "When you see the original next to the digital version it's like it has a layer of thick dust on it. Now the colours are extremely vibrant and the picture very sharp. We have removed all the scratches, and dots and all the hiss, pop and crackle

    "I don't think that the film has been seen like this since it was originally shown during the war."

    Restorers at Granada spent a year collecting 35mm reels from the BFI and their own vaults and transferring them to a digital format. Once transferred they then meticulously went through the footage, "de-spotting" the images, removing the scratches, blemishes and dirt before sharpening the focus and brightening the colours.

    As a result many details lost in the film's deterioration are now visible. Miss Maxwell said: "The jewels in Henry's crown are now much brighter and the knights are in even shinier armour."

    The film was a breakthrough in Shakespeare adaptations because it was the first to be a critical and commercial success.

    Olivier was awarded a special Oscar for making Henry V, which was released under the full title The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fift with His Battell Fought at Agincourt in France.

    The film, which starts with a dedication to the those fighting in the war, was also a propaganda success. It was changed to make Henry more of a hero and remove some of the less savoury sides of his character.

    Daniel Rosenthal, author of the recently published One Hundred Shakespeare Films, said Olivier was acutely aware of his responsibility to boost the country's morale.

    He said: "His Henry really is a knight in shining armour. Shakespeare's original is a far more ambivalent character.

    "Nevertheless, this has remained an iconic film. It is not just part of cinematic history, it is a part of British history."

    The film opens at the BFI Southbank on Aug 10 and then across the country from Aug 21.

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    Interesting - did that really only cost �20k? What a bargain!



    Fantastic film, and really worth watching if you have never seen it. The music by Sir William Walton is also most distinguished.

  13. #13
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    A lot of cinemas appear to be showing Henry V (1944) next week. It's not even St Crispin's day or Olivier's centenary (that was in May). Does anyone know why so many places should be showing it?



    Steve

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    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by joegib
    That looks like it, thanks



    Steve

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    The films being shown as part of the Summer of British Film season at my local cinema (including Henry V), have a significantly reduced ticket price of �2.50. Normally, it would cost �6.00 for an adult. Another positive development, in my opinion, in encouraging people to discover or re-discover these classic films.



    Regards

    Phil Turner

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Crook
    A lot of cinemas appear to be showing Henry V (1944) next week.

    Steve
    Which one is best, Larry's or Kenneth's?



    I saw a film documentary last night about costume dramas, and I never realised before that Larry's was commissioned by The Ministry of Information as a sort of morale-boosting propaganda film. I haven't seen Branagh's but it was suppsed to be truer to the text and showed the nasty stuff as well.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Country: Vietnam hankoler's Avatar
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    If you go to the bosworth field centre they show the olivier movie all the time.

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    Senior Member Country: Germany Wolfgang's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by samkydd
    Which one is best, Larry's or Kenneth's?
    Branagh does not embarrass himself, but it is no work of art like Olivier's.

  20. #20
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    Greetings,



    trying to put names to faces from Olivier's Henry V

    Gerald Case as Earl of Westmoreland

    Griffith Jones as Earl of Salisbury

    Graham Morland as Sir Thomas Erpingham

    Nicholas Hannen as Duke of Exeter

    Michael Warre as Duke of Gloucester



    but who is who?

    (I think Case is bottom-left, Hannen in the center and the herald at top right a red-herring)



    complicated by the script assigning different lines than the play to different folk.



    cheers!

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