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Theatre in Films

... and use of film for theatre training...
Amadeus (fragments in class, bottom)

Other movies by Forman

* Novel & Film: One Flew Over...

"Who is affraid of Virginia Woolf?" Albee

"12 Angry Man" (?)

[ More: Dangerous Liaisons ]

(Compiled from responses to ASTR-L)

AN ACTOR'S REVENGE. Ichikawa. //Ehren Fordyce
AMADEUS. //Edward Pixley
AN AWFULLY BIG ADVENTURE. Based on the Beryl Bainbridge
book, is very hard to beat. //Paul Fryer. Christopher Moore.
Joseph Kissane
ALL ABOUT EVE.  //David Dalton. Jo Cooney
BAMBOOZLED.  For theatre historians, the recreation of the
process of applying blackface alone is worth seeing the
film.  //David Krasner
BEING JOHN MALKOVICH. The central character is a puppeteer
and puppet theatre is a master trope for the entire
film. //Arvid Sponberg
THE CIRCUS OF DR. LOA. A brilliant little movie that wreaks
havoc with your ideas of reality.  Talk about your
minimalistic theatre of the poor on film no less. //Briant
Hamor Lee
COSI.  Australian amateur theatre director mounts Cosi Fan
Tutti with and for mentally ill.  //Richard Lee.
CYRANO. Gerard Depardieu. //Rodney G. Higginbotham
THE DESIGNATED MOURNER. Wallace Shawn. //Patrick Finelli
A DOUBLE LIFE. a wonderful film that is not known as well
as it should be with Signe  Hasso and Ronald Colman.
//Albert Wertheim
THE DRESSER. //Christine Moore.
FAIRY TALE. Peter Pan Trope at the Beginning. //Kurt Eisen
FANNY AND ALEXANDER. Bergman wonderfully captures the
theatre's ability to arouse the Imagination. //Mary
FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE. A number of Chinese films
which are available in the U.S.  deal with various aspects
of theatre. //Daphne Lei. Cheryl Black
FAUST. Jan Svankmajer. best production ever. He uses not
only actors and giant puppets   but also an interesting
combination of Goethe's and Marlowe's texts. And there
are no borders whatsoever between theater and   "reality."
//Denise Corte
GIORGIO. Features Pavarotti in _Turandot_ at
the Met. //Maarten Reilingh
THE GOLDEN COACH. For the commedia scenes. //Rodney G.
THE GOODBYE GIRL. //Thomas Cavano
HENRY V. Laurence Olivier.//Thomas Cavano
ILLUMINATI //C. David Frankel
IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER. // Michael Patterson
INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE. Scene(s) about the Theatre du
Vampires as an example of Grand Guignol. //Michael Mauldin
JESUS OF MONTREAL. //Christopher Moore
KING OF MASKS. about a performer of something theatrical
(though not, perhaps, theatre) and includes some scenes
from Chinese opera. //Rick Jones
great documentary. 4 hours with no narration. // David G.
LES ENFANTS DU PARADIS. recreates the mid-19th C
Parisian boulevard theatre; noted for Mime Barrauld's
Harlequinade sequence (and it's stunning crowd scene).
//Philip Ormond
LOOKING FOR RICHARD. Al Pacino. //Scott Phillips
THE MAGIC FLUTE. Ingmar Bergman. //Mary Fleischer. Michael
A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE. Albert Finney. //Kurt Eisen
MARAT/SADE. //Scott Phillips
MEPHISTO  //C. David Frankel
MIGHTY APHRODITE. Woody Allen. Spoof of Greek Chorus
throughout. //Arvid Sponberg
MOLIERE. Ariane Mnouchkine. //Jay Malarcher
A NIGHT AT THE OPERA. //Philip Ormond
OPENING NIGHT. Cassavetes. //Ehren Fordyce
PEKING OPERA BLUES (Hong Kong) //Daphne Lei
THE PUPPET MASTER (Taiwan)  //Daphne Lei
SAN FRANCISCO. Jeanette MacDonald. Clark Gable. Spencer
Tracy. Don't Laugh. There  are several opera sequences
where students can see "painted scenery",   the size of the
stage, the size of the auditoriums, elaborate decor, and so
on. I've showed this several times to good effect in
theatre history classes--with the caveat that the
filmmakers probably took some liberties. Nevertheless,
it's worth a look. //Jerry D. Eisenhour
SATYRICON. Fellini. //Ehren Fordyce
THE SEVENTH SEAL. Bergman. //Kurt Eisen
SHAKESPEARE WALLAH. About a company staging Shakespeare.
//Michael Patterson
SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT.  Bergman.Includes a lovely
theatre scene. //Albert Wertheim
SWEENEY TODD. comes as close as film can come to replicating
a stage performance. shows all the stage machinery,
stagehands, and so forth--and, I believe,  gives students a
good look at what live theatre can be like. The play was
filmed before a live audience, so we hear their reactions as
well. // Jerry D. Eisenhour
THE TALL GUY.  about an American actor working in London
theatre.  At one point, he's playing the title role in a
musical version of THE ELEPHANT MAN.  Enough said. //Ben
THEATRE OF BLOOD. Grand Guignol. Vincent Price. Very
good on the relationship between actors and critics. //C.
David Frankel
TITUS. Julie Taymor. //Patrick Finelli
TO BE OR NOT TO BE. With Carol Lombard. //Ehren Fordyce
TO LIVE (China) // Daphne Lei. Cheryl Black.
TOPSY TURVY. about G&S's creation of The Mikado. //Mary
TROUPERS. Documentary about SF Mime Troup.//John Ball
TWENTIETH CENTURY. With Carol Lombard. //Ehren Fordyce
VANYA ON 42ND STREET. //Patrick Finelli
WAITING FOR GUFFMAN. Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy.
//Arvid Sponberg. John Paul. Richard Lee
YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS. Neil Labute. Ben Stiller plays
a drama teacher. //Kurt Eisen

Arvid Sponberg
Email: Arvid.Sponberg@valpo.edu
Valparaiso University


Frederick Wiseman's four-hour (sans narration!) documentary LA COMÉDIE FRANÇAISE, OU L'AMOUR JOUÉ (1994) is a great film about the theatre.
David G. Muller
Indiana University

Here are some suggestions of films from my list to consider for Arvid's
ranked list, with comments on each:

After the Rehearsal -- at one pt. labeled "Ingmar Bergman's last film," this
is a three-hander about a director's relationships on and off stage with two
actresses -- a beautiful evocation of theatre's ephemerality;  also worthy
of note among Bergman's other films are The Magician and The Seventh Seal
(depicting a medieval troupe).

All That Jazz -- Bob Fosse's loosely autobiographical look at the energized
but exhausting life of a Broadway jack-of-all-trades

The Entertainer -- Olivier's turn as a has-been music hall comic during the
Suez crisis on 1956

42nd Street -- Broadway Melody was the backstage musical that won the Oscar
for best picture, but this is filled with Busby Berkeley choreography, a
fine leading performance as a driven director by Warner Baxter, and, of
course, is the basis for the recent stage musical

The Last Metro -- Truffaut's depiction of a French theatre operating under
Nazi watch during the Resistance, during which the theatre's Jewish director
hides in the theatre's basement;  meanwhile, his wife (Catherine Deneuve)
and leads actor (Gerard Depardieu) begin a relationship.

Lilies -- Quebec film, in English, in which an entire prison population
stages a recreation of the life of a guest -- a bishop -- they hold hostage,
to force him to admit to his sins.  Fascinating cross-gender performances
(because it's a men's prison, the women in the bishop's life are played by

Looking for Richard -- Al Pacino's documentary about his attempts to make a
film of Richard III, with Kevin Spacey as Buckingham and Winona Ryder as
Lady Anne;  but it's a film about the theatre, and about Shakespeare, more
than it is about filmmaking -- one of the best examples of a film which is
both highly entertaining and usefully educational

Mephisto -- winner of an Oscar for best foreign film, this movie depicts a
German actor (played by Klaus Maria Brandauer) who clings to his profession
despite the gradual Nazi takeover of the country, and so compromises his

The Producers -- Mel Brooks's look at two scamming B'way producers (Gene
Wilder and Zero Mostel) who get angels to invest in a bad musical so they
can take off with their funds when the show flops -- but Springtime for
Hitler doesn't flop...

Shall We Dance -- Astaire / Rogers vehicle, with a theatrical frame (he's an
actor pretending to be a Russian ballet star) -- notable, as are all of
their films, for the use of the camera as if in a theatrical audience
member's seat -- other Astaire - Rogers films set in a theatrical context
include Top Hat and The Barkeleys of Broadway.

Stage Door -- Ferber / Kaufman look at an actresses' boarding house in '30s
New York, with charm and character mix similar to that of a lower-class
Grand Hotel;  with Katharine Hepburn, Lucille Ball, Ginger Rogers, Adolphe
Menjou, Eve Arden, Ann Miller.... Hepburn's character is involved in some
speculation as to what acting is...

Summer Stock -- Gene Kelly and Judy Garland in perhaps the original of the
"let's put on a show in the barn" MGM musicals

Twentieth Century -- Howard Hawks directs John Barrymore as a manipulative
B'way director / producer, and Carole Lombard as the actress she "shapes"
and then turns on him when her success burgeons.  The first half the film is
especially involved theatrically, depicting rehearsals, performances, etc.;
sometimes called "the earliest screwball comedy"

Yankee Doodle Dandy  -- James Cagney won the Oscar as George M. Cohan, grand
old man of early 20th century Broadway

Zoot Suit -- Luis Valdez's film of his musical play about the 1943 Zoot Suit
Riots in LA;  Valdez depicts the play as a theatrical performance, with
stage sets and an audience viewing, and then cuts away frequently to
non-theatrical locations for other scenes;  experiment in combining the
strengths of live theatre and film;  not wholly successful, but powerful,
with Edward James Olmos as the archetypal Latino, El Pachuco

Hope these are reasonable films to add, Arvid.  I have no idea how to
actually rank these;  and I must admit that it's been tough for me to come
up with my final list of 15.  When I do so, I'll let list members know.

Michael Swanson
Director of Theatre
Franklin College
501 E. Monroe St.
Franklin, IN 46131-2598

317-738-8242 (o)
317-346-0102 (H)

@2000-2003 thr w/anatoly *



                                      Peter Shaffer

                                       Final Draft



               Total darkness. We hear an old man's voice, distinct and in 
               distress. It is OLD SALIERI. He uses a mixture of English 
               and occasionally Italian.

                                     OLD SALIERI
                         Mozart! Mozart! Mozart. Forgive me!  
                         Forgive your assassin! Mozart!

               A faint light illuminates the screen. Flickeringly, we see 
               an eighteenth century balustrade and a flight of stone stairs.  
               We are looking down into the wall of the staircase from the 
               point of view of the landing. Up the stair is coming a 
               branched candlestick held by Salieri's VALET. By his side is 
               Salieri's COOK, bearing a large dish of sugared cakes and 
               biscuits. Both men are desperately worried: the Valet is 
               thin and middle-aged; the Cook, plump and Italian. It is 
               very cold. They wear shawls over their night-dresses and 
               clogs on their feet. They wheeze as they climb. The candles 
               throw their shadows up onto the peeling walls of the house, 
               which is evidently an old one and in bad decay. A cat scuttles 
               swiftly between their bare legs, as they reach the salon 

               The Valet tries the handle. It is locked. Behind it the voice 
               goes on, rising in volume.

                                     OLD SALIERI
                         Show some mercy! I beg you. I beg 
                         you! Show mercy to a guilty man!

               The Valet knocks gently on the door. The voice stops.

                         Open the door, Signore! Please! Be 
                         good now! We've brought you something 
                         special. Something you're going to 


                         Signore Salieri! Open the door. Come 
                         now. Be good!

               The voice of Old Salieri continues again, further off now, 
               and louder. We hear a noise as if a window is being opened.

                                     OLD SALIERI
                         Mozart! Mozart! I confess it! Listen! 
                         I confess!

               The two servants look at each other in alarm. Then the Valet 
               hands the candlestick to the Cook and takes a sugared cake 
               from the dish, scrambling as quickly as he can back down the 


               The street is filled with people: ten cabs with drivers, 
               five children, fifteen adults, two doormen, fifteen dancing 
               couples and a sled and three dogs. It is a windy night. Snow 
               is falling and whirling about. People are passing on foot, 
               holding their cloaks tightly around them. Some of them are 
               revelers in fancy dress: they wear masks on their faces or 
               hanging around their necks, as if returning from parties.  
               Now they are glancing up at the facade of the old house.  
               The window above the street is open and Old Salieri stands 
               there calling to the sky: a sharp-featured, white-haired 
               Italian over seventy years old, wearing a stained dressing 

                                     OLD SALIERI
                         Mozart! Mozart! I cannot bear it any 
                         longer! I confess! I confess what I 
                         did! I'm guilty! I killed you! Sir  
                         I confess! I killed you!

               The door of the house bursts open. The Valet hobbles out, 
               holding the sugared cake. The wind catches at his shawl.

                                     OLD SALIERI
                         Mozart, perdonami! Forgive your 
                         assassin! Pietˆ! Pietˆ! Forgive your 
                         assassin! Forgive me! Forgive! 

                              (looking up to the 
                         That's all right, Signore! He heard 
                         you! He forgave you! He wants you to 
                         go inside now and shut the window!

               Old Salieri stares down at him. Some of the passersby have 
               now stopped and are watching this spectacle.

                         Come on, Signore! Look what I have 
                         for you! I can't give it to you from 
                         down here, can I?

               Old Salieri looks at him in contempt. Then he turns away 
               back into the room, shutting the window with a bang. Through 
               the glass, the old man stares down at the group of onlookers 
               in the street. They stare back at him in confusion.

                         Who is that?

                         No one, sir. He'll be all right. 
                         Poor man. He's a little unhappy, you 

               He makes a sign indicating 'crazy,' and goes back inside the 
               house. The onlookers keep staring.

                                                                    CUT TO:


               The Cook is standing holding the candlestick in one hand, 
               the dish of cakes in the other. The Valet arrives, panting.

                         Did he open?

               The Cook, scared, shakes his head: no. The Valet again knocks 
               on the door.

                         Here I am, Signore. Now open the 

               He eats the sugared cake in his hand, elaborately and noisily.

                         Mmmm - this is good! This is the 
                         most delicious thing I ever ate, 
                         believe me! Signore, you don't know 
                         what you're missing! Mmmm!

               We hear a thump from inside the bedroom.

                         Now that's enough, Signore! Open!

               We hear a terrible, throaty groaning.

                         If you don't open this door, we're 
                         going to eat everything. There'll be 
                         nothing left for you. And I'm not 
                         going to bring you anything more.

               He looks down. From under the door we see a trickle of blood 
               flowing. In horror, the two men stare at it. The dish of 
               cakes falls from the Cook's hand and shatters.

               He sets the candlestick down on the floor. Both servants run 
               at the door frantically - once, twice, three times - and the 
               frail lock gives. The door flies open.

               Immediately, the stormy, frenzied opening of Mozart's Symphony 
               No. 25 (the Little G Minor) begins. We see what the servants 


               Old Salieri lies on the floor in a pool of blood, an open 
               razor in his hand. He has cut his throat but is still alive.  
               He gestures at them. They run to him. Barely, we glimpse the 
               room - an old chair, old tables piled with books, a forte-
               piano, a chamber-pot on the floor - as the Valet and the 
               Cook struggle to lift their old Master, and bind his bleeding 
               throat with a napkin.

               INT. BALLROOM - NIGHT

               Twenty-five dancing couples, fifty guests, ten servants, 
               full orchestra.

               As the music slows a little, we see a Masquerade Ball in 
               progress. A crowded room of dancers is executing the slow 
               portion of a dance fashionable in the early 1820's.


               As the fast music returns, we see Old Salieri being carried 
               out of his house on a stretcher by two attendants, and placed 
               in a horse-drawn wagon under the supervision of a middle-
               aged doctor in a tall hat. This is DOCTOR GULDEN. He gets in 
               beside his patient. The driver whips up the horse, and the 
               wagon dashes off through the still-falling snow.



               INT. THE WAGON - NIGHT

               The wagon is galloping through the snowy streets of the city.  
               Inside the conveyance we see Old Salieri wrapped in blankets, 
               half-conscious, being held by the hospital attendants. Doctor 
               Gulden stares at him grimly. The wagon arrives outside the 
               General Hospital of Vienna.

                                                                    CUT TO:


               A wide, white-washed corridor. Doctor Gulden is walking down 
               it with a priest, a man of about forty, concerned, but 
               somewhat self-important. This is Father VOGLER, Chaplain at 
               the hospital. In the corridor as they walk, we note several 
               patients -- some of them visibly disturbed mentally. All 
               patients wear white linen smocks. Doctor Gulden wears a dark 
               frock-coat; Vogler, a cassock.

                                     DOCTOR GULDEN
                         He's going to live. It's much harder 
                         to cut your throat than most people 

               They stop outside a door.

                                     DOCTOR GULDEN
                         Here we are. Do you wish me to come 
                         in with you?

                         No, Doctor. Thank you.

               Vogler nods and opens the door.


               A bare room - one of the best available in the General 
               Hospital. It contains a bed, a table with candles, chairs, a 
               small forte-piano of the early nineteenth century. As Vogler 
               enters, Old Salieri is sitting in a wheel-chair, looking out 
               the window. His back is to us. The priest closes the door 
               quietly behind him.

                         Herr Salieri?

               Old Salieri turns around to look at him. We see that his 
               throat is bandaged expertly. He wears hospital garb, and 
               over it the Civilian Medal and Chain with which we will later 
               see the EMPEROR invest him.

                                     OLD SALIERI
                         What do you want?

                         I am Father Vogler. I am a Chaplain 
                         here. I thought you might like to 
                         talk to someone.

                                     OLD SALIERI
                         About what?


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