Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan



This was included on the DVD of O, so I thought I’d give it a look. (The IMDb lists no fewer than 35 versions of Othello for movies and TV!) It stars Emil Jannings as the Moor. Jannings was very good in The Last Laugh, and he starred in The Blue Angel and won the very first Best Actor award for The Last Command and The Way of All Flesh. (It wasn’t necessarily just one role in those very early days.) (That second picture, by the way, is the only Academy Award performance that is lost. The film no longer exists.) I imagine Hollywood wanted to take the Oscar back in the late ‘30s, when he enthusiastically made films for the Nazis. Iago, much the better part, is played by Werner Krauss, who was wonderful as the doctor in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Here he mugs outrageously. Jannings glowers, frowns, and clutches his massive breast in the throes of jealousy and rage. It’s a preposterous idea, really, making a silent movie of a Shakespeare play. You lose all but little quotes from the language, which is the main reason to see Shakespeare. All you can do is dramatize the plot—and most of the Bard’s plots are preposterous, when you think about them—and Othello has always been a hard sell for me. I mean, the guy is so stupid! Dumber than Lear. Dumber than Forrest Gump. I never liked him. Whereas, though I don’t like him, I sort of have to admire Iago for his incredible cunning. He gets his way by having other people do his dirty work. Sort of the Dick Cheney of the 16th Century.