newritings

March 13, 2009

Othello – black and white version of our humanity

Filed under: opinion article,testimonies — newritings @ 3:16 pm

Stage and movie actor Orson Welles puts on stage makeup for his part as Othello in the play Othello by Shakespeare at the St. James Theatre in London

Stage and movie actor Orson Welles puts on stage makeup for his part as Othello in the play Othello by Shakespeare at the St. James Theatre in London

And the winner for the best white actor impersonating a Black person goes to… Orson Wells in his 1952 black and white version of Othello. Jokes aside, I loved it, and must say it works for me, close to normal movie lengths, about one and half hours long, in black and white and what’s more – was a labour of love for Welles, who adapted, directed and starred in a leading role in the film. In addition, Wells poured in much of his own money in the project that took four years to make, in a few countries including Morocco (the Moor-land) and with an ever-changing cast.

What added to the drama of this movie in the early nineties was that it was lost and only recovered six years after Orson Welles’ death. Othello is now available on DVD, it has been restored, complete with a new soundtrack. (I got a copy from the public library… the way to go, man!)

Othello is based on a play William Shakespeare about a Moor, a highly respected general played by Wells, who promotes Cassio to be his personal lieutenant. In return, Iago, Cassio’s bitter rival and friend of Othello, enraged with jeolousy plots revenge. It is here where I find the colour of the Moor of no real importance in the reactions of Othello, and the others around him. It does not add or take away from the character who is a subject to manipulation, or bad faith. In Othello’s response there is no black way of responding or a white way – is there? As it transpires, Iago manipulates and enrages Othello, making him suspicious of his lovely and loyal wife Desdemona… ending tragically as like other great Shakespearean love stories.

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1 Comment »

  1. Good choice. 🙂 Sir Laurence Olivier also gave a legendary performance as the Moorish general. He has to at least be a runner-up for this award.

    Comment by twelfthnighttheatre — August 30, 2010 @ 8:04 pm | Reply


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