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The Time Machine for Everyone
by Jon Schuller

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The advent of movies made the world a smaller place as they rapidly spread out to even the most remote places. Films became popular and no matter where you lived, the demand for newer and bigger ones was dramatic. Film makers could barely keep up with demand and with advent of studios, the audiences began to have choices. Plots became more complicated, original musical scores were written to fit the bill exactly and the actors and actresses became famous almost overnight. Many movies used real historical events and locations as their plots and places. The idea that we didn't need history books as our imaginations took hold and we could see events as if we were actually there. Famous people from the past came to life and an appreciation of events, great and small, that changed history became commonplace. In December, 1998, Shakespeare in Love premiered with an all-star cast from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean: Gwyneth Paltrow
Joseph Fiennes, Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth, Ben Affleck, Judi Dench, Simon Callow, Jim Carter, Martin Clunes, Antony
Sher, Imelda Staunton, Tom Wilkinson and Mark Williams. It takes us back to late 16th century England. Directed by John Madden, I call it "the play within the play."

It's London in 1593. Elizabeth the First is on the throne and a lot of cultural activities are going on, especially in the theatre. We see a struggling actor and playwright, William Shakespeare, who is part of the Lord Chamberlain's Men, an acting company, as he struggles with a new play about Romeo and a pirate's daughter. He is auditioning actors at the Rose Theatre anyway and one of them, Thomas Kent, is really a woman, Viola de Lesseps, a wealthy young woman who is enchanted by the theatre but cannot appear on stage. Only men (and boys) were allowed to portray women. Shakespeare wants to learn more about Kent and follows him by boat to a large mansion. Kent becomes the go-between as Will pursues Viola. He has fallen for her.

Will gets help for his play from the famous dramatist, Christopher 'Kit' Marlowe. Viola is to marry the struggling Lord Wessex, who wants her
family's money and Shakepeare is determined to finish his play, a tragic romance now titled Romeo and Juliet and keep Viola from Wessex.

There are strict laws in England at the time banning women from performing and any theatre or acting company can be shut down immediately by Edmund Tilney, the Master of the Revels. He suspects that's what is happening at The Rose Theatre and shuts it down.

Richard Burbage, who owns The Curtain, offers his theatre to the acting troupe because he wants the play to be seen. Shakespeare takes the part of Romeo and another young actor will be Juliet. But Viola hears about the play being performed as she is married and slips away, pretending to ride in the wedding coach, to watch it. She is hiding in the audience when the boy playing Juliet is ill and Viola says she will become the female lead. Despite the tragedy everyone is crying including Viola's loyal nurse and guardian the audience loves the play and the players.
Tilney enters the theatre and declares that everyone be arrested and the play must be
stopped. But a woman in the audience is the Queen herself and she tells Tilney that it's amazing the actor playing Juliet "resembles" a woman so well. The Queen cannot stop a legal marriage and Viola must go to America with Lord Wessex immediately. Will sits down to write another play "a little more cheerful next time" - ordered by the Queen. It will become Twelfth Night about a girl disguised as man who must travel to a strange, faraway land.

The movie captures the look of Elizabethan London: the dirty streets, the poor people struggling to live, the sickness, the competitions to win the Queen's favor, the rivalries between the new acting companies and the obviously wide gaps between the rich and everyone else. The dialogue is wonderful and the entire cast like the plays themselves is a company of skilled, loyal players. The film's pace is swift and at times, purposely confusing. But it takes us back to a time when men, their ideas and ideals, were constantly pitted against each other for recognition and wealth. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

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Cinema Savant
Every other Thursday

My views on an eclectic mix of films and personalties, past and present; emotional interpretations; some laughs, some cries.

Other Columns
Other columns by Jon Schuller:

Homage: Respect or Reverence Paid

There's a Call for You. Please Tell Them to Wait.

20 Before. 20 After. 20 Since.

Sit. Relax. Watch. Enjoy. Repeat.

One Is All It Usually Takes

All Columns

Jon Schuller
I am a former New Jersey native, living in Charlotte, N.C. for almost 29 years. I am a lifelong movie lover with lots of movie trivia knowledge and soundtracks in my CD collection. I enjoy sharing my love of films with everyone and have so many fond memories growing up in darkened movie theaters. I have been married 50 years (as of December 22, 2018) and we both share a passion for film (and each other of course).

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Jon Schuller by clicking here.

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