Tom Ryall
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Post-war films 2 – adaptation and the theatre
in Anthony Asquith
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This chapter examines the directorial image of Anthony Asquith that was built upon ‘filmed theatre’ during the late 1940s and through the 1950s. For him the theatre played a major role, with eight of the seventeen feature films he directed between 1947 and his final film in 1964 based on stage plays of various kinds. It was this kind of film that played a key role in Asquith's image as a director, often to his detriment. As a skilled adapter of stage drama, with a number of films based on the plays of Wilde, Shaw, and Rattigan, among others, Asquith acquired a reputation as a metteur-en-scène rather than an auteur. He appeared to have secured his artistic emancipation early in his career but to have succumbed subsequently to theatrical enslavement as a translator of the work of dramatists. Analysis of passages from the films certainly indicates a ‘reimagining’ in terms of cinema; however, close elements from the play – the dialogue – survive the journey to the screen.

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