The Right Coast

Editor: Thomas A. Smith
University of San Diego
School of Law

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Henry V Done Right
Mike Rappaport

There are two famous movie versions of Henry V's St. Crispin Day Speech.  One by the legendary Laurence Olivier and the other by Kenneth Branagh.  To me there is no comparison.  And through the wonder of You Tube, you too can make the comparison.  It is not just the acting that is better with Branagh, it is also the directing.  Watching the two, I almost don't know why the Oliver version is even famous.

With these remarks, it might not surprise you that I think Olivier is overrated.  Yes, he has some roles that are powerful, but overall I don't like watching him too much, especially when he was a young man.

While I am recommending parts of Henry V, take a look at this speech by Branagh the night before the battle.  It follows my favorite part of the play when Harry in disguise talks with his men.  It is a great speech, a look inside Harry and his guilt for his father's seizure of the kingship, and a perceptive discourse on the benefits and costs of power.

And to tell you the truth, I find this one irresistible as well, although it depends a bit more on the development of the Fluellen in the movie through an incredible performance by Ian Holm.

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Mike Rappaport


Olivier seems to revel in being, and appearing to be, of a fraternity of elite actors while he is acting. We cannot be him and do not want to be.
Branagh is Henry.

Posted by: james wilson | Dec 31, 2008 8:01:34 AM

If you're a fan of Branagh, do try the remarkable TV movie "Conspiracy", about the Wannsee Conference.

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