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In the Wings

Backstage glimpses with Boston Lyric Opera

DR. VON LYRIC: The Don goes to Hell via Hollywood

May 1, 2015 1:12:00 PM
By BLO Staff

George Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman was first performed in 1905, but omitted the third act of this already lengthy play. The third act is a very Shavian digression (in essence, a separate play) set in Hell and featuring a witty, ironic, and bitingly perceptive philosophical debate on war, love, politics, gender, sex, and everything else under the sun... The participants are Don Juan, Doña Ana, the Commander (her father), and (getting all the best lines, as usual) the Devil himself. Now often performed as a separate evening, it achieved its most well-known incarnation in 1952, when a glamorous quartet of actors (including a very suave Charles Boyer) toured in a staged reading. Here is an extended excerpt. Listen to it all (it's quite compelling) if you have time, but at least check out the opening, which features the unmistakable and irresistible eloquence and sly wit of Charles Laughton:

Now, we turn to three representations of Don Juan in film, incarnated by three actors who seemingly carried more than a bit of Giovanni DNA in their make-up... simultaneous delight in and abuse of both women and alcohol, careening careers devoted to personal extravagance and defiant, anarchistic gestures, and a certain feeling of inevitable decay and dissolution.

Here's John Barrymore in a 1926 "silent" film, although it was in fact the first Hollywood film to use synchronized sound effects and music (played by the New York Philharmonic), but with no dialogue. It has been claimed that it has the most kisses in film history--127 of them!

Douglas Fairbanks in 1934... an aging Don Juan. It was Fairbanks' last film:

Errol Flynn in 1948:

A modern take... a delusional Johnny Depp, who believes he's Don Juan, is undergoing therapy with his psychiatrist, Marlon Brando, who himself is gradually drawn into Depp's fantasy world:

Topics: Don Giovanni, Film

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