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Othello is a 1952 drama film based on the Shakespearean play, made by Mercury Productions Inc. and Les Films Marceau and distributed by United Artists (1955). It was directed and produced by Orson Welles, who also played the title role (in blackface makeup). The screenplay was adapted by Welles and an uncredited Jean Sacha. The film was shot on location in Moroccomarker, Venicemarker, Tuscany and Romemarker and at the Scalera Studios in Rome.

In addition to Orson Welles, the cast consisted of Micheál MacLiammóir as Iago, Robert Coote as Roderigo, Suzanne Cloutier as Desdemona, Michael Laurence as Cassio, Fay Compton as Emilia and Doris Dowling as Bianca. Joseph Cotten and Joan Fontaine also appear, uncredited.

One of Welles's more complicated shoots, Othello was filmed on and off over a period of three years. The film was hampered by its Italian backer going bankrupt early in the film. This led to some imaginative solutions; the famous scene in which Roderigo is murdered in a Turkish bath was done because the costumes weren't ready. Shooting began in 1949, but was forced to shut down when money for the production ran out. This led to a stop start production; for example, one of the fight scenes starts in Morocco, but the ending was shot in Rome several months later. Welles used the money from his acting jobs, such as The Third Man (1949), to finance the film.

This lengthy and complicated shoot is detailed in Micheál MacLiammóir's book Put Money in Thy Purse.



Released in Europe to acclaim in 1952, the film won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, though it was largely ignored in the United Statesmarker. It was restored in 1991 with its soundtrack rebuilt in stereo sound (the dialogue was largely the same, though re-mastered, but the score was newly recorded in stereo) and re-released to theatres. The film was screened out of competition at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival. This version was shown to acclaim in the United States, and first appeared on cable television in 1995.


  1. Filming Othello

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