|Directed by||Stuart Burge|
|Produced by||John Brabourne
|Written by||William Shakespeare|
|Music by||Richard Hampton|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. (USA)
British Home Entertainment (UK Video)
|Release date(s)||December 15, 1965|
|Running time||165 min.|
Othello is a 1965 film based on the Shakespeare play Othello; starring Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, Frank Finlay, and Joyce Redman. It was simply a filmed version of a performance by the actors for the National Theatre, staged by John Dexter, from 1964-66. It even used enlarged duplicates of the original stage settings, rather than having elaborate new and different sets built specifically for the film. Olivier's former backers for his Shakespeare films were all dead by 1965, and he was not able to raise the money to do a real film version. Olivier had in fact been planning on doing Macbeth, but the film's main backer, Alexander Korda, died a year after the release of Richard III. In the U.S., it did not play the usual several-week run given to most films; instead, it played for only two days. The film was exhibited as a roadshow presentation.
The Olivier Othello is the first filmed version of the play in English that was made in Technicolor and widescreen. It is the only Shakespeare film in which all the leading actors and actresses have been nominated for Oscars, with Finlay being nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category despite playing the role with the most lines in the play: 1117 to Olivier's 856. In Olivier's portrayal of Othello, he wore blackface, adopted an exotic accent of his own invention, developed a special walk, and learned how to speak in a voice considerably deeper than his normal one. Columnist Inez Robb disparagingly compared Olivier's performance to Al Jolson's blackface turn in The Jazz Singer, writing "Olivier's performance is high camp. I was certainly in tune with the gentleman sitting next to me who kept asking 'When does he sing Mammy?" However, noted film critic Pauline Kael gave the production and Olivier's portrayal one of her most glowing reviews, even shaming the major movie studios for not being willing to spend more money on the film.   John Simon, while disagreeing with the approach the production's interpretation took, declared that "Olivier plays this misconceived Othello spectacularly, in a manner that is always a perverse joy to behold." 
The film retains virtually all of Shakespeare's play, only omitting the Fool's scene and a few scattered lines here and there. It also does not change the order of scenes, as Olivier's Hamlet or Richard III do.
Derek Jacobi made his screen debut in the film as Michael Cassio. Michael Gambon also made his film debut in a bit role. Edward Hardwicke, best known to audiences as the second Dr. Watson on PBS' The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series with Jeremy Brett, appears as the officer Montano, who is wounded in the brawl with Cassio when the latter becomes drunk.