Puck has wandered into the outline for my next novel and wants to take it over. I continue to resist his insurrection, but plan on finding a good and proper place for him in it. I figured I’d better catch up on Puck’s most famous literary appearance and re-read (and re-view) A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’ve always wanted to see this old 1935 adaptation of Shakespeare’s play and I finally watched it last night. What about Mickey Rooney’s portrayal of Puck?
He’s completely deranged and psychotic. It’s amazing.
I was intrigued by this quip from Amazon.com about Rooney’s performance:
The other actors are decidedly varied, and they tend to be overwhelmed by the production design. Not so Mickey Rooney, whose performance as Puck is a feral, antic act of imagination (he was 14 during filming); picture a boy raised by wolves who somehow memorized Shakespeare. His Puck growls and screams and mocks the drama of the other characters, a little postmodern imp before his time. (Critic David Thomson called this Puck "truly inhuman, one of the cinema's most arresting pieces of magic").
“A boy raised by wolves who somehow memorized Shakespeare.” That is amazingly accurate. Rooney’s portrayal of Puck is legendary – he’s off-the-wall, annoying, magnificent, profound, silly, and magnetic. His laugh is one of the three greatest film laughs I have ever heard, along with Tom Hulce as Mozart in Amadeus and Heath Ledger as The Joker. In fact, give Mickey Rooney’s Puck a knife and make him malevolent, and he instantly becomes Ledger’s psychotic villain from The Dark Knight.
I enjoyed this all more than I expected to. Definitely worth hunting down.
Here’s Gore Vidal introducing AMND on TCM. There’s a brief clip of Mickey Rooney in this with just a touch of that insane laugh of his. Pay attention to what Vidal says that Tennessee Williams once told him about Mickey Rooney.