William Shakespeare to me was a genius. I love his plays and Othello is one my favorites of all because amongst other things such as the love between two different people, it shows clearly how the manipulation of emotions and feelings can destroy people's lives. It shows how evil a jealous and hateful person can be and how much influence they can have on those they manipulate. So much that Iago is my favorite character and in every version of Othello I watched so far all actors played him beautifully!
I had always seen the play with black actors before in theaters and I saw the Othello 1995 version with Laurence Fishburne, Irène Jacob, Kenneth Branagh and the 2001 version with Mekhi Phifer, Julia Stiles and Josh Harnett in O (Othello).
I very recently watched the 1965 version and at first I didn't think that the actor playing The Moor, Othello looked "normal". Although I love and can appreciate art and while I can not deny that the performance of Laurence Olivier is very good, the 1965 Othello does not have the same "feeling" and impact on me as the others with an actual Black actor do. Granted no one ever said the original Othello was actually black but he was African and was called think lips by Roderico.
The Russian actor Constantin Stanislavski played Othello in 1896 but he looked way, way better as the picture shows. Plus it was the 1800's!!
Olivier's version of Othello seems to me to be unnatural, fake. They didn't even bother to change anything else to make it realistic but spray black pain in him. Maybe if he played it as himself, without the black makeup, it would have been better. This movie was produced in 1965 and I do not understand why it couldn't have been made with a black actor. But that doesn't bother me so much as the fact that the actor was painted black to perform Othello and it made me wonder:
Weren't there enough talented back actors in the 60's?
Did they decided to paint a white man black instead of having a black man perform because black people weren't allowed to be "popular" actors or because he'd be the main actor?
Was Shakespeare way too good and important of a play for a black man to be a part of? Or was Laurent Olivier way too good to play a secondary part like Iago?
No matter what the answer might be, they killed Shakespeare's Othello to me, no matter how good the performance might be, it's not Shakespeare's Othello. Either way, in my opinion, the actor who played Iago, Frank Finlays, did a much better job than Olivier did.
Had I seen him perform like that live in a theater, I would have died laughing.