As You Like It (Paul Czinner) exhibits Elisabeth Bergner as Rosalind in the third play by William Shakespeare offered to cinema audiences within the last year. A Midsummer Night's Dream, Max Reinhardt's cinema debut, and Romeo and Juliet, the late Irving Thalberg's masterpiece, had at least one thing in common: neither one has broken records for receipts. The critical acclaim which As You Like It received in London last summer and will receive in the U. S. this winter is not likely to save it from the same fate. Box-office appeal is one of the few virtues the film lacks. A skillful, energetic and scrupulously authentic production, into which Actress Bergner's director-husband, Paul Czinner, put all his brains and $1,000,000 of his money, it is aimed at Shakespeare's public rather than the cinema's and should find its mark.
In As You Like It, Shakespeare exhibited perhaps more spectacularly than any where else that nonchalant contempt for probability which cinemaddicts, trained in an easier school, find so difficult to accept. However this may militate against the picture's monetary value, it is of frequent assistance to its star. As an interpreter of the most solidly English of all English playwrights, Elisabeth Bergner's most pronounced drawback is an outlandish accent which she makes no effort to control. In As You Like It, the heterogeneous aspect of a forest already overrun by an astonishing gamut of classes, nationalities and wild animals is not greatly increased by a heroine who voices her passion in Germanic gutturals. Audiences may be pardoned for anticipating a czardas instead of a square dance in the closing pageant, but otherwise Actress Bergner's linguistic eccentricities actually serve a useful purpose. They make Elizabethan usages seem amusingly exotic rather than obsolete. Her temperamental inability to stop wriggling is of less assistance, but even this, in a role which does not stress feminine allure, is less objectionable than it might be elsewhere. Shrewd, vivacious and versatile as ever, Actress Bergner probably brings the part to life as thoroughly as possible.
Like Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's Romeo and Juliet, the Czinner As You Like It is textually exact. Sir James Barrie made the treatment from which Screenwriter R. J. Cullen wrote the scenario. Said Cinemactress Bergner: "I would like you to believe that we have made the film with love and with reverence. " . . We have had slightly to cut one or two of the longer speeches, but every word that we have left out has only been left out after argument, quarreling, and occasional tears." To highlight his wife's performance, Director Czinner saw to it that other roles, like Laurence Olivier's Orlando, Leon Quartermaine's Jaques, were played in a more subdued key. To give the screen version a scope that no stage production can hope to match, he allowed Set Designer Lazare Meersom, whose work U. S. audiences have heretofore seen only in French pictures like Carnival in Flanders, a free hand. Brilliantly matched with the glittering poetry of the play are its rich backgroundshuge dark trees in Arden forest, the barnyard where Orlando and his brother wrestle, the sweep of marble stairs above Duke Frederick's garden.