|Branagh as Henry V|
I've been thinking about Kenneth Branagh recently ... wondering about the career choices he's made, this gifted actor, writer, director from Northern Ireland ...
I'd been seeing his name in print in the late 1980s, but I'd never heard anyone say it, so it was a while before I learned how to pronounce his last name--Branagh. It looked like one of those names that defy pronunciation altogether (the first year I taught I had a boy with the surname Cvrk--pronounced suh-VERK--welcome to teaching!). I first saw his name--Kenneth Branagh (b. 1960)--in 1989 when the world (well, the cultural world) was in love with his new film, Henry V. The theater world knew him already--he'd had a spectacular career in the U. K., earning major roles at a very early age.
|Olivier as Henry V|
But Branagh did it; the critics loved it; his film career seemed poised to break the possessive clutch of gravity, to soar into the Beyond.
And so it did ... for a while. He followed Henry V with a psychological thriller, a murder mystery, Dead Again (1991), a film critics liked, too. He played an American private eye--sounded American, through and through. Branagh could do no wrong. Not yet. I loved that film, was falling in love with its creator, too.
|Burton & Taylor in Shrew|
I remember reading an emotional review in the New Republic by curmudgeonly critic Stanley Kauffmann. He loved it too. Saw it twice. (Kauffmann's review)
Up next for Branagh ... Hamlet ...
(To be continued--including the gripping story of how I learned to pronounce his name--a story with a Hollywood connection)