Rembrandt

  • 1936
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Biography

This box-office failure wonderfully exposes the creative process of the artist and presents an unromanticized look at one of art's geniuses. The film confines itself to the final 27 years of the Dutchman's life, beginning shortly after the death of Rembrant's first wife, with Rembrandt, played by Charles Laughton, busily at work on "The Night Watch." The...read more

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This box-office failure wonderfully exposes the creative process of the artist and presents an unromanticized look at one of art's geniuses. The film confines itself to the final 27 years of the Dutchman's life, beginning shortly after the death of Rembrant's first wife, with Rembrandt,

played by Charles Laughton, busily at work on "The Night Watch." The men who appear in the famous painting, all of whom have paid a fee for the privilege of sitting for the master, are unhappy with the way they have been painted, but Rembrandt, true to his vision, will not allow them to criticize

his work. With his first wife buried, he turns to the female closest to him, Geertje (Gertrude Lawrence), his housekeeper and sometime model, a vulgar woman he might never have noticed were he still happily married. The moment he begins his alliance with Geertje, things go rotten. First, he must

sell his regal house and most of his assets in order to satisfy his outstanding bills. Then, when he turns his attentions on the maid, Hendrickje (Elsa Lanchester), Geertje leaves him. Hendrickje is soon pregnant, and they are married after she gives birth. When Hendrickje dies, Rembrandt becomes

almost instantly old, a doddering old fool on the brink of total senility. Producer-director Alexander Korda, an art collector, teamed up with his brother in designing a marvelous "look" to the movie, each scene looking as though it were taken from one of Rembrandt's own paintings. Laughton did

his research by traveling to Holland, studying the art and whatever biographical material he could lay hands on, then steeped himself in the information and entered into the persona of the painter, offering a superb, complex characterization that must rank among his best, and, perhaps, one of the

best biographical roles in film history. Laughton dominated the film in the title role, as he'd done before in the roles of Henry, Nero, Javert, and Bligh. He was in every scene but one, giving such a restrained performance that audiences expecting his thespian fireworks were disappointed. That

the movie was not a hit does not detract from the achievements of the Kordas, Laughton, and everyone associated with this tasteful, mostly accurate, and satisfying motion picture.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: This box-office failure wonderfully exposes the creative process of the artist and presents an unromanticized look at one of art's geniuses. The film confines itself to the final 27 years of the Dutchman's life, beginning shortly after the death of Rembran… (more)

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