Feature Drama | 1910 | Silent | B/W
A wonderfully overacted version of Richard III – a silent version, which did probably not get the best out of Shakespeare’s blank verse – but great to show the hammy acting of the 1910’s with all of its melodrama. This is the only surviving footage of Frank Benson, an actor manager of the day who did much to bring Shakespeare back to the stage after a fallow period for the bard. This production of 1911 saw Benson taking the led role and directing the play.
Caption on black – “Scenes from Richard III (Britain 1911), made by F.R Benson.
We see an image of Richard III dressed in cloak and crown – on stage in front of a painted set depicting the buildings of a town – a page stands centre stage and to the right is the figure of a nun – a couple of soldiers in armour behind Richard and two women stand stage right – a stone cross in also on stage – the nun gesticulates dramatically and exits stage left – Richard turns and addresses the two women and addresses them which makes them aghast – they cling to one another as Richard pulls the younger women towards him – he then thinks better of it and puts something in her hand and the two women depart.
Next a silent movie type caption saying “Buckingham captured and sent to execution”.
Back to the stage scene of the street as before – soldiers arrive with Buckingham, their prisoner – Richard III taunts him and issues and order with dramatic arm acting – the main soldier who wears a tabard with lions couchant, salutes with his sword, obeying the king’s instruction – the group marches off with Buckingham – his hands bound – Richard overacts in delight and exits. Then we see a bedroom in a castle with a figure lying on a bed raised on a dais , it is meant to be George, Duke of Clarence – he is declaiming to himself dramatically and tossing and turning – a Romanesque stone arch is seen in the background – three people enter – one of them carries a letter which he throws to the ground – the other two are armed with daggers and are here to do mischief to the person in the bed – Clarence gets up and begs for mercy but it then stabbed by one of the paid assailants – he dies dramatically – then the other two men fight before one of them leaves; the killer covers the face of the dead man and starts to heave his body across the stage, presumably heading for a butt of Malmsey in which to finish him off.
Caption – Scene 12 – Richard’s dream, the night before battle.
Caption “O coward conscience how dost thou afflict me”.
On stage we see a painted backdrop of countryside – to one side is a battle tent – Richard III is lying outdoors on a bed – tables carrying his regalia are in front of the bed – a soldier comes out of the tent as a page arrives with a message – he gives it to the soldier – both soldier and page depart – Richard stretches his frame, dreaming and a figure appears mysteriously to one side – he draws a sword – then another figure appears instead and this one shakes his head in dismay – next a third figure raises a dagger above his head – then a fourth person with a hatchet mimes decapitation – next come the figures of two young boys – the Princes in the Tower and they point at Richard accusingly – following on comes a female figure in medieval dress who seems despairing – another male figure appears and points accusingly at Richard, takes the royal standard and lowers it to the ground – these are all of Richard’s many victims - Richard stirs in bed and starts thumping his arm angrily – he is sorely moved, staggers to his feet and puts his hands to his head in turmoil – then he seems to come to himself, points to his sword and to the place where the figures appeared – he looks at the hourglass and again holds his head in his hands in despair – a soldier appears and Richard unburdens himself to him , he picks up his cloak and they both exit.
Caption “Battle of Bosworth. Death of Richard. Richmond offered the crown”.
Caption”God and your arms be praised, victorious friends;
The day is ours, the bloody dog is dead”
“Now civil wounds are stopped, Peace lives again;
That she may long live here, God say – Amen”.
A scene on Bosworth Field – soldiers in armour stand around waving flags – one man kneels centre stage – it is Richard, wearing the crown – he picks up a missive and shows it to a soldier who has rushed on – Richard reads the declaration, takes out his sword and gets very het up – tries to stir up his troops who raise their swords and Richard rushes off to battle – the fight begins with the two sides hammering one another with swords – Richard crashes around manically and then has a one to one sword fight with an enemy – an enthusiastic follower, who has been felled, waves the flag of St George in encouragement but Richard falls on the battlefield. Caption: The End.
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