Based on Shakespeare's play, Act V, Scene vii: King John is in torment, and his supporters fear that his end is near. As he writhes in agony, he is attended by Prince Henry, the Earl of Pembroke, and Robert Bigot. Prince Henry tries repeatedly to comfort his delirious father, but to no avail - John's pain is too great. Written by
The Smedley family of Birmingham, England were closely involved with the production of both the "King John" production at Her Majesty's Theatre and the "King John" film. W. T. Smedley was chairman of the British Mutuscope & Biograph Company which made the film and which may have invested in the play, his daughter, Constance Smedley, designed the play's 60 performances souvenir programme, which the film company published on Her Majesty's Theatre's behalf and his nephew, William Smedley Aston, was official and exclusive photographer for the stage production. See more »
While not especially detailed or action-packed, this short movie is quite an interesting piece of cinema history. It affords a look at the renowned stage actor Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, in what must have been his first screen role, and it is also one of the very earliest screen adaptations of classic literature. In itself, it is not bad at all for material that is not particularly well-suited for a silent movie.
The footage comes from the last scene of Shakespeare's "King John", and depicts the king (Sir Herbert) in agony, both mental and physical. It's the kind of scene that offers a stage actor some fine opportunities for dramatics and the like, but it's something of a curious choice for early movie footage, compared with some of Shakespeare's other, more action packed works. Yet at that, it does not work badly.
While Sir Herbert's style is clearly based on the stage, he nevertheless convincingly portrays King John's torment, and if you read some of John's lines while watching the footage, it fits together. Prince Henry's vain efforts to comfort his father also come across believably. The setting and background likewise are stage-like, and yet they work in adding a little detail and atmosphere.
All in all, this is worth seeing for a number of reasons.
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