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Richard III (1911)

 -  Short | Biography | Drama  -  May 1911 (UK)
5.8
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Although several others are ahead of him in the line of succession, Richard of Gloucester is determined to gain the throne. Through deceit, manipulation, and murder, he does become King ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
James Berry ...
Alfred Brydone ...
Kathleen Yorke ...
Edward, Prince of Wales
Murray Carrington ...
George, Duke of Clarence
Frank R. Benson ...
Eric Maxon ...
Henry, Earl of Richmond
Moffat Johnston ...
James Maclean ...
Victor McClure ...
R.I. Connick ...
George Manship ...
Harry Caine ...
Wilfrid Caithness ...
L. Rupert ...
H. James ...
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Storyline

Although several others are ahead of him in the line of succession, Richard of Gloucester is determined to gain the throne. Through deceit, manipulation, and murder, he does become King Richard III of England. But once he becomes king, he soon finds out that the many enemies he has made will make it very difficult for him to remain on the throne for long. Written by Snow Leopard

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May 1911 (UK)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Epitome of Stagy
27 August 2009 | by See all my reviews

This is monitory of the problems with the filmed plays made during the transition from short to feature-length films. This version of Shakespeare's play is two reels and over 20 minutes, which was longer than many films in 1911. Multiple-reel films were already becoming increasingly popular, though, especially where the nickelodeon model wasn't as dominant as in the US. In the US, multiple-reel subjects were often split by reel and shown in serial form: the so-called nickelodeon multi-reelers. D.W. Griffith's "Enoch Arden" (1911) was a two-reeler released in two separate parts, although, back then, it was also to the discretion of exhibitors whether they wanted to show it in serial or full form. Vitagraph, in particular, made many multi-reel subjects after 1908; one of their 1911 productions was "A Tale of Two Cities", which exists today minus a reel. In Denmark, France and Italy, they were already making feature-length films. "L'Inferno", at over an hour in length and with some remarkable sets, was the year's biggest production. England, where this film hails, was also already producing multi-reel films, including early adaptations of Dickens and Doyle's tales. "Richard III" is, thus, unexceptional in regards to its production or length for 1911.

It is a bad film by 1911 standards… or by any standard. One only need view one of the aforementioned films, or the interestingly staged 40-minute-plus Danish film "Temptations of a Great City" (1911) or, even more striking, a fast-paced short film with scene dissection such as "The Lonedale Operator" (1911) to see just how awful "Richard III" is. Moreover, there are hundreds of superior and still available films released before 1911, which one may compare it to. Perhaps the most illustrative comparison, however, would be to the 1912 "Richard III", which is also a rather tedious filmed play. In the 1912 production, many of the scenes are photographed outdoors and there are a couple three-dimensional sets—never just a painted backdrop. The 1912 film at least contains some examples of basic continuity editing, too.

In this 1911 play, the camera is nailed to the proscenium arch. The camera takes in a large amount of the floorboards of the stage, adding to its theatricality. There being little more than backdrops for scenery completes the stagy effect. The only cinematic effect are some substitution-splicing for Richard's dream, but that technique had been around since 1895. (The 1912 film employed a superimposition.) A title card splits every shot-scene and describes proceeding action in the typical tableau fashion. The acting is the most ludicrous example of histrionics I've seen in these early pictures. I don't see how it could even be passable acting in theatre, although these were the professionals of their day. Regardless, it's terrible screen acting. I've given poor marks to other stagy and static theatrical adaptations from this period, including to the 1912 "Richard III", "Queen Elizabeth" (1912), "From the Manger to the Cross" (1912), "The Last Days of Pompeii" (1913), "The Squaw Man" (1914), etc. Yet, to my memory they all seem markedly better than this, since they at least do a bit more than bring a camera to a stage and hack to pieces a classic. ("Queen Elizabeth", in particular, didn't do much more than bring a camera to a stage performance, but at least the play had better production values.) On the other hand, and to say something somewhat nice, this film is shorter than those feature-length filmed plays.


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