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J. Searle Dawley
Shakespeare's tragedy of the hump-backed Duke of Gloucester, who rises to the throne of England by chicanery, treachery, and brilliance, only to find that his own methods have prepared the groundwork for his downfall. Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Far from being a representation of a typical stage production of the play when the film was made, star Frederick Warde related in his autobiography that "I found the action of the camera necessitated entirely different methods of acting from the stage. Spontaneity must be replaced by deliberation and concentrated expression take the place of words. I had much to learn and considerable to unlearn but the director and photographer were very considerate, although my ignorance of the necessities of the camera must have tried their patience almost to the limit." See more »
Besides its historical importance, this silent screen adaptation of Shakespeare's "Richard III" is a pretty good movie in its own right. It has several good features that compensate for the lack of dialogue and the other cinematic limitations of the time. The result is something a bit different from watching the play, but still a good story that does retain much of the emphasis of the original.
The adaptation is noteworthy for the liveliness and the detail that went into most of the scenes. They also made generally good decisions in adapting the story, by high-lighting the parts that would work most effectively on film without dialogue, and also in filming some events that were not actually in the play but to which characters in the play refer. While the lack of dialogue means that the character of Richard is not as complex as he is in the play, Frederick Warde does a good job of making his basic character come out. Some of his scenes work better than you might have expected them to without the advantage of spoken lines. The camera is fixed for each scene, as was then the norm, and it also uses the old-fashioned 'tableau' format, but there are a number of uses of cross-cutting, and there are also a couple of simple tracking shots at effectively chosen moments.
Overall, this is creative for its era, and it works quite well. It deserves to be seen in its own right, as well as for its more well-known historical significance.
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