Omnibus (1952–1961)
10 user 6 critic

King Lear 

An old king, stepping down from the throne, disinherits his favorite daughter on a mad whim and gives his kingdom to his two older daughters, both of whom prove treacherous.



(play), (teleplay)

On Disc

at Amazon



Episode cast overview, first billed only:
King Lear
Duke of Albany
Earl of Kent
David J. Stewart ...
Poor Tom (as Micheal MacLiammoir)
Frederick Worlock ...
Earl of Gloucester
Duke of Cornwall
King of France
Fred Sadoff ...
Duke of Burgundy
First Gentleman
Chris Gampel ...
First Servant


Based on Shakespeare's play: King Lear of Britain has decided to divide his kingdom into three parts, and to hand over the responsibilities of ruling to his three daughters. The two oldest daughters, Goneril and Regan, flatter their father insincerely, and are rewarded. Cordelia, the youngest, sincerely loves her father, but she cannot match her sisters' skill at false adulation - so Lear takes away her portion of the kingdom, despite the pleadings of some of his most loyal nobles. It is not long before Goneril and Regan reveal their deep ingratitude, and soon the old king finds himself in a confusing and desperate position. Written by Snow Leopard

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

daughter | king | father | sister | map | See All (43) »


Drama | History | Music


Not Rated




Release Date:

18 October 1953 (USA)  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


This adaptation of William Shakespeare's play cuts out the subplot involving Edmund, Edgar and their father, the Earl of Gloucester. Edmund's character is merged into that of Oswald (David J. Stewart). Tom o' Bedlam (Micheál MacLiammóir) appears, but we never learn, as in the original play, that "Tom" is only a guise for Edgar. Key scenes involving Gloucester (Frederick Worlock), including his blinding, are retained, but only as they directly relate to the main plot. No mention is made of his having sons. See more »


During the storm scene, Lear's mustache comes lose and flaps in the wind. Orson Welles turns his back at one point in a failed attempt to stick it back on firmly. See more »


Version of King Lear (1971) See more »

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User Reviews

Innovative and Stunning
5 March 2004 | by See all my reviews

This production was performed Live on the Omnibus TV series, which was the fore-runner to much of what PBS has become. The actors were directed by Peter Brook in 3 whirlwind weeks, and it features incidental music by Virgil Thompson... an impressive array of talent. It centers on a bravura performance by Welles in the title role, although Alan Badel also shines as the Fool.

Shot on a circular, 6-segment set with 2 cameras that traveled around the perimeter, it required innovative camera-work, especially at the end of scenes, where one camera had to sneak off to the next set to begin the following scene. The lighting is very contrasty and daring, sometimes even flaring the camera (unheard of for TV lighting). The confrontation between Lear and his two wicked daughters, for instance, is handled on one camera, very tight on Lear framed by the profiles of the daughters. The camera moves inches to the left or right, deftly shifting the dramatic axis of the scene moment by moment.

The production manager told me that during rehearsals, the prop man approached him in an agitated state, saying, "I just talked to Orson. For the mad scene, he wants a crown of thorns. Like Christ's... only bigger."

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