Richard III (1955)

Not Rated  |   |  Biography, Drama, History  |  11 March 1956 (USA)
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Shakespeare's powerful tale of the wicked deformed king and his conquests, both on the battlefield and in the boudoir.



(plays), (textual alterations for his production of the play), 2 more credits »
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 9 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Nicholas Hannen ...
George, Duke of Clarence
Mary Kerridge ...
Pamela Brown ...
Paul Huson ...
Edward, Prince of Wales
Stewart Allen ...
Page to Richard
Russell Thorndike ...
First Priest
Wallace Bosco ...
Monk (as Wally Bosco)
Norman Fisher ...
Andrew Cruickshank ...
Clive Morton ...


Richard's military skills have helped to put his older brother Edward on the throne of England. But jealousy and resentment cause Richard to seek the crown for himself, and he conceives a lengthy and carefully calculated plan using deception, manipulation, and outright murder to achieve his goal. His plotting soon has tumultuous consequences, both for himself and for England. Written by Snow Leopard

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

11 March 1956 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Ricardo III  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Laurence Olivier originally wanted John Mills and Richard Attenborough to play the murderers. However, Mills thought the idea might be regarded as "stunt casting", and Attenborough had to pull out due to a scheduling conflict. See more »


When Richard tells Lady Anne to kill him, she grabs the sword and it bends. It is even more noticeable when Richard puts the sword to his own neck. See more »


Duke of Buckingham: And is it thus? Repays he my deep services/ With such contempt? Made I him King for this?/ O let me think on Hastings
[who has been beheaded]
Duke of Buckingham: and let me be gone/ To Richmond, while my fearful head is on.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Most of the film's credits are shown at the end. The opening credits show only the title of the film, Shakespeare's name, and the names of the main actors. See more »


Referenced in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Final Sacrifice (1998) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Sportive Tricks With Sir Larry's Tricky Dick
13 March 2005 | by (Greenwich, CT United States) – See all my reviews

That "Richard III" is one of the all-time great acting performances is hard to argue with. In the title role, Sir Laurence Olivier manages to be rousing and hate-inducing, menacing and amusing, often all at once. He was the world's greatest stage actor of his time, and Shakespeare was the world's greatest stage writer. So how do they do on the movie screen?

Quite well. Because "Richard III," like "Patton" or "Scarface," is essentially a one-man show, and Olivier was the best Shakespearean actor of his time or since, we are in good hands. As a director (and uncredited co-writer), Olivier telescopes the action on screen in such a way as to negate the necessary stageiness of Shakespeare's text. He moves us the audience from one scene to another by pulling back a curtain and nodding to us to come closer, as if we were an old friend. He yells some lines, then coos others, his vocal dynamics challenging even seasoned readers of the play in terms of what he chooses to accent and what he does not. Finally, he finds the ample stores of humor Shakespeare gave this, one of his darker plays.

"A sweeter and a lovelier gentleman...the spacious world cannot again afford," Richard says of one man he killed, and Olivier invests moments like this with a firm tongue in cheek. While wooing that man's wife (strictly for political gain), he actually draws a sword when presenting himself as the widow's new suitor, telling her to plunge it into him if she won't be his bride. She tells him he's a liar. "Then never man was true!" Richard shouts, and Olivier as he says this rolls his eyes shamelessly, like a silent-screen matinée idol. I can't watch that scene without laughing; it's a Mel Brooks moment.

The film does move slowly, despite Olivier's trims. Entire scenes get cut out, yet the first act is drawn on for nearly an hour with the help of some dialogue brought in from another Shakespeare play. Surely Olivier could have set more up as part of the opening text narrative, and gotten down to business with that famous opening soliloquy.

A worse fault is the woodenness of some of the actors, like the ones who play Catesby, Brackenbury, and especially Lord Hastings. It doesn't help that they don't get the same chance to address the viewer that Olivier avails himself. Sir John Gielgud even seems lost playing a naive victim of Richard's complots. Seen to better advantage are Claire Bloom as the woman Richard woos, Michael Gough as a murderer, and Patrick Troughton as the nasty child-killing nobleman Tyrell.

Ralph Richardson gives the second-best performance in the play as the Duke of Buckingham, a half-step behind Richard in guile and cruelty, but trying to catch up in his own cold-blooded way. It's funny to read here that Olivier wanted Orson Welles in the role. Welles would have seemed too crafty. Richardson makes a believable victim as well as conspirator. Also, you have to mention Pamela Brown's Mistress Shore, who has no lines (because Shakespeare wrote none for her) but manages in Olivier's direction to play a central role by currying the bedside favor of King Edward and of Hastings.

But Olivier of course is the only reason this movie is still watched. And he's worth watching as long as movies are seen. Yes, he may have won World War II making his movie version of "Henry V," and his "Hamlet" was when he became Hollywood's favorite emissary of high culture, but "Richard III" is still the thing to catch the conscienceless of the king, his moment of highest dungeon and merriest perversity. It's movies like this one that remind us why acting can be a noble profession, even for those who aren't knighted for their excellence in it.

24 of 26 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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