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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
It's quite a gap that Laurence Olivier covers between his portrayal of heroic Henry V and the evil Richard III. But he certainly does cover it well.
In fact this production boasts the talents of five knighted thespians in its cast, Olivier as Richard, John Gielgud as Clarence, Ralph Richardson as Buckingham, Cedric Hardwicke as Edward IV and Stanley Baker as the Earl of Richmond. That is probably some kind of record.
Once seen you will not forget the heavily made up Olivier with a shylock type nose and hunchbacked form. Unlike in Henry V and in Hamlet the title character's soliliquys are delivered straight to the audience rather than in voice-over. I think Olivier like Shakespeare wanted to emphasize the evilness of Richard as opposed to the tormenting doubts that Henry and Hamlet suffer. No doubts here, he's got his evil course well planned and he's very matter of factly telling his audience what's in store.
Of course when Shakespeare wrote this he was gearing up the Tudor dynasty propaganda machine. Stanley Baker's Earl of Richmond becomes Henry VII grandfather of the Queen whose patronage Shakespeare enjoyed. It was in Tudor family interest to blacken Richard's name to support their own dynastic claims. There have been several plausible theories put forth to claim the murders of Edward V and his brother were done by others.
One guy who in all the stories about Richard III who gets a whitewash is the Duke of Clarence. As portrayed by John Gielgud, Clarence is an innocent sacrificed in Richard's march for the throne. Actually Clarence was quite the schemer himself. He was in communication with Louis XI of France looking for aid in some plotting he was doing. Edward IV overlooked an incredible amount of treachery with him.
One very big flaw is that the film opens with Edward IV being restored to the throne again in 1471 and he has his son with him. Edward IV died in 1483 and the sons have not aged a mite. I believe they were 12 and 9 when they were put to death in the Tower of London in 1483. I'm surprised Olivier had that in his film.
Still and all it's a fabulous production and one should never miss a chance of seeing all that acting nobility in one film.
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