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King Lear (1983)

An aging King invites disaster, when he abdicates to his corrupt, toadying daughters, and rejects his loving and honest one.

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Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Albany
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Cornwall
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Burgundy
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France
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Edgar
Geoffrey Bateman ...
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Lear's Knight
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Storyline

Lear is an aging King who wants to retire by abdicating to his three daughters. However, in an act of petty ego stroking, he asks them who among them loves him most. While two daughters eagerly toady to him, his one loving daughter, Cordelia, refuses play along with this foolish charade. In a rage, Lear exiles her along with his one loyal aide who dares to stick up for her. This foolish move works to Lear's sorrow as his two remaining daughters cruelly and gradually strip him of his status and possessions until he is rendered an insane hermit attended only by his fool. All the while, the illegitimate son of another lord is plotting his own ambitions while contributing to this tragic tale of ego and familial cruelty. Written by Kenneth Chisholm <kchishol@home.com>

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26 January 1984 (USA)  »

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Kung Lear  »

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4:3
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Executive Producer David Plowright was the brother-in-law of Sir Laurence Olivier. See more »

Quotes

King Lear: Ay, every inch a king.
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Connections

Version of Le roi Lear (1981) See more »

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How an old fart becomes a real king
5 January 2006 | by See all my reviews

The key to Olivier's performance is also the key to the play. Lear has been an absolute monarch for so long that he thinks of his royal status as a personal attribute. He therefore takes for granted that he will still be treated as a king (without the burden of royal responsibilities) when he has given up the land and authority that are the basis of his power. His attitude recalls the words of Shakespeare's Richard II: "Not all the waters of the rough rude sea can wash the balm from an anointed king." Events in that play prove how wrong he was.

Lear's position has also isolated him from the realities of everyday life and genuine human emotion. His tragedy is the price he pays for rediscovering those realities. His nobility is shown by his willingness to acknowledge his error and pay the price: "Oh I have ta'en too little care of this..." Olivier's performance, more than any other on film, shows this process of coming to terms with the realities of human life, and the falsity of court life; and being driven insane by the shock until his recognition of Cordelia brings him back. Olivier shows us what Lear is going through with hundreds of small gestures, movements, inflections of voice, and facial expressions. By comparison, he makes other actors in the role seem wooden, and he reveals how an "old fart" can regain his nobility by facing the truth.


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