This might be the only time on record that Master William Shakespeare brought one of his characters back by popular demand. Just like Walt Disney did with Davy Crockett.
It is said that Queen Elizabeth was so taken with the outrageous character of Sir John Falstaff in Henry IV, both parts that she requested of the Bard that he bring him back in another play. Even though in Henry V, Shakespeare had made mention of the sad death of the merrymaking Falstaff. But back then continuity counted for nothing when you get a royal request.
This television production pretends it's nothing else than a photographed stage play, we are told by host John Houseman that this is how Elizabethan audiences would have seen The Merry Wives Of Windsor at the Globe Theater.
Leon Charles is the blustering Falstaff who is now way too old for tall tales of battlefield heroism, so now he's switched to the field of romance where he boasts of tales of conquests, especially among the married women. Where he's now settled in Windsor, Falstaff tries wooing two married women at once, Mistresses Ford and Page. Of course everybody gets on to him real fast, but the play is one long running joke of how they can cure him of his boastfulness. A tall order indeed since no less than the Prince Hal could do that in both parts of Henry IV.
The women are played by Valerie Seelie-Snyder and movie queen Gloria Grahame. I have to say that Grahame does not come over like everyone's favorite nymphomaniac as she did in her prime Hollywood years. In this American cast her accent did not stand out.
As this is an American production it's all right, but not the equal of what the BBC did. Or what Orson Welles did in Chimes At Midnight. Still it's a nice introduction to the Bard, it's certainly made me want to see Anthony Quayle as Falstaff again in the BBC Merry Wives of Windsor.
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