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Macbeth (1948)

Passed | | Drama, History, War | 10 May 1949 (Mexico)
Macbeth, the Thane of Glamis, receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders his king and takes the throne for himself.


Orson Welles


William Shakespeare (by)
1 nomination. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Orson Welles ... Macbeth
Jeanette Nolan ... Lady Macbeth
Dan O'Herlihy ... Macduff
Roddy McDowall ... Malcolm
Edgar Barrier ... Banquo
Alan Napier ... A Holy Father
Erskine Sanford ... Duncan
John Dierkes ... Ross
Keene Curtis ... Lennox
Peggy Webber ... Lady Macduff / The Three
Lionel Braham ... Siward
Archie Heugly Archie Heugly ... Young Siward
Jerry Farber Jerry Farber ... Fleance
Christopher Welles Christopher Welles ... Macduff's Child
Morgan Farley ... Doctor


In fog-dripping, barren and sometimes macabre settings, 11th-century Scottish nobleman Macbeth is led by an evil prophecy and his ruthless yet desirable wife to the treasonous act that makes him king. But he does not enjoy his newfound, dearly-won kingship... Restructured, but all the dialogue is Shakespeare's. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

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Drama | History | War


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Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Orson Welles assigned some of the lines spoken by characters in the play to different characters in the film. He invented the character "A Holy Father" for the film to emphasize what he believed was the struggle between religion and witchcraft in the play, and many of Ross' lines in the play are spoken by the Holy Father. The very minor character of the Old Man was omitted from the film, and his lines were also given to the Holy Father. Welles also gave Lady Macduff an extra speech which William Shakespeare had assigned to another character. See more »


Duncan and his men renew their baptismal vows with a prayer composed by Pope Leo XIII in 1884. While this is technically an anachronism, it should be remembered that William Shakespeare's plays are themselves are full of similar anachronisms, therefore this can be seen as a stylistic tribute that Shakespeare himself might have appreciated. See more »


[first lines]
The ThreeThe ThreeThe Three: Double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
See more »

Alternate Versions

The uncut version of 107 minutes length has dialogue with full Scottish accents, while the more common originally released version of 89 minutes, while still making use of Scotch accents, has long stretches of redubbed, unaccented dialogue. See more »


Version of Viola and Sebastian (1972) See more »

User Reviews

A dark, brooding, atmospheric Macbeth
18 March 2007 | by bandwSee all my reviews

Welles has created a unique interpretation of Macbeth with this film. It is very dark - literally so since almost the entire film takes place at night and the fog machines were cranked up pretty high for a lot of the scenes. Perhaps this darkness befits the mood of the story, but I began to feel oppressed by it. All the running about in ill-lighted cavernous hallways produced a claustrophobic effect.

Welles emphasizes Macbeth's ambivalence in acting on his ambitions and his anguish in having done so. The influence of Lady Macbeth is particularly accentuated; in the scene where Macbeth is wavering about killing the King, Lady Macbeth effectively challenges his manhood over any thoughts of failure to do the job. Wells is effective in delivering the voiced-over soliloquies and in developing Macbeth as a tortured brooder. Jeanette Nolan as Lady Macbeth is less successful than Welles - her "Out damned spot" scene was way over the top. It was fun to see a twenty-year-old Roddy McDowall playing Malcomb.

While there are some cinematic elements, like the escape of Fleance on horseback and the approach of Macduff and the English armies at the end, this is essentially the filming of a play. There are some interesting sets and lighting details, but there are also some cheesy sets and effects. The costumes look like they came out of some Viking movie and Macbeth's crown has all the appearance of having been fashioned for a junior high school play.

The musical score (by Jacques Ibert no less) is generic and frequently overbearing.

Going into this cold without having read the play or seen another production could be tough sledding.

Kurosawa took a lot from this Macbeth for his 1957 interpretation in "Throne of Blood." His Birnam wood scenes are almost identical to Welles'. For a more complete and accessible Macbeth, see Polanski's 1971 film. It would be interesting to see what Welles would have come up with if he had been turned loose on this with a big budget and no time constraints.

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English | Latin

Release Date:

10 May 1949 (Mexico) See more »

Also Known As:

Macbeth See more »


Box Office


$900,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Mercury Productions See more »
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Technical Specs


| (cut) | (premiere) | (restored video)

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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