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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.

Director:

Orson Welles

Writer:

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

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Cast

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
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Storyline

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>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

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Entertainment Greatness . . . That Only Motion Picture Magic Can Bring !

Genres:

Drama | History | War

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

One of the witches is played by Brainerd Duffield, a man. Some sources mistakenly credit screenwriter Charles Lederer in the role. See more »

Goofs

In one scene, you see Duncan in a crowd holding a lighted candle. The film cuts to a close up of Duncan and he is holding an unlit candle, the next cut back to Duncan in a crowd again holding a lighted candle. See more »

Quotes

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

The edited version had a prologue spoken by Welles before any lines of Shakespeare's play were even uttered. In the prologue, Welles explains that the witches are "agents of hell...plotting against Christian law and order" and that "here on the blasted heath", the spell is put upon Macbeth. Most books which discuss the Welles film mention Welles's narration, apparently completely unaware that it does not appear at all in the complete, restored version of the film. See more »

Connections

Version of Macbeth (1998) 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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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Latin

Release Date:

10 May 1949 (Mexico) See more »

Also Known As:

Macbeth See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$900,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

Production Co:

Mercury Productions See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

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

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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