Omnibus (1952–1961)
10 user 6 critic

King Lear 

An old king, stepping down from the throne, disinherits his favorite daughter on a mad whim and gives his kingdom to his two older daughters, both of whom prove treacherous.


Andrew McCullough


Peter Brook (teleplay), William Shakespeare (play)

On Disc

at Amazon




Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Orson Welles ... King Lear (segment)
Natasha Parry ... Cordelia (segment)
Arnold Moss ... Duke of Albany (segment)
Bramwell Fletcher ... Earl of Kent (segment)
David J. Stewart David J. Stewart ... Oswald (segment)
Margaret Phillips ... Regan (segment)
Beatrice Straight ... Goneril (segment)
Alan Badel ... Fool (segment)
Micheál MacLiammóir ... Poor Tom (segment) (as Micheal MacLiammoir)
Frederick Worlock ... Earl of Gloucester (segment)
Scott Forbes ... Duke of Cornwall (segment)
Wesley Addy ... King of France (segment)
Fred Sadoff Fred Sadoff ... Duke of Burgundy (segment)
Lloyd Bochner ... First Gentleman (segment)
Chris Gampel Chris Gampel ... First Servant (segment)


Based on Shakespeare's play: King Lear of Britain has decided to divide his kingdom into three parts, and to hand over the responsibilities of ruling to his three daughters. The two oldest daughters, Goneril and Regan, flatter their father insincerely, and are rewarded. Cordelia, the youngest, sincerely loves her father, but she cannot match her sisters' skill at false adulation - so Lear takes away her portion of the kingdom, despite the pleadings of some of his most loyal nobles. It is not long before Goneril and Regan reveal their deep ingratitude, and soon the old king finds himself in a confusing and desperate position. Written by Snow Leopard

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | History | Music


Not Rated

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

18 October 1953 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El rey Lear See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

CBS,Ford Foundation See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


This adaptation of William Shakespeare's play cuts out the subplot involving Edmund, Edgar and their father, the Earl of Gloucester. Edmund's character is merged into that of Oswald (David J. Stewart). Tom o' Bedlam (Micheál MacLiammóir) appears, but we never learn, as in the original play, that "Tom" is only a guise for Edgar. Key scenes involving Gloucester (Frederick Worlock), including his blinding, are retained, but only as they directly relate to the main plot. No mention is made of his having sons. See more »


Orson Welles reverses the wording of one line in Act IV, Scene vii. Instead of "You have some cause, they have not," Welles says, "They have some cause, you have not," which completely reverses the meaning of the line. See more »


Version of Performance: King Lear (1998) See more »

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User Reviews

Innovative and Stunning
5 March 2004 | by metaphor-2See all my reviews

This production was performed Live on the Omnibus TV series, which was the fore-runner to much of what PBS has become. The actors were directed by Peter Brook in 3 whirlwind weeks, and it features incidental music by Virgil Thompson... an impressive array of talent. It centers on a bravura performance by Welles in the title role, although Alan Badel also shines as the Fool.

Shot on a circular, 6-segment set with 2 cameras that traveled around the perimeter, it required innovative camera-work, especially at the end of scenes, where one camera had to sneak off to the next set to begin the following scene. The lighting is very contrasty and daring, sometimes even flaring the camera (unheard of for TV lighting). The confrontation between Lear and his two wicked daughters, for instance, is handled on one camera, very tight on Lear framed by the profiles of the daughters. The camera moves inches to the left or right, deftly shifting the dramatic axis of the scene moment by moment.

The production manager told me that during rehearsals, the prop man approached him in an agitated state, saying, "I just talked to Orson. For the mad scene, he wants a crown of thorns. Like Christ's... only bigger."

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