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Hamlet (1964)

The highly successful 1964 Richard Burton Broadway production of "Hamlet", deliberately staged in the style of a "dress rehearsal", but performed in front of a live audience.

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William Shakespeare (play)
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Cast

Credited cast:
Richard Burton ... Hamlet
Hume Cronyn ... Polonius
Alfred Drake ... Claudius
Eileen Herlie ... Gertrude
William Redfield ... Guildenstern
George Rose George Rose ... First Gravedigger
George Voskovec ... Player King
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Hugh Alexander Hugh Alexander ... Cornelius / Second Gravedigger / English Ambassador
Philip Coolidge ... Voltimand
Kit Culkin ... Player Queen (as Christopher Culkin)
John Cullum ... Laertes
Michael Ebert Michael Ebert ... Francisco / Fortinbras
Dillon Evans Dillon Evans ... Reynaldo / Osric / Fortinbras's Captain
Clement Fowler Clement Fowler ... Rosencrantz
Geoff Garland Geoff Garland ... Lucianus
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Storyline

Sir John Gielgud directed this "Electronovision" taping of the play "Hamlet" performed at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater on Broadway in 1964 ("Electronovision" was a short-lived gimmick which was basically closed-circuit TV). The most unusual thing about this film is that the actors are in street clothes instead of period costumes, and the sets are minimal, to say the least. Written by frankfob2@yahoo.com

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Richard Burton in HAMLET with the entire original Broadway cast. The complete performance from the stage of the Lunt-Fontanne Theater on Broadway through the NEW MIRACLE PROCESS ELECTRONOVISION

Genres:

Drama

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

23 September 1964 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Richard Burton's Hamlet See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Theatrofilm See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This movie was scheduled to be shown in theaters for a week and then all copies were to be destroyed. Two prints survived. One was consigned to the B.F.I. archives in London. Another print was found in Richard Burton's estate after his death, which his widow allowed to be distributed as a DVD. See more »

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User Reviews

 
A theatrical experience
18 February 2004 | by madbeastSee all my reviews

For those looking for a strictly cinematic version of "Hamlet" you should probably look elsewhere, but for a theatrical experience of the classic tale of the Melancholy Dane, you could do worse than pick up this version of the 1964 Broadway production starring Richard Burton.

Essentially a photographed performance of a stage production, this "Hamlet" was directed by John Gielgud with the concept of being a dress rehearsal (to pacify Richard Burton's dislike of wearing period costume) with actors in street clothes and bare bones set and props. The concept falls flat but Gielgud does a fine job of staging the action (the convention of showing the ghost as a massive shadow voiced by Gielgud works wonderfully well), making one wish that he'd used a more conventional look for the show. The cast is decidedly uneven, ranging from brilliant (Hume Cronyn in his Tony-winning role as Polonius) to incompetent (Alfred Drake as a rather hopeless Claudius). While Burton is hardly the definitive Hamlet, frequently resorting to vocal pyrotechnics which are ultimately meaningless, there is no doubting his intelligence or brooding charisma in the role. He may not have hit a bull's eye, but he is so far beyond such recent mediocre Hamlets as Ethan Hawke, Kenneth Branagh and Mel Gibson that his performance truly gives the viewer a splendid example of what a distinguished classical actor is capable of. His handling of the soliloquies (especially "Oh, what a rogue and peasant slave am I") are very effective indeed.

Those who quibble with the lack of close-ups or iffy cinematic qualities are missing the point of the experience: the faraway perspective makes the viewer fell like they are seated at an actual live performance at the Lunt Fontanne Theatre in 1964, and gives a much more uniquely theatrical experience than attempts to "cinemize" the play such as Branagh's vulgar and miscast film version or Olivier's celebrated bowdlerized adaptation (whose gutting of the text frequently plays like "Hamlet's Greatest Hits").

Not much thought was given to the Special Features of the DVDs: the listing of the awards won by Burton, Cronyn and Gielgud are laughably incomplete, and it seems to me that the producers missed an opportunity by not including observations by a living cast member on a second voice track (cast members William Refield and Richard L. Sterne each wrote books on the production, and it might have been rewarding to hear the remembrances of Hume Cronyn or John Cullum or Alfred Drake on this DVD).

But despite it's faults, this is a valuable little treasure for anyone with serious interest in Shakespeare's play and a unique opportunity to see a memorable theater production without leaving your living room.


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