Macbeth


1h 45m 1948
Macbeth

Brief Synopsis

A Scottish warlord and his wife murder their way to a pair of crowns.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Historical
Adaptation
Release Date
Oct 1948
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Republic Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Republic Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Macbeth by William Shakespeare (London, 1605-06, published 1623).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 45m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9,642ft

Synopsis

In the eleventh century, while returning from battle, Macbeth, the Thane of Glamis, and Banquo, a general in the king's army, come upon three strange women. Though the present Thane of Cawdor still lives, the women prophesy that Macbeth shall inherit that nobleman's title, and afterward, shall become king. The women then tell Banquo that while he will beget kings, he shall never become one himself. Stunned, Macbeth and Banquo try to question the women further, but they vanish into the mist. Macbeth returns to his castle, and a messenger from Duncan, the king, soon arrives with news that the Thane of Cawdor has been executed for treason, and that all of his holdings have been bestowed upon Macbeth. When Macbeth tells his wife, Lady Macbeth, about the women's prophecy, they both become impatient for its fulfillment. As Duncan has already arranged to spend the evening at their castle at Inverness, the couple decides to murder him during his stay. After Duncan and his entourage arrive, Macbeth wanders the castle restlessly, imagining a dagger floating before his eyes. Later, Lady Macbeth slips a sleeping potion into some wine and then serves it to the grooms stationed outside Duncan's door. The grooms fall asleep, and Lady Macbeth gives her husband a pair of daggers with which to kill Duncan. When Macbeth hesitates, Lady Macbeth belittles him and questions his manhood until he agrees to commit the crime. A few moments later, Macbeth returns from the scene still clutching the bloody daggers in his hands. Panicked, Lady Macbeth grabs the daggers and rushes back to place them in the sleeping grooms's hands. When Macduff, the Thane of Fife, arrives and finds the murdered king, his shouts of "treason!" rouse the entire castle. Feigning outrage, Macbeth rushes forward, grabs the daggers and stabs the grooms before they can speak in their defense. Later, Banquo guesses that Macbeth is the murderer and, fearing for his life, flees to England with Macduff. In their absence, Macbeth is crowned king, but his happiness is marred by the prophesy that his throne will revert to Banquo's progeny after his death. To prevent this from happening, Macbeth hires men to murder Banquo and his son Fleance as they are traveling to a banquet at Macbeth's castle. Although Banquo is killed, Fleance manages to escape. As the banquet is about to begin, Macbeth imagines he sees Banquo sitting at the table with his death wounds still bleeding. When Macbeth begins to mumble and shout incoherently, Lady Macbeth politely dismisses the guests. Later, Macbeth conjures up the three women, who advise him to beware of Macduff, but cryptically promise that "none of woman born shall harm Macbeth." Nevertheless, the desperate Macbeth orders the slaughter of Macduff's entire household, including his wife, two children and all of his servants. After Macduff learns of the killings, he marshals ten thousand English soldiers to march on the usurper's castle. That evening, while sleepwalking, Lady Macbeth slips off the castle wall to her death. Shortly after Macbeth learns of his wife's death, Macduff's soldiers overrun his castle. Before driving his sword into Macbeth's chest, Macduff declares that he was "from his mother's womb untimely ripp'd."

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Historical
Adaptation
Release Date
Oct 1948
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Republic Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Republic Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Macbeth by William Shakespeare (London, 1605-06, published 1623).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 45m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9,642ft

Articles

Macbeth (1948)


In the late 1940s, eager to produce a film of Macbeth and having alienated the executives of RKO, where he made Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), and Columbia, where he directed The Lady from Shanghai (1947), Orson Welles turned to an unlikely studio to produce his version of the Shakespearean tragedy: Republic Pictures, best known for B-Westerns starring the likes of Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, with occasional ventures into slightly more prestigious films headlining John Wayne. "And although there was abundant laughter in Hollywood at the very idea of Orson's having wound up at a plebian studio like Republic," wrote Welles biographer Barbara Leaming, "Orson thought it ideal for his experiment."

Welles, weaned on radio and expressionistic stage productions, liked to work quickly and cheaply and, indeed, often seemed at his best when forced to make much of little. In preparation for his film of Macbeth (1948), he had rehearsed the actors in a stage production that ran for four days in May 1947 at the University Theater in Salt Lake City. He had cast himself as Macbeth, of course, and had settled for Jeanette Nolan, a radio actress and longtime associate, as Lady Macbeth after such actresses as Tallulah Bankhead, Agnes Moorehead, Geraldine Fitzgerald and Mercedes McCambridge proved unavailable. Welles had originally wanted Vivien Leigh as a "seductive" Lady Macbeth, but her husband, Laurence Olivier -- who had helped popularize Shakespeare on the screen with his 1944 Henry V -- would not hear of it.

In spinning Shakespeare's tragic tale of the rise and fall of the ambitious 12th-century Scottish warrior, Welles used his own adaptation, first developed for his successful 1936 stage production of a "voodoo" Macbeth with an all-black cast. He had the film actors record the entire script before shooting began, so that during filming they lip-synched in the style of a movie musical. Some speeches were delivered as soliloquies in voice-over without the actors' mouths moving. The sets, also inspired by Welles' 1936 production, were impressionistic suggestions constructed of cardboard and papier-mâché to represent a castle that had been carved out of a huge rock. Cinematographer John L. Russell (later to shoot Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, 1960) photographed the film in moody yet luminous black and white, leading Welles historian David Thomson to comment that "No film since Kane had had so profoundly organized or expressive a photographic style."

Republic studio head Herbert R. Yates called Welles "an inspiration" when he finished shooting Macbeth in 23 days at a cost that was well under the film's budgeted $884,000. The executive was convinced that his talented filmmaker had created "the greatest individual job of acting, directing, adapting and producing that to my knowledge Hollywood has ever known."

Yates began to have second thoughts, however, when editing on Macbeth dragged on, with Welles interrupting post-production work for travel to Europe and preliminary work on future projects. When Macbeth was at last completed and previewed in Denver, Salt Lake City and San Francisco, the critics savaged it, claiming that the actors' use of heavy Scottish accents, dictated by Welles, rendered the dialogue incomprehensible to American ears. Nolan's highly stylized rendition of Lady Macbeth also drew much criticism, and some were offended that Welles would dare to rewrite Shakespeare.

Republic recalled all the prints and put associate producer Richard Wilson in charge of re-dubbing 65 percent of the dialogue. Twenty-one minutes of footage were cut, leaving the film with a running length of only 86 minutes. These cuts, along with the original recordings, were restored by UCLA archivists in 1980. Eight minutes of musical overture and three-plus minutes of exit music by the film's composer, Jacques Ibert, also were restored.

The Welles Macbeth had to wait for its restoration to be appreciated as a unique cinematic treasure. As Thomson and others have pointed out, the heightened blend of images and sound combines the qualities of theater, film and radio; and the performances, led by Welles' own, are striking and original. The film stands as an important link between the Hollywood phase of Welles' career and his later, more independent European work.

Producers: Orson Welles, Richard Wilson (Associate Producer), Charles K. Feldman (Executive Producer, uncredited)
Director: Orson Welles
Screenplay: Orson Welles (uncredited) from play by William Shakespeare
Cinematography: John L. Russell
Film Editing: Louis Lindsay
Original Music: Jaques Ibert
Art Direction: Fred Ritter
Costumes: Adele Palmer, Fred Ritter (uncredited), Orson Welles (uncredited)
Cast: 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), Christopher Welles (Macduff Child). BW-107m. Letterboxed.

by Roger Fristoe
Macbeth (1948)

Macbeth (1948)

In the late 1940s, eager to produce a film of Macbeth and having alienated the executives of RKO, where he made Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), and Columbia, where he directed The Lady from Shanghai (1947), Orson Welles turned to an unlikely studio to produce his version of the Shakespearean tragedy: Republic Pictures, best known for B-Westerns starring the likes of Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, with occasional ventures into slightly more prestigious films headlining John Wayne. "And although there was abundant laughter in Hollywood at the very idea of Orson's having wound up at a plebian studio like Republic," wrote Welles biographer Barbara Leaming, "Orson thought it ideal for his experiment." Welles, weaned on radio and expressionistic stage productions, liked to work quickly and cheaply and, indeed, often seemed at his best when forced to make much of little. In preparation for his film of Macbeth (1948), he had rehearsed the actors in a stage production that ran for four days in May 1947 at the University Theater in Salt Lake City. He had cast himself as Macbeth, of course, and had settled for Jeanette Nolan, a radio actress and longtime associate, as Lady Macbeth after such actresses as Tallulah Bankhead, Agnes Moorehead, Geraldine Fitzgerald and Mercedes McCambridge proved unavailable. Welles had originally wanted Vivien Leigh as a "seductive" Lady Macbeth, but her husband, Laurence Olivier -- who had helped popularize Shakespeare on the screen with his 1944 Henry V -- would not hear of it. In spinning Shakespeare's tragic tale of the rise and fall of the ambitious 12th-century Scottish warrior, Welles used his own adaptation, first developed for his successful 1936 stage production of a "voodoo" Macbeth with an all-black cast. He had the film actors record the entire script before shooting began, so that during filming they lip-synched in the style of a movie musical. Some speeches were delivered as soliloquies in voice-over without the actors' mouths moving. The sets, also inspired by Welles' 1936 production, were impressionistic suggestions constructed of cardboard and papier-mâché to represent a castle that had been carved out of a huge rock. Cinematographer John L. Russell (later to shoot Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, 1960) photographed the film in moody yet luminous black and white, leading Welles historian David Thomson to comment that "No film since Kane had had so profoundly organized or expressive a photographic style." Republic studio head Herbert R. Yates called Welles "an inspiration" when he finished shooting Macbeth in 23 days at a cost that was well under the film's budgeted $884,000. The executive was convinced that his talented filmmaker had created "the greatest individual job of acting, directing, adapting and producing that to my knowledge Hollywood has ever known." Yates began to have second thoughts, however, when editing on Macbeth dragged on, with Welles interrupting post-production work for travel to Europe and preliminary work on future projects. When Macbeth was at last completed and previewed in Denver, Salt Lake City and San Francisco, the critics savaged it, claiming that the actors' use of heavy Scottish accents, dictated by Welles, rendered the dialogue incomprehensible to American ears. Nolan's highly stylized rendition of Lady Macbeth also drew much criticism, and some were offended that Welles would dare to rewrite Shakespeare. Republic recalled all the prints and put associate producer Richard Wilson in charge of re-dubbing 65 percent of the dialogue. Twenty-one minutes of footage were cut, leaving the film with a running length of only 86 minutes. These cuts, along with the original recordings, were restored by UCLA archivists in 1980. Eight minutes of musical overture and three-plus minutes of exit music by the film's composer, Jacques Ibert, also were restored. The Welles Macbeth had to wait for its restoration to be appreciated as a unique cinematic treasure. As Thomson and others have pointed out, the heightened blend of images and sound combines the qualities of theater, film and radio; and the performances, led by Welles' own, are striking and original. The film stands as an important link between the Hollywood phase of Welles' career and his later, more independent European work. Producers: Orson Welles, Richard Wilson (Associate Producer), Charles K. Feldman (Executive Producer, uncredited) Director: Orson Welles Screenplay: Orson Welles (uncredited) from play by William Shakespeare Cinematography: John L. Russell Film Editing: Louis Lindsay Original Music: Jaques Ibert Art Direction: Fred Ritter Costumes: Adele Palmer, Fred Ritter (uncredited), Orson Welles (uncredited) Cast: 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), Christopher Welles (Macduff Child). BW-107m. Letterboxed. by Roger Fristoe

MacBeth (1948) - MACBETH - Orson Welles' 1948 Film Adaptation of the William Shakespeare Play


Just a handful of years after his triumphant, controversial Citizen Kane the great Orson Welles had pretty much been written off by the Hollywood establishment. Of his four officially signed feature films, two were editorially savaged by his studio employers. He was branded an uncontrollable maker of unreleasable movies, despite the fact that his The Stranger was a wholly conventional espionage thriller that didn't overrun its budget and made money. Before abandoning Hollywood Welles put together one last bid for a breakout success. Herbert Yates of Republic Pictures' made modest westerns but was also a Welles fan. He okayed a short shooting schedule for the production of a Welles- written and directed version of Shakespeare's Macbeth. He rehearsed his actors on stage at the Utah Centennial Festival. Herbert Yates' $200,000 did not leave much money for salaries. The original Lady Macbeth, Agnes Moorehead dropped out of the cast before filming began and was replaced by the new-to-the-screen Jeanette Nolan.

The Bard had never failed the 'boy genius' in the past. Filming entirely on Republic's sound stages, Orson Welles made sure to give his Macbeth a distinctive look, which has been likened to that of a horror movie. Duncan's castle is a rain-soaked, fogbound collection of caves and rooms carved out of stone, a gloomy opera set devoid of decorative touches. Actor Dan O'Herlihy (Buñuel's The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, RoboCop), reportedly collaborated with Welles on the set designs. For his music Welles hired European Jacques Ibert, perhaps remembering the composer's score for the Feodor Chaliapin version of Don Quixote. Welles also found a capable Director of Photography in John L. Russell, who did fine work in the genre trenches before attracting the attention of Alfred Hitchcock for the superb Psycho.

Dan O'Herlily's Macduff and Jeanette Nolan's Lady Macbeth are the acting standouts, but Welles' carefully chosen cast includes Roddy MacDowall, John Dierkes, Lurene Tuttle and, as one of Macduff's unlucky children, Welles' own daughter Christopher. Kane reporter William Alland is also notable as a hired murderer.

By all accounts the 1948 previews were disastrous, and the film saw only limited distribution in that year. Resistance to the director's outspoken political opinions as well as sniping by industry detractors surely had an effect on the film's critical reception, which resembled the Hollywood equivalent of a lynch mob. The Hollywood Reporter trashed the film in its trade review, complaining that a 'strutting' Welles dominated scenes usually viewed as belonging to other characters. Life's photo layout gleefully assaulted the movie, with a caption that read, "Orson Welles Doth Fully Slaughter Shakespeare." Variety's trade review was kinder, but even it felt that Welles 'hogs the spotlight.' The New Yorker's reviewer dismissed the show with a series of snide observations, while Newsweek's critical assessment was more reasoned. Its reviewer called the show a misfire, complaining that Welles' Macbeth has no depth -- he's just as cold and malign at the beginning as he is at the finish. Without Shakespeare's full arc the character is not corrupted and therefore no tragedy is created.

Reviewers took easy potshots at Welles' (purposely) stylized crowns while other critics were suddenly transformed into Shakespeare experts. Many compared Welles' film unfavorably to Laurence Olivier's Hamlet released the same year to great acclaim. Both men adapted and condensed their plays, and added their own experimental touches. Welles cut and rearranged speeches, created a new character (A Holy Father, played by Alan Napier) and eliminated others. But the biggest problem came from Welles' decision to have his actors read their parts with Scots accents. Faced with complaints that the dialogue was indecipherable, co-producer Richard Wilson countered with the remark that the average viewer --and most critics -- can't follow Shakespeare's language without a written guide anyway. But the accents made for a handy critical target: one reviewer ridiculed the moment when Lady Macbeth said, "Ooot, ooot damned spot!"

Macbeth went the sorry way of most Orson Welles movies: on July 15, 1949 the trade papers reported that Republic was withdrawing the film for redubbing. The entire cast was called back to re-read their lines accent-free. Welles was said to be 'bitterly disappointed', probably because he perceived that this public thrashing would mean the end of his Hollywood career. Cut by 21 minutes and re-voiced, a replacement version of Macbeth supplanted the original for a full thirty years.

Artistic vindication for Orson Welles did not come until 1980, when archivist Bob Gitt came across incomplete original materials for the Welles version among Republic holdings donated for safekeeping to the UCLA Film Archive. These were augmented with dupes obtained from the original British distributor; the entire original soundtrack (with Scottish burrs intact) came from the Brit materials as well. The re- premiere of Welles' version became a major cinema event, with critic Todd McCarthy detailing the restoration in Variety. This was before the practice of film preservation and restoration was widely known.

As might be expected, when finally heard again the reportedly impenetrable Scots accents are no more problematic than that of any Shakespeare adaptation. While lauding the restoration critic Stanley Kauffmann still saw flaws in the performances, echoing some of the original criticism that actor Welles placed himself front and center far too consistently. Newer critics found much more of interest in Welles' direction than did older performance-oriented reviews. Not only does the director's stylization impart a sense of epic scope and gothic mood to the tale, expressive camera blocking and claustrophobic close- ups keep the drama front and center. The show dramatizes most of the play's action without rushing from one set piece to the next. Orson Welles' take on the Thane of Cawdor may not be the best of all possible versions of Macbeth but it is certainly one of the most interesting.

Olive Films' Blu-ray of Macbeth is a careful encoding of the full-length, restored original Orson Welles cut. The materials exhibit a number of flaws here and there, including what looks like very light mottling (water damage) on one side of the frame in a couple of reels. But the overall appearance of the show is very good, and certainly far better than older TV prints of the short version, which were both soft and dark. The HD image pulls out a great deal of previously unseen detail in makeup, costumes and the massive sets of rocky caves and battlements, complete with painted backdrops.

A subtitle track would have been a welcome extra. As with most Shakespeare adaptations a familiarity with the famous texts will be a great aid to the viewer, although most of us have at least heard the more famous passages: the Three Witches at their cauldron; Macbeth's "Tomorrow and Tomorrow" speech; the fiery words traded with Macduff before the final set-to with broadswords. These moments are generally more cinematically effective than those in other, more literal interpretations of the play.

For more information about MacBeth, visit Olive Films.

by Glenn Erickson

MacBeth (1948) - MACBETH - Orson Welles' 1948 Film Adaptation of the William Shakespeare Play

Just a handful of years after his triumphant, controversial Citizen Kane the great Orson Welles had pretty much been written off by the Hollywood establishment. Of his four officially signed feature films, two were editorially savaged by his studio employers. He was branded an uncontrollable maker of unreleasable movies, despite the fact that his The Stranger was a wholly conventional espionage thriller that didn't overrun its budget and made money. Before abandoning Hollywood Welles put together one last bid for a breakout success. Herbert Yates of Republic Pictures' made modest westerns but was also a Welles fan. He okayed a short shooting schedule for the production of a Welles- written and directed version of Shakespeare's Macbeth. He rehearsed his actors on stage at the Utah Centennial Festival. Herbert Yates' $200,000 did not leave much money for salaries. The original Lady Macbeth, Agnes Moorehead dropped out of the cast before filming began and was replaced by the new-to-the-screen Jeanette Nolan. The Bard had never failed the 'boy genius' in the past. Filming entirely on Republic's sound stages, Orson Welles made sure to give his Macbeth a distinctive look, which has been likened to that of a horror movie. Duncan's castle is a rain-soaked, fogbound collection of caves and rooms carved out of stone, a gloomy opera set devoid of decorative touches. Actor Dan O'Herlihy (Buñuel's The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, RoboCop), reportedly collaborated with Welles on the set designs. For his music Welles hired European Jacques Ibert, perhaps remembering the composer's score for the Feodor Chaliapin version of Don Quixote. Welles also found a capable Director of Photography in John L. Russell, who did fine work in the genre trenches before attracting the attention of Alfred Hitchcock for the superb Psycho. Dan O'Herlily's Macduff and Jeanette Nolan's Lady Macbeth are the acting standouts, but Welles' carefully chosen cast includes Roddy MacDowall, John Dierkes, Lurene Tuttle and, as one of Macduff's unlucky children, Welles' own daughter Christopher. Kane reporter William Alland is also notable as a hired murderer. By all accounts the 1948 previews were disastrous, and the film saw only limited distribution in that year. Resistance to the director's outspoken political opinions as well as sniping by industry detractors surely had an effect on the film's critical reception, which resembled the Hollywood equivalent of a lynch mob. The Hollywood Reporter trashed the film in its trade review, complaining that a 'strutting' Welles dominated scenes usually viewed as belonging to other characters. Life's photo layout gleefully assaulted the movie, with a caption that read, "Orson Welles Doth Fully Slaughter Shakespeare." Variety's trade review was kinder, but even it felt that Welles 'hogs the spotlight.' The New Yorker's reviewer dismissed the show with a series of snide observations, while Newsweek's critical assessment was more reasoned. Its reviewer called the show a misfire, complaining that Welles' Macbeth has no depth -- he's just as cold and malign at the beginning as he is at the finish. Without Shakespeare's full arc the character is not corrupted and therefore no tragedy is created. Reviewers took easy potshots at Welles' (purposely) stylized crowns while other critics were suddenly transformed into Shakespeare experts. Many compared Welles' film unfavorably to Laurence Olivier's Hamlet released the same year to great acclaim. Both men adapted and condensed their plays, and added their own experimental touches. Welles cut and rearranged speeches, created a new character (A Holy Father, played by Alan Napier) and eliminated others. But the biggest problem came from Welles' decision to have his actors read their parts with Scots accents. Faced with complaints that the dialogue was indecipherable, co-producer Richard Wilson countered with the remark that the average viewer --and most critics -- can't follow Shakespeare's language without a written guide anyway. But the accents made for a handy critical target: one reviewer ridiculed the moment when Lady Macbeth said, "Ooot, ooot damned spot!" Macbeth went the sorry way of most Orson Welles movies: on July 15, 1949 the trade papers reported that Republic was withdrawing the film for redubbing. The entire cast was called back to re-read their lines accent-free. Welles was said to be 'bitterly disappointed', probably because he perceived that this public thrashing would mean the end of his Hollywood career. Cut by 21 minutes and re-voiced, a replacement version of Macbeth supplanted the original for a full thirty years. Artistic vindication for Orson Welles did not come until 1980, when archivist Bob Gitt came across incomplete original materials for the Welles version among Republic holdings donated for safekeeping to the UCLA Film Archive. These were augmented with dupes obtained from the original British distributor; the entire original soundtrack (with Scottish burrs intact) came from the Brit materials as well. The re- premiere of Welles' version became a major cinema event, with critic Todd McCarthy detailing the restoration in Variety. This was before the practice of film preservation and restoration was widely known. As might be expected, when finally heard again the reportedly impenetrable Scots accents are no more problematic than that of any Shakespeare adaptation. While lauding the restoration critic Stanley Kauffmann still saw flaws in the performances, echoing some of the original criticism that actor Welles placed himself front and center far too consistently. Newer critics found much more of interest in Welles' direction than did older performance-oriented reviews. Not only does the director's stylization impart a sense of epic scope and gothic mood to the tale, expressive camera blocking and claustrophobic close- ups keep the drama front and center. The show dramatizes most of the play's action without rushing from one set piece to the next. Orson Welles' take on the Thane of Cawdor may not be the best of all possible versions of Macbeth but it is certainly one of the most interesting. Olive Films' Blu-ray of Macbeth is a careful encoding of the full-length, restored original Orson Welles cut. The materials exhibit a number of flaws here and there, including what looks like very light mottling (water damage) on one side of the frame in a couple of reels. But the overall appearance of the show is very good, and certainly far better than older TV prints of the short version, which were both soft and dark. The HD image pulls out a great deal of previously unseen detail in makeup, costumes and the massive sets of rocky caves and battlements, complete with painted backdrops. A subtitle track would have been a welcome extra. As with most Shakespeare adaptations a familiarity with the famous texts will be a great aid to the viewer, although most of us have at least heard the more famous passages: the Three Witches at their cauldron; Macbeth's "Tomorrow and Tomorrow" speech; the fiery words traded with Macduff before the final set-to with broadswords. These moments are generally more cinematically effective than those in other, more literal interpretations of the play. For more information about MacBeth, visit Olive Films. by Glenn Erickson

Keene Curtis (1923-2002)


Keene Curtis, a veteran Broadway, television and film actor who was familiar to many viewers the snippy upstairs restaurant owner John Allen Hill for the final three seasons of Cheers, died on October 13th of complications of Alzheimer's disease at a retirement center in Bountiful, Utah. He was 79. Born in Salt Lake City in 1923, Curtis grew up in Bountiful, in a family that adored theater. His father built his young son a miniature stage out of an old chiffonier, using a towel for a curtain. Curtis soon began to make his own little theaters out of cardboard boxes and put on shows for the neighborhood kids. No doubt of his calling, Curtis went on to receive his bachelor's and master's degrees in Theater Arts from the University of Utah, where he was a student actor and cheerleader. He had returned to college after spending three years in the Navy, and made his film debut when Orson Welles discovered him for his production of Macbeth (1948) and cast him in the role of Lennox, and launching his career. Despite the promising film debut, Curtis dedicated himself to the stage for the next twenty years, but it was not until he won a Tony Award in 1971 as best featured actor in a musical for The Rothschilds did his profile rise. After his stint as Daddy Warbucks in the Broadway production of Annie Curtis began to venture into television and films, where his baldpate and rich diction enlivened many programs, particularly in comedies where he made a superb comic foil. In addition to his role on Cheers, Curtis’ other television credits include: MASH Ally McBeal, The Drew Carey Show and Caroline in the City. Among Curtis’ most notable films: Heaven Can Wait (1978) The Buddy System (1984), Sliver (1993) and Fred Schepisi’s I.Q. (1994) where Curtis turned in a charming cameo as President Dwight Eisenhower. In 1998, Curtis endowed a scholarship at the University of Utah to help graduates of the school's Actor Training Program launch their careers. He also donated to the university his Tony Award and 48 boxes of theater memorabilia and personal papers, including a 1961 letter from Noel Coward, who praised Curtis' "firmness, patience, efficiency and most of all your ability to handle people with tact and imagination." He is survived by his sister-in-law, nieces and nephews. Michael T. Toole

Keene Curtis (1923-2002)

Keene Curtis, a veteran Broadway, television and film actor who was familiar to many viewers the snippy upstairs restaurant owner John Allen Hill for the final three seasons of Cheers, died on October 13th of complications of Alzheimer's disease at a retirement center in Bountiful, Utah. He was 79. Born in Salt Lake City in 1923, Curtis grew up in Bountiful, in a family that adored theater. His father built his young son a miniature stage out of an old chiffonier, using a towel for a curtain. Curtis soon began to make his own little theaters out of cardboard boxes and put on shows for the neighborhood kids. No doubt of his calling, Curtis went on to receive his bachelor's and master's degrees in Theater Arts from the University of Utah, where he was a student actor and cheerleader. He had returned to college after spending three years in the Navy, and made his film debut when Orson Welles discovered him for his production of Macbeth (1948) and cast him in the role of Lennox, and launching his career. Despite the promising film debut, Curtis dedicated himself to the stage for the next twenty years, but it was not until he won a Tony Award in 1971 as best featured actor in a musical for The Rothschilds did his profile rise. After his stint as Daddy Warbucks in the Broadway production of Annie Curtis began to venture into television and films, where his baldpate and rich diction enlivened many programs, particularly in comedies where he made a superb comic foil. In addition to his role on Cheers, Curtis’ other television credits include: MASH Ally McBeal, The Drew Carey Show and Caroline in the City. Among Curtis’ most notable films: Heaven Can Wait (1978) The Buddy System (1984), Sliver (1993) and Fred Schepisi’s I.Q. (1994) where Curtis turned in a charming cameo as President Dwight Eisenhower. In 1998, Curtis endowed a scholarship at the University of Utah to help graduates of the school's Actor Training Program launch their careers. He also donated to the university his Tony Award and 48 boxes of theater memorabilia and personal papers, including a 1961 letter from Noel Coward, who praised Curtis' "firmness, patience, efficiency and most of all your ability to handle people with tact and imagination." He is survived by his sister-in-law, nieces and nephews. Michael T. Toole

Quotes

Double,double,toil and trouble; fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
- The Three Witches
Macbeth! Be bold,bloody,and resolute; laugh to scorn the power of man; for none of woman born shall harm Macbeth.
- Witch
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day; to the last syllable of recorded time; and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
- Macbeth
I will not yield, to kiss the ground before young Malcolm's feet, and to be baited with the rabble's curse. Though Birnam wood be come to Dunsinane, and thou opposed, being of no woman born; yet I will try the last. Lay on Macduff, and damn'd be him that first cries, "Hold,enough!"
- Macbeth

Trivia

One of the witches is played by Brainerd Duffield, a man.

The original 107 minute version with Scots accents was completely withdrawn after the disastrous world premiere and did not resurface again until the 1980s.

Although the film was a critical and commercial disaster in both the USA and England, it was a huge success in many non-English speaking countries, especially France, where critics could not understand how the American and British press failed to appreciate Orson Welles' highly stylized and surrealistic approach to the play. Today it is very highly regarded in English-speaking countries.

Welles's plan was to take his company and put on the play at the Utah Centennial Festival in Salt Lake city. With costumes and props at his disposal, Welles rehearsed his company and filmed Macbeth in 21 days.

Notes

Onscreen credits note that the viewed print was "restored by UCLA Film Archives and The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C." At the end of the cast credits, Brainerd Duffield, Lurene Tuttle and Peggy Webber are listed twice: once for their individual roles, and again in their roles as "The Three Witches." In a spoken foreword, producer, director and star Orson Welles describes the film as a "study of the political conflicts and religious troubles of an ancient time." Welles reworked and altered several elements of William Shakespheare's play. The character of the "Holy Father," who is given lines orignally assigned to omitted minor characters, was Welles's invention. Welles changed the sleepwalking scene by having Lady Macbeth be awakened by Macbeth's kiss, and her subsequent suicide, which is only reported in the play, is depicted onscreen. In addition, Welles rearranged the first and second acts, forming them into one, and abridged or combined a number of speeches. According to an unidentified contemporary article in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, Welles had been planning to produce the film ever since he staged his highly successful Macbeth in 1936 at the Lafayette Theatre in Harlem, New York, with an all-black cast. The article also notes that Welles wrote the screenplay first and then adapted it to the stage. Before filming took place, Welles spent two weeks recording the entire text for "study and playback purposes." He considered the film a "test case" and hoped to demonstrate that while the audience for the classics was admittedly limited, it was large enough for a reasonable return on the company's investment. For this reason, Welles chose to produce the film for Republic, rather than for Alexander Korda, who had "guaranteed him a much flossier, fancier production in England."
       A New York Times news item dated April 27, 1947 indicated that Welles staged a second production of Macbeth in Utah in May 1947. According to modern sources, the play ran from 28 to May 31, 1947 as part of Salt Lake City's Centennial Festival and was intended by Welles as a rehearsal for the filmed version. The New York Times news item also noted that Welles was planning to cast Everett Sloane as "Banquo," and sought Tallulah Bankhead for the role of Lady Macbeth but was unable to secure her services. In an interview conducted in 1968, Welles stated that his first choice for Lady Macbeth was Vivien Leigh, but "[Laurence] Olivier wouldn't hear of it." According to an July 11, 1947 Hollywood Reporter news item, Betty Brewer and Thais Wilson were also slated to appear in the film, but their appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed. Welles cast his daughter Christopher as Macduff's child. This film marked Jeanette Nolan's film debut and Dan O'Herlihy's first appearance in an American feature. According to modern sources, John McIntire, Jeanette Nolan's husband, was to have played the Holy Father. Modern sources also credit writer Charles Lederer in the role of a witch, and include Robert Coote in a minor role in the cast.
       According to a June 12, 1947 Hollywood Reporter news item, the film's revolving set, which "represents a castle carved out of a mountain top," was similar to a set used in Welles's New York production. Art director Fred Ritter, working from sketches and a model supplied by Welles, shot in continuity, "using several cameras." According to modern sources, the set was an extension Welles's stage production set for Julius Caesar which, in turn, was inspired by Greek theatrical models. A June 22, 1948 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that the technical staff of the film spent one year in research, and that "more than 600 sound effects were used in each reel-compared to the 25 or 30 usually required...every sound effect was specifically recorded, with no use being made of stock footage." In addition to Welles's onscreen director and producer credit, a Los Angeles Daily News article dated September 28, 1950 credits him with editing, set design and costumes. A modern source credits art director Ritter and Welles with men's costume design.
       When Macbeth was previewed in October 1948 in Denver, Salt Lake City and San Francisco, many critics complained that the actors' heavy Scottish accents rendered the dialogue incomprehensible. The Hollywood Reporter review called the admittedly experimental film "one of the most disastrous of motion picture enterprises." As noted in Daily Variety on July 15, 1949, Republic decided to recall all release prints of the film until the "problem" could be corrected. Because Welles had left the country shortly after production concluded, associate producer Richard Wilson was put in charge of the re-editing demanded by Republic. After nine months of re-recording, the studio re-released the film in September 1950, with a running time of 86 minutes. The Los Angeles Daily News article of September 28, 1950 indicates that sixty-five percent of Welles's original soundtrack was re-recorded. A Daily Variety article dated April 18, 1980 notes that UCLA archivists restored 21 minutes of original footage which had been removed from the film during the re-recording of the dialogue. In addition to this lost footage, archivists restored eight minutes of musical overture and three-and-a-half minutes of exit music by the film's composer, Jacques Ibert.
       Among the many American feature film adaptations of Macbeth are a 1908 Vitagraph production directed by William V. Ranous and starring Ranous and Paul Panzer (see AFI Catalog. Film Beginnings, 1893-1910; A.09189) and a 1916 version supervised by D. W. Griffith, directed by John Emerson, and starring Herbert Beerbohm Tree and Constance Collier (AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20; F1.2696). Other versions include Akira Kurosawa's Throne of Blood (Japan, 1957) and Roman Polanski's Macbeth (United States-Great Britain, 1971).

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States October 16, 1948

Released in United States on Video October 12, 1988

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1948

Charles Lederer has a bit part in the film.

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1948

Released in United States on Video October 12, 1988

Released in United States October 16, 1948