King Lear [DVD] [English] [1953]

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Special Features

  • Backstage preview of Omnibus: King Lear (10/11/53)
  • Dr. Frank Baxter on the Globe Theatre (11/29/53)
  • Alistair Cooke - live remote from the Yale Shakespeare Festival, including scenes form "The Merry Wives of Windwor" (2/21/54)
  • Walter Kerr on staging Shakespeare, including scenes from "Hamlet" (1/30/55)
  • 16-page booklet with contributions by Peter Brook and Orson Welles biographer Simon Callow


King Lear
One of the first important distinctions to be made about this version of King Lear is that it is not the same version directed by Peter Brook in 1971. Brook was responsible for the staging of this 1953 version, but it was Andrew McCullough who put it to film. Orson Welles portrays the titular character, one of the most memorable and important characters from the Shakespearean canon. The story begins with the famous request Lear makes of his daughters: to express how much they love him. In exchange, Lear will divide his land and power amongst them based on the extent of their answers. Cordelia (Natasha Parry), the youngest and the one whom Lear loves the most, answers very modestly -- yet honestly --and incurs the wrath of Lear, who not only withholds his gift to her, but banishes her as well. Lear divides his lands and power between the two older daughters, Goneril (Beatrice Straight) and Regan (Margaret Phillips), who intend to take swift and complete control of their father's power almost instantaneously. Lear is reduced to an angry, bitter man who realizes too late what has happened. After a series of indignities are inflicted upon him by his daughters, he retreats into a storm, vowing revenge. This film is an above-average adaptation with a very capable cast and a well-staged presentation. The subplot of Gloucester and his sons has been removed, however, presumably in interests of time conservation, but it doesn't seriously hinder the story. ~ Ryan Shriver, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Orson Welles
    Orson Welles - King Lear
  • Image coming soon
    Natasha Parry - Cordelia
  • Arnold Moss
    Arnold Moss - Duke of Albany
  • Bramwell Fletcher
    Bramwell Fletcher - Earl of Kent
  • Image coming soon
    David J. Stewart - Oswald
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