British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

Richard III

Synopsis
What makes this ‘gloriously watchable, now as then, is Oliver’s effortlessly virtuosic performance as Richard: imperious, ironic, bruttish, sometimes hysterical and never less than smirkingly seductive’ (The Guardian, 2019).

`Building on Olivier’s extraordinary stage creation, the film asks less what the cinema can do for the theatre (as with HENRY V and HAMLET) than what the theatre can give to the cinema. It is boldly and often exhilaratingly theatrical’.
(McKernan, Luke & Olwen Terris, Walking Shadows: Shakespeare in the National Film & Television Archive (London: BFI, 1994), p. 138.
Language
English
Country
Great Britain
Medium
Film
Technical information
Black-and-white / Sound
Year of release
1955
Duration
157 mins; 5,649 feet

Credits

Director
Laurence Olivier
Producer
Laurence Olivier
Cinematographer
Otto Heller
Writer
William Shakespeare
Music
William Walton
Costume
Carmen Dillon
Art Direction
Roger Furse
Contributor
Alan Dent
Cast
Cedric HardwickeKing Edward IV
Helen HayesDuchess of York
John GielgudGeorge, Duke of Clarence
Alec ClunesHastings
Andrew CruickshankSir Robert Brackenbury
Claire BloomLady Anne
Clive MortonLord Rivers
Douglas WilmerMarquis of Dorset
John LaurieLord Lovell
Laurence NaismithStanley, Earl of Derby
Laurence OlivierRichard, Duke of Gloucester, later King Richard
Mary KerridgeQueen Elizabeth
Michael GoughMurderer
Norman WoolandSir William Catesby
Pamela BrownJane Shore
Patrick TroughtonSir James Tyrrel
Russell ThorndikeChristopher Unswick, a Priest
Stanley BakerEarl of Richmond

Additional Details

Production type
Fiction Films
Historical period
Medieval
Plays
Richard III
Subjects
Drama
Keywords
Shakespeare, William (1564-1616)
Related items
Music of Lennon and McCartney, The [16/12/1965]

Notes

Notes
The following study extracts are available for hire on film from Filmbank: Opening - the coronation of Edward IV and Gloucester’s first soliloquy, interpolated from Henry VI Part 3; Act III ii and V vii; and Richard III, I i & ii (11 min); the coronation - IV ii (12 min).
The Network DVD version, released in 2006, is taken from a digitally-restored high definition print and is the uncut version originally released in 1955. This DVD also includes THE TRIAL OF RICHARD III, broadcast in 1984 and a collector’s booklet with articles, full cast and chapter points.
General
A signed shooting script (dated 19 July 1954) is available to researchers at the Folger Shakespeare Library. The script includes instructions for film editors, diagram of the sets depicting changes made during production, a 2-page ALS (autograph letter signed) from Laurence Olivier to (presumably) the editors. Text has many underlinings and manuscript notes (some by William Walton) regarding music for the production.

The film’s chief sponsor on its American television premiere was General Motors. There were apparently three commercial breaks including one which said that a certain car had more power than all the horses in Richard III.
History
On 11 March 1956, the same day as its theatrical release in the US, the film was transmitted on television in 45 states. The television screening had a predictably adverse affect on box office receipts.
Awards
Academy Award 1957 Nomination - Best Actor in Leading Role (Olivier)
BAFTA Film Award 1956 - Best British Actor (Olivier), Best British Film
Reviews
Constance Brown ‘Olivier’s Richard III: a Re-evaluation’, Film Quarterly 20, no. 4 pp23-32 (reprinted in Eckert, Focus on Shakespearean Films, pp131-45].

Sections

Title
Trial of Richard III, The
Synopsis
The trial of Richard III, who was accused of murdering the princes in the Tower. The trial takes place in a reconstructed Old Bailey courtroom with the former Lord Chancellor, Lord Elwyn Jones, as Judge. Two eminent QCs, appearing under assumed names, present the case for and against the murder charges. Leading historians and scientists give evidence. Recreates a modern-day murder trial and is a study of English law.
Duration
225 mins

Production Company

Name

London Film Productions

Distributor (Hire)

Name

Filmbank Distributors Ltd

Email
info@filmbank.co.uk
Web
http://www.filmbank.co.uk External site opens in new window
Phone
020 7984 5950
Fax
020 7984 5951
Address
Warner House
98 Theobalds Road
London
WC1X 8WB
Notes
The main source in the UK for hire of feature films for non-theatrical presentations. The extensive catalogue includes vintage classics, independent films and big blockbusters. Available on 16mm as well as VHS and DVD. Also provides advice on contractual matters.

Distributor (Sale)

Name

Network

Email
shop@networkonair.com
Web
http://networkonair.com/ External site opens in new window
Phone
01992 657707
Address
19-20 Blythe Road
Berghem Mews
Hammersmith
London
W14 0HN
Notes
Founded in 1997, Network specialises in distributing niche television programmes, predominantly licensed from Granada Ventures and Fremantle. They have recently branched into feature film distribution. Sale via retail outlets or direct via Network’s website, which has some’web exclusive’ offers.
Name

Retail outlets

Name

Wienerworld

Email
info@wienerworld.com
Web
http://www.wienerworld.com/ External site opens in new window
Phone
020 8427 2777
Fax
020 8427 0660
Address
Unit B2 Livingstone Court
55-63 Peel Road
Wealdstone
Harrow
HA3 7QT

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