British Universities Film & Video Council

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Hamlet

Alternative title
Richard Burton’s Hamlet
Synopsis
Richard Burton’s performance as Hamlet, directed for stage by John Gielgud, and recorded at the Lunt Fontanne Theatre, New York, on 30 June and 1 July 1964, during a regularly scheduled performance of the play. Cameras were placed at various points in the auditorium, recording the performance over the two nights, and the actors made no concessions to the cameras. The result was as close to a live theatre performance as possible. Burton is charismatic, treating the role almost as a one-man show, he is clearly enthralled by the language, but fails to unite the production through engagement with the physical stage and rapport with the emotional demands of the other characters.
Language
English
Country
United States
Medium
Film; Video
Technical information
Black-and-white / Sound
Year of release
1964
Duration
191 mins; 17,196 feet
Availability
Sale

Credits

Director
Bill Colleran
Producer
Alfred W Crown; William Sargent
Writer
William Shakespeare
Costume
Jane Greenwood
Art Direction
Ben Edwards
Contributor
John Gielgud
Cast
Richard BurtonHamlet
Alfred DrakeClaudius
Eileen HerlieGertrude
Hume CronynPolonius
Linda MarshOphelia
Alex GianniniMessenger
Barnard HughesMarcellus
Barnard HughesPriest
Christopher CulkinPlayer Queen
Clement FowlerRosencrantz
Dillon EvansReynaldo
Frederick YoungBarnardo
George RoseGravedigger (1)
George VoskovecPlayer King
Hugh AlexanderCornelius
Hugh AlexanderAmbassador
Hugh AlexanderGravedigger (2)
John CullumLaertes
John GielgudGhost
Michael EbertFortinbras
Michael EbertFrancisco
Philip CoolidgeCaptain
Philip CoolidgeVoltemand
Richard SterneGentleman
Robert MilliHoratio
William RedfieldGuildenstern

Additional Details

Theatre
Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, New York
Production type
Stage Recordings
Historical period
1960s
Plays
Hamlet
Subjects
Drama
Keywords
Shakespeare, William (1564-1616)
Related items
Richard Burton Discusses ‘Hamlet’
Shakespeare - Playing the Dane

Notes

Notes
The 1996 BMG video release includes a four-minute interview with Richard Burton made on the eve of the original screenings of the film. The video release is currently out of distribution (8/2009). The DVD (NTSC) interactive menus include filmographies and awards, trailer and chapter selections.

The British Library Sound Archive holds a live sound recording made 30 June 1964.
History
The film from the two performances was edited and 1000 prints were screened for two days only to American audiences in cinemas across the country. All prints were then destroyed except one, sent to the British Film Institute, and Burton’s personal copy. Following Burton’s death, his wife Sally decided to make the print available and this was done in conjunction with the National Film and Television Archive and the British Film Institute. New technology has allowed significant improvements to be made to the technical quality of the original.
Reviews
Rothwell, Kenneth S. Cineaste 25, no. 3 (2000), pp 50-2 (in review article). Richard L. Sterne John Gielgud Directs Richard Burton in Hamlet: A Journal of Rehearsals. (New York: Random House, 1967). Cast as a ‘Gentleman’ in the production, Sterne secreted his reel-to-reel tape recorder where it could log rehearsals, including private ones with only Burton and Gielgud.

Production Company

Name

Electronovision Theatrofilm

Distributor (Sale)

Name

Retail outlets

Record Stats

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