British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

King John

Alternative title
Scene - ‘King John’ - Now Playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre, A Beerbohm Tree, The Great British Actor
Synopsis
Four scenes from the Her Majesty’s Theatre production of King John, one of which survives. The descriptions quoted are from the copyright records in The National Archives:

THE BATTLEFIELD NEAR ANGIERS - "King John of England instigating Hubert de Burgh to murder King Arthur of Brittany the rightful Heir to the Throne".

THE FRENCH KING’S TENT - "The Lady Constance, Mother of Arthur, hearing that her boy is prisoner in King John’s hands passionately denounces those who have deserted him".

THE ORCHARD OF SWINSTEAD ABBEY (first scene) - "The last moments of King John of England in the Orchard of Swinstead". This is the surviving sequence from the film, which shows King John in his death agony, seated in a chair, watched by Prince Henry, Pembroke and Robert Bigot.

THE ORCHARD OF SWINSTEAD ABBEY (second scene) - "The little Prince Henry, afterwards Henry III, accepted by the Barons as John’s Successor & Faulconbridge prophesies a glorious future for England under the Youthful King".
Country
Great Britain
Medium
Film
Technical information
Black-and-white / Silent
Year of release
1899
Recording date
Sep 1899
Duration
90 feet

Credits

Director
William Kennedy-Laurie Dickson
Cinematographer
William Kennedy-Laurie Dickson
Production Design
Walter Pfeffer Dando
Cast
Herbert Beerbohm TreeKing John
Lewis WallerPhilip the Bastard
Julia NeilsonLady Constance
Franklyn McLeayHubert
Dora SeniorPrince Henry
F.M. PagetLord Bigot
Gerald LawrenceLouis the Dauphin
James FisherEarl of Pembroke
Louis CalvertCardinal Pandulph
S.A. CooksonEarl of Salisbury
William MollisonKing Philip of France

Additional Details

Theatre
Her Majesty’s Theatre, London
Production type
Fiction Films
Historical period
Medieval
Plays
King John
Subjects
Drama
Keywords
Shakespeare, William (1564-1616)

Notes

Notes
Originally filmed in 70 mm; viewing copies in archives are on 35 mm. There is a further fragment of just five feet at the BFI National Archive, which shows King John rising out of his seat.
General
The film was taken at the British Mutoscope and Biograph Company’s open-air studio on the Thames embankment, close to the Tivoli Theatre (the exact location is unknown). The backdrops are imitations of those used in the stage production. The stage production premiered at the Her Majesty’s Theatre on 20 September 1899, with the film being exhibited at the Palace Theatre, London, the same night.
History
Exhibited on screen and in peepshow Mutoscopes, either as four separate scenes or, usually, as the single scene showing the death of King John.
Textual information
The surviving film shows action from Act V Scene vii: the King’s speech from "Ay, marry, now my soul hath elbow-room" to "On unreprievable-condemned blood".
Reviews
Kachur, B.A., ‘The First Shakespeare Film: A Reconsideration and Reconstruction of Tree’s King John’, Theatre Survey no. 32 (May 1991), pp. 43-63
McKernan, Luke, ‘A Scene - King John - Now Playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre’ in Linda Fitzsimmons and Sarah Street (eds.), Moving Performance: British Stage and Screen, 1890s-1920s (Trowbridge: Flicks Books, 2000), pp. 56-68.
McKernan, Luke, ‘Beerbohm Tree’s King John Rediscovered: The First Shakespeare Film, September 1899’, Shakespeare Bulletin (Winter 1993), pp. 35-36.

McKernan, Luke, ‘Further News on Berbohm Tree’s King John’, Shakespeare Bulletin (Spring 1993), pp. 49-50

McKernan, Luke and Olwen Terris. Walking Shadows: Shakespeare in the National Film and Television Archive. London: BFI, 1994, pp. 81-82

Online Availability

Online URL
http://www.7digital.com/stores/productDetail.aspx?shop=286&product=46887&sid=521124

Production Company

Name

British Mutoscope and Biograph Company

Archive

Name

BFI National Archive

Web
http://www.bfi.org.uk/archive-collections/searching-access-collections/research-viewing-services External site opens in new window
Phone
020 7255 1444
Fax
020 7436 0165
Address
21 Stephen Street
London
W1T 1LN
Name

Nederlands Filmmuseum

Email
info@filmmuseum.nl
Web
http://www.filmmuseum.org External site opens in new window
Phone
+31 (20) 5891435
Fax
+31 (20) 5891454
Address
Het Filmmuseum
P.O. Box 74782
1070 BT Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Netherlands

Distributor (DVD)

Name

British Film Institute

Web
http://www.bfi.org.uk External site opens in new window
Phone
020 7255 1444
Fax
020 7436 7950
Address
21 Stephen Street
London
W1T 1LN
Name

Milestone Film & Video

Email
milefilms@gmail.com
Web
http://www.milestonefilms.com External site opens in new window
Phone
+1 201 767 3117
Fax
+1 201 767 3035
Address
PO Box 128
Harrington Park
New Jersey 07640 0128
USA

Record Stats

This record has been viewed 1691 times.