Richard III (1955 Film)

Richard III (1955 film)

Richard III is a 1955 British film adaptation of William Shakespeare's historical play of the same name, also incorporating elements from his Henry VI, Part 3. It was directed and produced by Sir Laurence Olivier, who also played the lead role. The cast includes many noted Shakespearean actors, including a quartet of acting knights. The film depicts Richard plotting and conspiring to grasp the throne from his brother King Edward IV, played by Sir Cedric Hardwicke. In the process, many are killed and betrayed, with Richard's evil leading to his own downfall. The prologue of the film states that history without its legends would be "a dry matter indeed", implicitly admitting to the artistic licence that Shakespeare applied to the events of the time.

Of the three Shakespearean films directed by Olivier, Richard III received the least critical praise at the time, although it was still acclaimed. It was the only one not to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, though Olivier's acting performance was nominated. The film gained popularity through a re-release in 1966, which broke box office records in many cities. Many critics now consider Olivier's Richard III his best screen adaptation of Shakespeare. The British Film Institute has pointed out that, given the enormous TV audiences it received in 1955, the film "may have done more to popularize Shakespeare than any other single work".

In all of the theatre's repertoire, it's hard to find a more malodorous fellow than Richard III. The character is so convincing that most of us who think of that king at all instantly see the slit-eyed, snaky, deformed embodiment of evil probably best depicted by Laurence Olivier.-
Professor Richard Harrison Sic Transit Gloria: The Passing of Historical Reputations

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