Macbeth (1948)
March 11, 2024 2:14 PM - Subscribe

[TRAILER] Macbeth (Orson Welles), a medieval Scottish general, is told by three witches he will rise to be king. After learning the prophecy, he's pressured by his ambitious wife, Lady Macbeth (Jeanette Nolan), to murder King Duncan (Erskine Sanford) and seize the throne.

Also starring Dan O'Herlihy, Roddy McDowall, Edgar Barrier, Alan Napier, Peggy Webber.

Directed and adapted by Orson Welles, based on the play by William Shakespeare. Produced by Orson Welles, Charles K. Feldman for Merucry Productions/Republic Pictures. Cinematography by John L. Russell. Edited by Louis Lindsay. Music by Jacques Ibert.

86%v fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Currently streaming in the UK on BBC iPlayer. JustWatch listing.
posted by DirtyOldTown (10 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Stunning black & white photography, terrific use of sets/locations, inventive staging, and a tight, focused pace that still pays respect to the language of the play.

All of this said... I am the stanniest stan that ever stanned for Orson Welles, but his performance is the weakest thing in this otherwise brilliant film.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:14 PM on March 11 [2 favorites]

If you like black and white Macbeths, the 2021 Cohen brother version is also wonderful.
posted by autopilot at 3:34 PM on March 11

> If you like black and white Macbeths, the 2021 Cohen brother version is also wonderful.

Quick note: the 2021 Macbeth is by Joel Coen. Joel Cohen wrote Garfield: The Movie.
posted by haileris23 at 7:53 PM on March 11 [5 favorites]

To be fair, Bill Murray gets those confused too, which supposedly is how he ended up agreeing to Garfield.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:03 AM on March 12 [5 favorites]

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time...

I hate Mondays!
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:24 AM on March 12 [4 favorites]

If you like black and white Macbeths, have I got the movie for you!
posted by Molesome at 1:18 PM on March 12 [3 favorites]

I saw this a long time ago, and my takeaway was that Macbeth is a play that should fold at a reckless pace. The events, once set in motion, move too quickly for anyone to keep on top of things until the last blood is spilt. Any ruminations people make should be moments snatched from the collapsing situation. Anyway, Wells’ leisurely soliloquies work against this forward momentum.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:43 AM on March 13

I thought the pace was great here and the soliloquies admirably contained.

My issue with Orson Welles in this is that his performance features him making a frustrated/exhausted/confused face as if at all times, the next words to come out of his mouth are going to be, "Wait. What?"
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:27 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]

If anyone has seen the delightful Canadian TV series Slings and Arrows (would be a good subject for a Fanfare watch!), season 2 deals with (in part) a production of Macbeth that, when it comes together, runs at a reckless, breakneck pace. It's a very interesting interpretation of the play, and of Macbeth's conundrum.
posted by Saxon Kane at 4:30 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]

I thought the pace was great here and the soliloquies admirably contained.

Really? I remember the “Tomorrow and tomorrow” speech as glacial, although I’ll admit I last saw this version in the last century.

I’m very fond of Macbeth, although it’s often not great? I saw a live version is 2021 that was weirdly hard to follow and had really muddy micing of the actors (the theater space was just odd, being a two-story rectangle with dubious acoustics). A lot of productions seem to fumble on deciding whether Macbeth is driven to it by the Witches or was always planning it (this tends to hinge on whether the second big Witch scene is used). Most modern productions, unsurprisingly, towards psychology and ambition and away from Infernal meddling, but it’s perfectly reasonable to play Macbeth as a man at least somewhat prodded off the ledge. The production mentioned here I think tried to do this by casting the Witches as Macbeth’s various assistants, but it wasn’t very elegantly managed.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:30 AM on March 18

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