King John (1899)
Director: Walter Pfeffer Dando, William K.L. Dickson, Herbert Beerbohm Tree
Cast: Herbert Beerbohm Tree, Dora Tulloch, Charles Sefton
Synopsis: A recreation of King John’s death scene at the end of the play.
This recreation of Herbert Beerbohm-Tree’s stage version of King John is the earliest extant example of Shakespeare on film. It originally contained three scenes but only one, the king’s death scene, now remains. It was filmed at an outside studio apparently, using some scenery from the stage play. Beerbohm-Tree, who had been described by one critic as ’emphatic’ and ‘hysterical,’ hams it up shamelessly, as if he really is playing to the cheap seats. The camera is motionless throughout.
This, together with a collection of other silent Shakespeare films can be found on the BFI DVD ‘Silent Shakespeare.’
(Reviewed 1st October 2009)