Maurice Evans' Richard II on stage, television and - almost - film

Russell Jackson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Unrealized Shakespeare films have their peculiar attraction: Max Reinhardt’s Twelfth Night, Laurence Olivier’s Macbeth and Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s Tempest remain tantalizing possibilities, promising plans (some reaching an advanced stage of script development) that foundered for a variety of reasons, sometimes suggesting plausible additions to the roster of plays adapted for the screen . Richard II, though, seems an unlikely proposition for a movie, with its hero who remains unheroic until late in the day and its lack of a decisive battle to be fought or imbroglio to be untangled in the final half-hour. However, on one occasion at least a film of the play has seemed possible – or at least plausible enough to engage its proposers in a search for funds and resources.
On 21 March 1951 the New York Times columnist Sam Zolotow announced that ‘Stage Stars Plan Shakespeare Film. Maurice Evans and Margaret Webster Working on Movie of King Richard II ’. Evans and Webster, ‘considered tops in their respective Shakespearian departments as actor and director’, would ‘pool their know-how’ on a film that was due to begin photography (‘cameras are to start clicking’) in New York during the summer, and the executive producer of the project, budgeted at $1,500,000, was to be Filippo del Giudice, whose credits included (readers were reminded) Olivier’s films of Henry V and Hamlet and Noël Coward’s In Which We Serve. Webster was to fulfil the same function as Alan Dent on Olivier’s films – and Evans would supervise casting and ‘treatment’. Zolotow noted that ‘A Shakespearian film representation without the directorial services of Miss Webster was thought to be inconceivable by one observer.’ The team would adopt ‘an entirely different approach’ to that of Hollywood in filming Shakespeare, and ‘the screen transcription would follow the stage offering, meaning the predominant emphasis would be placed on the Bard’. More discussions were to be held, and Evans expected to be able to say more after Easter.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationShakespeare Survey
Subtitle of host publicationVolume 61: Shakespeare Sound and Screen
EditorsPeter Holland
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781139052733
ISBN (Print)9780521898881
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008

Publication series

NameShakespeare Survey
PublisherCambridge University Press
ISSN (Print)0080-9152


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