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Mr. Frederick Warde in Shakespeare's Masterpiece, The Life and Death of King Richard III
15 Oct 1912
New York preview: 6 Oct 1912
late Sep 1912
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(Richard, Duke of Gloster [
] afterwards Richard III)
(King Edward IV)
(Prince Edward of Lancaster)
([Henry] Earl of Richmond)
The young princes
Master Howard Stuart
(York, his brother)
Miss Violet Stuart
(Lady Anne Plantagenet)
Miss Carrie Lee
Miss De Felice
After the death of Prince Edward of Lancaster, son of King Henry VI, the ruthless, hunchbacked Richard, Duke of Gloster, initiates a plan to eliminate all possible obstacles to his own kingship. He goes to the Tower of London and kills the king with his own sword, after which Richard's brother Edward triumphantly enters London as the first king of the York dynasty. Later, Richard interrupts King Henry's funeral procession and approaches Lady Anne Plantagenet, widow of Prince Edward. Although she at first rebukes Richard, his feigned demeanor of contrite concern soon wins her heart. A short time later, Richard shows the king a scroll that prophesizes the death of his heirs by "G." Believing that "G" is their brother George, Duke of Clarence, the king has Clarence arrested for treason and taken to the Tower. Although Richard visits Clarence and pretends to support him, he later convinces the gravely ill King Edward to sign their brother's death warrant. Soon after Clarence is killed, Edward dies, leaving two young heirs, princes Edward and York, under the protectorship of Richard, who tries to ingratiate himself to Edward's widow, Queen Elizabeth. With the collusion of the ambitious Duke of Buckingham, Richard is approached by the Lord Mayor of London to assume the throne. Richard pretends that he does not want to be king, but soon agrees to accept the crown from the cheering citizens of London. To eliminate any opposition, Richard then orders that the new princes be taken from their mother and sent to the Tower. After Richard's coronation, Buckingham is angered by Richard's orders that the young princes be killed and leaves the court. Richard then instructs his cohort Tyrell to smother the children. After their deaths, Richard attempts to woo his niece, Princess Elizabeth. Concerned for her daughter's safety, Queen Elizabeth summons the Earl of Richmond from France to protect her. At the same time that Richmond arrives in England and professes his love to Princess Elizabeth, Richard urges Anne to take her own life. Unaffected when he later is told of Anne's death, Richard departs London for his battle with Richmond, confident of victory. On the eve of the battle at Bosworth Field, however, Richard dreams of his accusing victims, who predict his fall. On the day of the battle, Richard and Richmond fight and Richard, the last of the Plantagenets, is killed.
Richard III Film Co., Inc.
Shakespeare Film Co.
M. B. Dudley
Based on the play
by William Shakespeare (London, ca. 1593, published 1597).
Sterling Camera and Film Co.
b&w with col seq:
b&w with tinting
Great Britain--History--15th century
Richard III, King of England, 1452-1485
Bosworth Field, Battle of, 1485
Edward IV, King of England, 1442-1483
Elizabeth of York
George, Duke of Clarence, 1449-1478
Henry VII, King of England, 1457-1509
Tower of London (London, England)
The film's opening title card reads: "M. B. Dudley presents Mr. Frederick Warde in Shakespeare's Masterpiece,
The Life and Death of King Richard III
." Although a 1912 copyright statement for the Richard III Film Co. Inc. appears on the film's credits, the picture was not registered for copyright until 9 Sep 1913, at which time the copyright claimant was the Sterling Film and Camera Co. Early ads for the film list it as a Shakespeare Film Co. production, available for state rights distribution on 15 Oct 1912. It is probable that the Richard III Film Co. was a renamed version of the Shakespeare Film Co. Although ads for
included titles of three pictures "in preparation" by the company, no additional films were made under either company name. In early 1913, the Sterling Camera and Film Co. apparently bought the rights to
and made it available for distribution to film exchanges.
While historically, and in William Shakespeare's play, Richard was the "Duke of Gloucester," the film's titles consistently list the character as the "Duke of Gloster." "Miss De Felice," who portrayed the Princess Elizabeth in the film, may have been the actress Carlotta De Felice. The character played by actor George Moss is called "Tressel" in the opening credits, but there is no character by that name in either the film or Shakespeare's play. It is probable that the character should have been listed as "Tyrell," the man who killed the young princes in both the play and the film. After the opening title card, Warde appears before a curtain, in modern dress, and bows to the audience. He reappears at the end of the film to take a final bow.
In a Brooklyn
interview with Warde, reprinted in
on 13 Nov 1912, the actor stated: "The pictures of Richard III were taken on the grounds of Judge Carey's place on City Island [Long Island Sound]. The ruins of the house were transformed into settings for the different scenes, the cellar...used as tower dungeons and other things." In Warde's memoirs, published in 1920, he further remarked that some exteriors and battle scenes were photographed in Westchester County, NY.
As stated in ads for the film, the production cost $30,000. News items in
indicate that the film was screened at a private showing in New York on 6 Oct 1912 and that public screenings of the film were to be held from 15 Oct 1912 at "a Broadway house" where Warde would "give a lecture before the curtain." Reviews contained in the copyright registry file on the film reveal that in early Jan 1913 Warde gave lectures on the film when it was exhibited in Augusta and Savannah, GA, Jacksonville, FL and other Southern cities.
The British-born Warde (1851-1935) was widely known in the U.S. for his Shakespearean roles. According to a 11 Sep 1912
news item, he had not appeared on the stage for "several years" but had been lecturing on Shakespearean plays in which he had acted. Biographical sources reveal that stage and screen star Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. acknowledged Warde as his acting mentor.
was Warde's first motion picture. Though it was thought to be a "lost film" for decades, in 1996 a nitrate print of the film, with original tinting, was donated to AFI by a private collector. A safety print of a restored version was deposited in the AFI Collection at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
The historical Richard, Duke of Gloucester, was the brother of Yorkish King Edward IV, who ascended the throne after the death of the Lancastrian King Henry VI. Following Edward's death in 1483, Richard became king. The last of the York line, Richard was killed during a battle with Henry, Earl of Richmond at Bosworth Field on 22 Aug 1485. Richmond then became Henry VII, the first Tudor king, thus ending the Wars of the Roses. Since the sixteenth century, much of what has been commonly considered Richard's physical deformities and evil-doing emanated from the play by Shakespeare, who received patronage from Queen Elizabeth I, granddaughter of Henry VII. Through the centuries, historical interpretations of Richard have often differed from the sinister, deformed figure portrayed in Shakespeare's play.
There have been many film and television adaptations of Shakespeare's play, beginning in Sep 1908 with a one-reel Vitagraph Co. adaptation directed by and starring William V. Ranous. Other film and television adaptations include a two-reel British production made in 1911, directed by and starring Sir Richard F. Benson; an eighteen minute BBC teleplay broadcast in Apr 1937, starring Ernest Milton; a one-hour NBC teleplay broadcast on 30 Jul 1950, directed by Albert McCleery and starring William Windom; a 1955 British film directed by and starring Laurence Olivier; a 1983 four-hour BBC teleplay directed by Jane Howell and starring Ron Cook; and a 1995 British film, set in 1930s England, directed by Richard Loncraine and starring Sir Ian McKellan. Al Pacino produced and starred in a 1996 feature film,
Looking for Richard
, which is a partial documentary on the staging of
, with extensive footage of a performance of the play.
The historical figure of Richard III was also featured in the 1939 Universal film
Tower of London
, directed by Rowland V. Lee and starring Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff and Vincent Price, and a 1962 United Artists release of the same name, directed by Roger Corman and starring Vincent Price and Michael Pate. Portions of
also figured into the plot of the 1955 Twentieth Century-Fox film
Prince of Players
, directed by Philip Dunne and starring Richard Burton as actor Edwin Booth. The 1977 Warner Bros. comedy
The Goodbye Girl
, directed by Herbert Ross and based on Neil Simon's play featured Richard Dreyfuss as an actor portraying an
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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the
AFI Catalog of Feature Films
and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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