Richard III (1911)
My favorite Shakespeare play gets the silent film treatment in this series of 13 scenes or vignettes, which actually begin with the end of the previous play, Henry VI, Part 3. It stars Frank R. Benson as history’s greatest villain, and he also directed. Each scene is given a brief forward-facing intertitle to tell you what the action will be, and is also preceded by a brief quote from Shakespeare – thus giving us at least some of the traditional dialogue. Viewers familiar with the play will catch certain things that aren’t explained in the intertitles, for example why Richard gestures oddly with his left arm in the scene before Hastings is taken away to be executed, or why Buckingham becomes upset at Richard’s coronation. The production is British and they take advantage of good quality set design and centuries of experience staging Shakespeare to produce a quite acceptable silent version, although of course it is less satisfying than seeing it performed with dialogue. I especially missed the subtlety of the opening monologue and the banter between the hired murderers. I particularly liked the scene of Richard tormented by his conscience in the night before battle with Richmond: simple in-camera effects allowed each of his victims to appear before him in spirit-form.
Directed by: Frank R. Benson
Starring: Frank R. Benson
Run Time: 23 Min
You can watch part of it for free: here. (I was unable to find it complete. If you can, let me know!)