Internet Shakespeare Editions

Shakespeare in Performance: Film

Macbeth (1948, Orson Welles)

Release LocationsUSA
DirectorOrson Welles
MediumBlack & white video
Length1 hrs, 29 mins
Audiencecollege and university
Play ConnectionsMacbeth (adaptation)


Since the sound track for this film, originally made in 23 days shooting time on a low budget, was re-recorded over a period of three years, the exact date of release depends on whether one is speaking of the original or revised version. The running time of the revised version is generally given as 86 minutes, though the initial cut supposedly ran 105 minutes. Welles himself described this hastily made film as 'a violently sketched charcoal drawing of a great play' (Manvell, SATF 59) and, as one might expect, the result was fair game for the critics who seemed to take a special joy in attacking this talented but vulnerable filmmaker. A major departure from the Shakespearean text, which brought in obtrusively Christian elements to suggest a mighty struggle between forces of Good and Evil, aroused much scorn. His famous "Voodoo" Macbeth, produced in Harlem on stage antecdent to the film, should have prepared audiences for something so typically Wellsian. Moreover, as Richard Wilson has shown, Welles's Macbeth at the Utah Centennial Festival as a rehearsal for his "surreal" film somewhat compensated for the brief shooting schedule

Description from Shakespeare on Screen : an International Filmography and Videography by Kenneth S. Rothwell and Annabelle Henkin Melzer. ©1990 Kenneth S. Rothwell. Cited by permission. — Added 2008-11-14

Cast Overview

MacbethOrson Welles
Lady MacbethJeanette Nolan
DuncanErskine Sanford
MalcolmRoddy McDowall
BanquoEdgar Barrier
MacduffDan O'Herlihy
Lady Macduff, WitchPeggy Webber
LennoxKeene Curtis
RossJohn Dierkes
FleanceJerry Farber
SiwardLionel Braham
Young SiwardArchie Heugly
SeytonGeorge Chirello
Macduff ChildChristopher Welles
DoctorMorgan Farley
Gentlewoman/WitchLurene Tuttle
Second MurdererWilliam Alland
First Murderer/WitchBrainerd Duffield
A Holy FatherAlan Napier

Production Team and Crew Overview

DirectorOrson Welles
ProducerOrson Welles
ComposerJacques Ibert
ComposerEfrem Kurtz
Adaptor/TranslatorOrson Welles
CostumesAdele Palmer
PhotographyJohn L. Russell
ProductionJohn McCarthy
ProductionJames Redd
ProductionFred Ritter
Special EffectsHoward and Lydecker

Production information courtesy of: Kenneth Rothwell