Internet Shakespeare Editions

Shakespeare in Performance: Film

Hamlet (1947, Laurence Olivier)

Release LocationsGB
DirectorLaurence Olivier
MediumBlack & white video
Length2 hrs, 32 mins
Audiencegeneral public
Play ConnectionsHamlet (interpretation)


This famous version of Hamlet grew out of long meditation by the producer, director and star player, Laurence Olivier. As early as 1937, when he played Orlando against Elisabeth Bergner's Rosalind in the 1936 film of As You Like It, he had been thinking of making a film of Hamlet. The success of his 1944 Henry V encouraged the J. Arthur Rank organization to grant Olivier complete artistic control over the production of this film. Transforming a four-and-a-half hour play into a two-and-a-half hour movie required drastic cutting of the Quarto and Folio texts. To the dismay of many purists, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern entirely disappeared, and other major textual alterations and amputations occurred. Perhaps most controversial (resulting in Peter Alexander's book, Hamlet, Father and Son) were the words in the film's prologue that seemed to reduce the play to a tale of a "man who could not make up his mind." Visually, however, Olivier boldly moved toward a black-and-white film. To him Hamlet was an 'engraving' not an 'oil painting.' And the prying and moving camera, with the deep focus, also became integral in this famous movie

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

PoloniusFelix Aylmer
OsricPeter Cushing
GertrudeEileen Herlie
GravediggerStanley Holloway
BarnardoEsmond Knight
FranciscoJohn Laurie
Sea CaptainNiall MacGinnis
LaertesTerence Morgan
HamletLaurence Olivier
MarcellusAnthony Quayle
OpheliaJean Simmons
ClaudiusBasil Sydney
Player QueenTony Tarver
PriestRussell Thorndike
Player KingPatrick Troughton
Chief PlayerHarcourt Williams
HoratioNorman Wooland

Production Team and Crew Overview

DirectorLaurence Olivier
Assistant DirectorPeter Bolton
ProducerReginald Beck
Assistant ProducerA. Bushell
ProducerLaurence Olivier
EditorHelga Cranston
ContinuityElizabeth Everson
ComposerJohn Hollingsworth
ComposerMuir Mathieson
ComposerWilliam Walton
FencingDenis Loraine
Adaptor/TranslatorAlan Dent
Production ManagerJohn Gossage
CostumesElizabeth Hennings
MakeupTony Sforzini
HairVivienne Walker
LightingDesmond Dickinson
LightingJames Hamilton
Sound EditorH. Miller
CameraRay Sturgess
ProductionCarmen Dillon
ProductionRoger Furse
Production SupervisorP.C. Samuel
SetHenry Harris
SetE. Lindegarde
SetPaul Sheriff
Mime PlayDavid Paltenghi
Special EffectsJack Whitehead

Production information courtesy of: Kenneth Rothwell