Internet Shakespeare Editions

Shakespeare in Performance: Film

Hamlet (1959, Ralph Nelson)

Release LocationsGB
DirectorRalph Nelson
MediumBlack & white video
Length1 hrs, 30 mins
Audiencegeneral public
Play ConnectionsHamlet (teleplay)
SeriesDuPont Show of the Month


Essentially a record of the touring Old Vic Company's Hamlet. To cut the Old Vic stage version to 90 minutes for television, tv director Ralph Nelson went to the "pirated" 1601 Quarto for guidance. That much shortened version, though often spoken of as a "bad" quarto, actually makes for an effective stage performance. As a part of the event, CBS published the television script for Hamlet in a handsomely printed volume on rag paper with original sketches. A foreword by the CBS president, Louis G. Cowan, testifies to the heroic efforts being made in those early days of commercial television to put worthwhile drama on the air. Besides the DuPont Show of the Month, which sponsored the Old Vic Hamlet, there were also Playhouse 90, the Armstrong Circle Theatre, United States Steel Hour, and others. Television lacked the technical sophistication of a modern program such as Miami Vice but it paid more than lip service to quality theatre. Perhaps the idea that mass audiences could be won over to Shakespeare was inherently quixotic anyway

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

MarcellusJoss Ackland
ClownRobert Algar
GertrudeMargaret Courtenay
ClownJames Culliford
HoratioDavid Dodimead
LaertesJohn Humphrey
OpheliaBarbara Jefford
GravediggerDudley Jones
Player QueenBarbara Leigh-Hunt
HostFrederic March
HamletJohn Neville
ClaudiusOliver Neville
PoloniusJoseph O'Conor
BarnardoRoy Patrick
OsricJob Stewart
Player KingRichard Wordsworth
GhostRichard Wordsworth

Production Team and Crew Overview

DirectorRalph Nelson
Associate DirectorRowland Vance
ProducerRalph Nelson
ProducerPaul Orr
Technical DirectorTed Miller
Adaptor/TranslatorRalph Nelson
Stage DirectorMichael Benthall
CostumesLeslie Renfield
LightingBob Barry
ProductionKen Kransgill
Graphic ArtistBull Bunce

Company Overview

Playgroup The Old Vic

Production information courtesy of: Kenneth Rothwell