Internet Shakespeare Editions

Shakespeare in Performance: Film

Hamlet (1947)

Release LocationsGB
Length3 hrs
Play ConnectionsHamlet (teleplay)


Producer George More O'Ferrall began work on this major production in the summer of 1947. Some 70 persons were approached to fill 48 roles (with some doubling). Special recordings had to be made for Ophelia's songs and the noise of the ghost. Fittings for costumes at Foxes ate up considerable time, and Hamlet's customary suits of solemn black had to be made dark green because of the technical requirements of early television. During the five weeks of rehearsals in bare rooms, the cast was provided with scale models of the proposed sets to orient them to the actual conditions of the live broadcast. The scenery itself was not completed until December 4th, three days before the broadcast. From this timetable, one can imagine the anxiety attacks that must have wracked the producer and his associates (WAC TS/220 4.3.48). If, as Michael Barry suggests ("Shakespeare on TV," BBC Quarterly 9.3 [Autumn 1954]: 146), the tracking shots in O'Ferrall's production influenced Olivier's 1948 filmed version of Hamlet, the performance takes on even greater importance in the history of screened Shakespeare and was worth all the pain of creation. For its merits, in 1948 Producer O'Ferrall won the first television award for artistic achievement from the British Television Society. Drew Middleton's New York Times story may also well be the first review in North America of a televised Shakespeare performance

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

PlayersJohn Ainsworth
HamletJohn Byron
CastMichael Caborn
CastRoy Dean
MarcellusWilliam Devlin
VoltemandAubrey Dexter
CastDavid Duncan
GhostW. E. Holloway
FranciscoStanley Lemin
HoratioPatrick Macnee
Lords, Ladies, Attendantsnot specified
OpheliaMuriel Pavlow
GertrudeMargaret Rawlings
RosencrantzRobert Rietty
ClaudiusSebastian Shaw
BarnardoJulian Somers
HoratioPatrick Troughton
GuildensternRichard Warner
CorneliusDudley Williams
PoloniusArthur Wontner

Production Team and Crew Overview

ProducerBasil Adams
ProducerGeorge More O'Ferrall
Fight CoordinatorDenis Loraine
ProductionPeter Bax

Production information courtesy of: Kenneth Rothwell