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Macbeth (Republic 1948, Orson Welles, Roddy McDowall)



Orson Welles’s first screen adaptation of Shakespeare was shot on a Republic studios Western soundstage in three days. Even though it looks like a ’20s German expressionist film shot on a rubber-boulder-covered Star Trek planet, this low-budget film has a lot going for it. While not totally successful, it is never dull.

Welles himself described this as ‘a violent charcoal sketch of a great play,’ and he added characters – in particular, Napier’s Holy Father–to emphasize the paganism of the three witches vs. Christianity. Look for the Mercury Theater regulars: William Alland and Erskine Sanford.

Originally cut to 89 minutes for theatrical release, the film was later restored to Welles’s intended 105 minutes. Nominated for an award in the 1948 Venice Film Festival.

Welles asked his actors to adapt a thick Scottish accent. These accents were incomprehensible to preview audiences, requiring the studio rerecord the entire film.

production details
USA | Republic | 107 minutes | 1948
Director: Orson Welles
Script: William Shakespeare, Orson Welles,

Orson Welles as Macbeth
Erskine Sanford as Duncan
Roddy McDowall as Malcolm
Dan O’Herlihy as Macduff
Edgar Barrier as Banquo
Jeanette Nolan as Lady Macbeth
Alan Napier as A Holy Father
John Dierkes as Ross
Keene Curtis as Lennox
Peggy Webber as Lady Macduff/The Three
Lionel Braham as Siward
Archie Heugly as Young Siward
Jerry Farber as Fleance
Christopher Welles as Macduff Child
Morgan Farley as Doctor
Lurene Tuttle as Gentlewoman / The Three
Brainerd Duffield as First Murderer / The Three
William Alland as Second Murderer
George Chirello as Seyton
Gus Schilling as A Porter