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Prince of Players (TCF 1955, Richard Burton, Maggie McNamara)



A biographical piece about famed 19th-century American actor, Edwin Booth (Richard Burton), whose life seems every bit as full of drama as Shakespeare’s plays. A series of dramatizations-punctuated with Shakespearean excerpts-carry the life story through Booth’s troubles, including those with his drunkard father (Raymond Massey) and his presidential assassin brother, John Wilkes Booth (John Derek). The lavish CinemaScope photography is of particular interest.

A historical inaccuracy appears in Prince of Players regarding the events following the assassination of President Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth. In reality, Edwin Booth did not immediately return to the stage to suffer the onslaught of an angry crowd, but instead retired from the theater for several months during which time he wrote a public letter of apology for his brother’s actions. When he returned to the stage in January of 1866 to play in Hamlet, he was warmly welcomed by the audience.

Based on the book by Eleanor Ruggles.

production details
USA | Twentieth Century Fox | 102 minutes | 1955

Producer and Director: Philip Dunne
Director of Photography: Charles G. Clarke
Editor: Dorothy Spencer
Music: Bernard Herrmann
Script: Moss Hart
Production Design: Mark-Lee Kirk, Lyle R. Wheeler

Richard Burton as Edwin Booth
Maggie McNamara as Mary Devlin Booth
John Derek as John Wilkes Booth
Raymond Massey as Junius Brutus Booth
Charles Bickford as Dave Prescott
Elizabeth Sellars as Asia Booth
Eleanor Audley as Mrs. Montchesington
Ian Keith as Ghost of Hamlet’s father in “Hamlet”
Eva Le Gallienne as Gertrude in “Hamlet”
Christopher Cook as Edwin Booth at 10
Mae Marsh as Witch in ‘Macbeth’ (uncredited)
Burt Mustin as Miner (uncredited)
Sarah Padden as Mary Todd Lincoln (uncredited)