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King Leontes

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"There always seems something dangerous about him." 

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King Leontes of Bohemia suspects his wife, Hermione, and his friend, Polixenes, of betraying him. When he forces Polixenes to flee for his life, Leontes sets in motion a chain of events ...

Directed by Don Taylor

Written by William Shakespeare

Prod
uced by Don Taylor

 

Costumes designed by Joyce Hammond

Make-up supervised by Rosemary Ross

Designed by Marilyn Taylor

Music specially composed by Herbert Chappell


CAST

Polixenes: Patrick Macnee

Hermione: Rosalie Crutchley

Mamillius: Carlo Cura

Camillo: Nigel Stock

Emilia: Meg Wynn Owen

First Lady: Olivia Breeze

Second Lady: Valerie Bell

First Lord: Edward Evans

Antigonus: Geoffrey Bayldon

Paulina: Brenda Bruce

Gaoler: Michael Wynne

Second Lord: William Holmes

Third Lord: Adrian Brine

Fourth Lord, Officer of Court: Colin Rix

Cliomines: Alan Rowe

Dion: William Gaunt

First Servant: Edgar Wreford

Mariner: Donald Tandy

Old Shepherd: Frank Atkinson

Clown: Norman Rossington

Time the Chorus: Beckett Bould

Autolicus: Ron Moody

Florizel: Brian Smith

Perdita: Sarah Badel

Mopsa: Denise Coffey

Dorcas: Lyn Pinkney


Running Time: 144 minutes (in 2 parts)

Released by BBC Television

Recorded: Saturday 14th April 1962

Transmission Date: Friday 20th April 1962

TX: 9.25pm and 10.30pm BBC 1

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Patrick
Macnee
(1922 - 2015)

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Rosalie
Crutchley
(1920 - 1997)

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Ron
Moody
(1924 - 2015)

Brenda
Bruce
(1919 - 1996)

As part of both the World Shakespeare Festival (for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad) and the UnLOCked season (showcasing material thought lost from the archives which was located in the Library of Congress in 2010), this adaptation of Shakespeare’s 1623 play ‘The Winter’s Tale’ was the first done for television, transmitted on Good Friday, 1962, on the BBC.

Running 144 minutes, there is little pruning of the original play, which centres on the kingdom of Sicilia, where the jealous King, Leontes (Robert Shaw), accuses his Queen, Hermione (Rosalie Crutchley) of adultery with his good friend and neighbouring monarch, Polixenes (Patrick Macnee). In his murderous hate he attempts to have Polixenes murdered by his faithful servant Camillo (Nigel Stock), and casts Hermione’s baby daughter into the wilderness to die as he is convinced she is not his. As for Hermione, when she comes to trial her innocence and piety causes her to expire in front of the court, sending a penitent Leontes into a sixteen year period of repentance and sorrow.

Don Taylor directs this sparse version of the play, which employs minimal settings, close-ups, and a set of excellent performances to put across a play which has its difficulties (coincidences, Apollo, statues, and a bear). As well as the principals, there are comic turns from Ron Moody (Autolicus), Norman Rossington (Clown), and a measured performance from Brenda Bruce as Hermoine’s faithful maid, Paulina. Other memorable turns include an Antigonus from Geoffrey Bayldon and a Perdita from Sarah Badel which fit the next perfectly, and there is an early appearance from William Gaunt in a minor role.

Although Crutchley might not be everyone’s first choice as the wronged Queen Hermoine, she does well here and convinces, especially in her trial scene – less so in her early, flirty scenes with Macnee (perhaps because he doesn’t really go well with Shakespeare). And despite being missing from screen for a whole act of the play, Robert Shaw is an excellent Leontes, with his Northern grit and desperation adding to the portrait of a King possessed, and finally, (‘O, she’s warm …’) lost for words and emotion.

These BBC recoveries are real gems, and another restored piece in the history of Shakespeare on screen. With only one other production of this play having been made for television (during the BBC Shakespeare season of the 1970s-80s), this is surely a valuable and fascinating recovery. A pity, then, that there were so few to watch it in the BFI Southbank cinema last night – audiences are missing a treat.

This seems to be the first screen production of the play in England. It was broadcast in two parts with a 5-minute interval. The play was broadcast in the United States by PBS (New York’s WOR-TV channel on 17 August 1964) and the Library of Congress have a copy from this transmission.

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