The BBCs are a great overall set, though some are much inferior to other versions of the plays.
This Richard III has its qualities. But it suffers from several drawbacks: First, it's the culmination of the earlier history series. You're not likely to derive the full benefit of it without seeing the predecessor plays. That gives especial power to the conclusion. Second, it's really not among Shakespeare's best, so watching a version too respectful of the immensely long text can be tedious.
Third, my personal preference is that Gloster/Richard not be played as a clever, vicious little lower-class squirrel. Despite his moustache-twirling and semi-comic asides, Richard has the nobility Shakespeare managed to find in just about all his kings. Even a weak-kneed Henry VI and a murderous Richard brought something elevated to the throne. ("Slave! I have set my life upon a cast, and I will stand the hazard of the die.")
Paul Daneman, I believe, did Richard in a BBC production of the history plays sometime in the late 1950s. I remember that one with pleasure equal to what I got out of this version.
But, of course, the Richard for me will always remain Laurence Olivier. I don't care how much of the text is cut or revised. His 1956 film is one of the best Shakespeare realizations of them all -- with a cast that is damned near legendary.
Thanks, Sev. If this exists there must be a full version of the production somewhere online -
Re: Olivier as Gloucester
I can't bear him. A cartoon from start to finish. Ditto his rump swinging Othello. Marvelous Henry V and adequate Hamlet. Though Queen Richard does take second place to Jacoby's turn in Richard II. Now there's a woman
Richard is a cartoon. He has nowhere near the depth of even the second stringers in a really great Shakespeare history play, like Henry IV, Part One , for example.
He merely happens to be a riveting stage character, but only in the sense of the Snidely Whiplash villains of the old barnstorming melodramas. There's not another personage in the play -- not even Buckingham -- to compete with him.
I realize these are matters of personal taste. For me Olivier is the definitive Richard. No one else is close. And I consider his Othello is a great performance, too. (His production of it, like his film of Richard III, has the benefit of a wonderful cast.) His "rump swinging" . . . yes. And I often say that he looks like he's about to say, "Shee-it ! " But he rises to the occasion like no one else I've seen or even heard.
I respect Al Pacino greatly for stretching himself.
But he's really an awful Richard.
Is that right? I'ts been years since I viewed this program. Guess I need to revisit. Well, I tell you he was quite impressive as Shylock in The Public Theater's production of The Merchant of Venice in Central Park a couple of seasons ago. It went on for a brief Broadway run (Course, most Shakespeare Broadway runs are brief (wonder what the longest run is?)). It was one of the best productions I've seen in that long running series, which tend to be middling affairs. So the impression may have been partly due to the great ensemble. The Michael Radford film he did a few years earlier doesn't come close what he did - or the entire experience - on stage.
I like his Shylock. Of course, I only saw it in the film.
Perhaps his Richard on stage or in the park is something else. My opinion is based on the movie, which is, after all, not really the play itself.
An interesting essay presented by a foundation established to "challenge the popular view of King Richard III by demonstrating through rigorous scholarship that the facts of Richard’s life and reign are in stark contrast to the Shakespearian caricature."