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April 27 , 2010

Shakespeare on Silent Film

A Strange Eventful History


In 1899, when film projection was barely three years old, Herbert Beerbohm Tree was filmed as King John. In his highly entertaining history, Robert Hamilton Ball traces in detail the fate of Shakespeare on silent films from Tree’s first effort until the establishment of sound in 1929. The silent films brought Shakespeare to a wide public who had never had the chance to see his plays in the theatre. And Shakespeare gave the film makers an air of respectability that was badly needed by a medium with a reputation for frivolity.

This work, first published in 1968, brings history to life with excerpts from scenarios, from reviews and from contemporary film journals, and with reproduction of stills and frames from the films themselves, including unusual shots of leading screen actors. This is a valuable source book for film experts, enhanced by full notes, bibliography and indexes; a fresh approach for Shakespeareans; and a vivid sketch of a world that has passed for all.

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