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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: May ::
Re: Burton *Hamlet*
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0384.  Saturday, 13 May 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Mary Jane Miller <
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        Date:   Friday, 12 May 1995 09:06:45 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.076  Re: *Hamlet*s: TV and Burton
 
(2)     From:   Peter S. Donaldson <
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        Date:   Friday, 12 May 95 10:46:36
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0383  Re: Burton *Hamlet*
 
(3)     From:   John Owen <
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        Date:   Friday, 12 May 1995 09:45:17 -0700
        Subj:   RE: SHK 6.0383  Re: Burton *Hamlet*
 
(4)     From:   Stephen Schultz <
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        Date:   Friday, 12 May 95 11:32:03 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0383  Re: Burton *Hamlet*
 
(5)     From:   Stephen Orgel <
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        Date:   Friday, 12 May 1995 09:19:06 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0383  Re: Burton *Hamlet*
 
(6)     From:   Scott Shepherd <
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        Date:   Friday, 12 May 1995 12:32:48 -0400
        Subj:   Burton's *Hamlet*
 
(7)     From:   Peter Greenfield <
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        Date:   Friday, May 12, 1995
        Subj:   Burton "Hamlet"
 
(8)     From:   Edward Rocklin <
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        Date:   Friday, 12 May 95 23:07:12 PDT
        Subj:   RE: SHK 6.0383  Re: Burton *Hamlet*
 
(9)     From:   Richard Klautsch <
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        Date:   Friday, 12 May 95 12:22:25 MST
        Subj:   Book on Burton/Gielgud Hamlet
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mary Jane Miller <
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Date:           Friday, 12 May 1995 09:06:45 -0400
Subject: 6.076  Re: *Hamlet*s: TV and Burton
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.076  Re: *Hamlet*s: TV and Burton
 
I remember flashes of this *Hamlet* on stage at the O'keefe Centre in
Toronto. [I was 19 I think].
 
a.) the fact the Gielgud's voice as the Ghost [represented on stage by a
light] made much of the rest of the spoken verse seem flat and unpalatable.
 
b.) that the directorial/design premisee was that this was a "rehersal." The
arras was a moveable rack of costumes. Polonius overset the rack as he
collapsed into a welter of costumes. Gertrude the actress had a fur stole
but performed in black rehersal skirt.
 
c.) Hume Cronyn was the quintessential politician [as I saw politicians in
those days]
 
d.) Burton's encounter with Claudius crackled with danger, quiet threats
and white hot energy on a very short leash.
 
e.) After the performance Burton came out with Taylor to announce that they
had been married in Montreal & that "there shall be no more marriages"  -[
It's true - I saw it.]
 
f.) I found myself comparing the famous Burton to the unkown Christopher
Plummer of a few years before at Stratford Ont - & that the young,
at-the-top-of-his-form Plummer won hands down. Still does when an older,
critical Mary Jane looks back. -- Charming, intelligent, athletic, funny,
superb swordsman  --- and he slid into the "to be" before we knew it and
made it his own. I was 15 at the time.
 
PS  Who was Burton's Claudius? I remember that he managed to be a credible
antagonist [though my favourite Claudius is Antony Hopkins in the
Williams/Richardson Hamlet -- another light (off camera) for the Ghost.
Favourite Ghost? Scofields' measured, fatherly Ghost]
 
Anyone else want to play favourite actor in a supporting or leading role in
*Hamlet.*
 
Mary Jane Miller
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter S. Donaldson <
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Date:           Friday, 12 May 95 10:46:36
Subject: 6.0383  Re: Burton *Hamlet*
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0383  Re: Burton *Hamlet*
 
The Burton Hamlet film process was called Electrovision in the credits of the
film, but what that means, other than the use of fast film stock I don't know.
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Owen <
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Date:           Friday, 12 May 1995 09:45:17 -0700
Subject: 6.0383  Re: Burton *Hamlet*
Comment:        RE: SHK 6.0383  Re: Burton *Hamlet*
 
I have mixed feelings about finally seeing the Burton Hamlet. I have an
unedited recording of the full production (which may be still available
commercially), and Burton is pretty good. Good enough to make me want to see
him as well as hear him. But that has to be absolutely the worst set of
supporting performances to ever curse a Shakespearean production. Ironically
for a play directed by our century's most celebrated speaker of verse, the
verse is spoken with appalling ineptitude. The worst offender is Barnard Hughes
as Marcellus, with his dead stops at the end of each line. Alfred Drake's
overmodulated delivery of Claudius' lines runs a close second (despite the
fascinating possibility of Claudius as a radio DJ). Maybe this is less
noticeable in a visual recording. I hope.
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephen Schultz <
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Date:           Friday, 12 May 95 11:32:03 EDT
Subject: 6.0383  Re: Burton *Hamlet*
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0383  Re: Burton *Hamlet*
 
Jerry Bangham mentioned a book about the production of the Gielgud/Burton
*Hamlet* but couldn't remember the author or the title.  The author was William
Redfield (who DID play either Rosencrantz or Guildenstern) and the title was
*Letters from an Actor*, I think.  I remember it as marvelously insightful
about both the particular production and the process of rehearsal in general.
 
(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephen Orgel <
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Date:           Friday, 12 May 1995 09:19:06 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 6.0383  Re: Burton *Hamlet*
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0383  Re: Burton *Hamlet*
 
The book about Burton's HAMLET is William Redfield's LETTERS FROM AN ACTOR, and
it is informative and delightful. Last year the paperback (Limelight Editions,
NY) was remaindering for $1.88. I also saw the film, and can remember almost
nothing about it, though this probably says more about my memory than about its
quality.
 
S. Orgel
 
(6)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Scott Shepherd <
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Date:           Friday, 12 May 1995 12:32:48 -0400
Subject:        Burton's *Hamlet*
 
I saw somebody watching that Burton *Hamlet* at the New York Public Library
for the Performing Arts about 2 years ago. I guess it's in similar video
collections elsewhere.
 
(7)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Greenfield <
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Date:           Friday, May 12, 1995
Subject:        Burton "Hamlet"
 
The book mentioned by Jerry Bangham is LETTERS TO [FROM?] AN ACTOR by William
Redfield, who played Guildenstern.  (One of the funniest parts of the book is
Redfield's description of his own chagrin at being asked to play Guild.)  A
gossipy but informative book, that tells us more about Redfield's own struggles
in the production than about Burton's.  For more insight into Burton's and
Gielgud's approaches to the play, see JOHN GIELGUD DIRECTS RICHARD BURTON IN
HAMLET.  The latter is essentially transcriptions of tape recordings of
rehearsals, made covertly by the author, Richard L. Sterne, a student who
played Osric in this production.  Included is a private dialogue between
Gielgud and Burton about Hamlet's character, which Sterne recorded by hiding
under the stage for several hours--a modern "fellow in the cellarage"!
 
(8)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edward Rocklin <
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Date:           Friday, 12 May 95 23:07:12 PDT
Subject: 6.0383  Re: Burton *Hamlet*
Comment:        RE: SHK 6.0383  Re: Burton *Hamlet*
 
The book by the minor actor:  Richard L. Sterne, _John Gielgud Directs Richard
Burton in Hamlet_ (Random House 1967)--I picked up a copy used in 1985, so it
may float around. It includes a transcript of a supposedly private
Gielgud-Burton rehearsal that Sterne taperecorded (he hid in the room if I
remember)--it also includes the prompt script, which is interesting in
itself--for example, Burton's Hamlet is unarmed when he comes upon Claudius
praying, takes the sword Claudius has put down to pray, and exits with the
sword, leaving Claudius to discover the empty scabbard and make the appropriate
inferences.  My colleague Joe Stodder calls this a corny manuever, but it is
interesting in showing how an action can change the relative awareness of both
dramatis personae and spectators, shift the balance a bit.  Discussing this is
an activity I sometimes use in class. Happy reading (or book hunting?)
 
Edward Rocklin
 
(9)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Klautsch <
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Date:           Friday, 12 May 95 12:22:25 MST
Subject:        Book on Burton/Gielgud Hamlet
 
The book that chronicles the Burton/Gielgud production of "Hamlet" is entitled
"Letters from an Actor" by William Redfield, an accomplished stage and film/TV
character actor.  The book is a fascinating account of the production, from
rehearsals to performance to visits by Liz Taylor.  It also offers unique
insight into the working processes of both Gielgud and Burton (how Gielgud
worked himself into tears giving line readings, for instance).  Redfield writes
with perception, wit, and an obvious reverence for Shakespeare and the theatre.
 

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