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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: October ::
Re: Olivier's R3 (Gielgud's Hamlet)
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2437  Wednesday, 24 October 2001

From:           John Owen <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Oct 2001 21:04:46 -0700
Subject: Re: Olivier's R3 (Gielgud's Hamlet)
Comment:        SHK 12.2414 Re: Olivier's R3 (Gielgud's Hamlet)

> Second, how on earth can Sam Small characterize Gielgud's _voice_ as
> 'mincing'?  Having heard Gielgud's detached, morose _Hamlet_, the panic
> and genuine fear in Clarence were a revelation to me.  It's got music,
> feeling, and if played in a full-sized theatre instead of a puny plastic
> box in one's front room, it raises the hair on the back of one's head.

I am sorry to see Gielgud's Hamlet characterized as detached and
morose.  Naturally, I don't know what version Andy White heard but I
would be willing to wager it's the lamentable 1957 "Old Vic" recording.
Gielgud speaks the verse beautifully, and the supporting cast is
uniformly able, but Sir John is clearly not at his best. Listless, and
yes, detached and morose. For a change of pace, and even a shock, I
recommend the 1951 Theater Guild recording. It's a transcript of a radio
broadcast, and Gielgud is quicksilver. This Hamlet is far closer to
accounts of his performance on stage -- gentle, but capable of riveting
intensity. The recording, long out of print, shows up now and then in
online auctions and library sales. The downside is a really inept
supporting cast and a brainless abridgment to approx 90 minutes. Oh
well. Can't have everything.

John Owen

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