RICHARD III (1911)
Article 4844 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Frank R. Benson
Featuring James Berry, Alfred Brydone, Kathleen Yorke
What it is: Silent Shakespeare
This short recounts the rise of Richard III to power through assassination, and his ultimate fall from power.
As might be expected, there’s no way a twenty-seven minute silent adaptation of a Shakespeare play is going to do the story justice, but this does about as good a job if it as you might hope. In order to follow it, you’ll have to be familiar with the play, but even if you’re not, you’ll get the gist of the story, which is that Richard is killing off everyone who gets in his way to the throne. You get at least a hint of Shakespeare’s language; the title cards feature direct quotes from the dialogue of the play, though it favors useful summary phrases over some of the more famous bits (there’s no lines about discontented winters or kingdom/horse swaps). The acting is very good if you bear in mind that acting styles have changed over the years. This short version even retains the main piece of fantastic content, in which Richard III is haunted by the ghosts of those he has murdered in a dream. This sequence even uses some cinematic special effects, mostly in jump cuts from one ghost to another, making them seem to appear out of nowhere. It’s no substitute for the real thing, of course, but for what it’s trying to do, it does a decent job.