Article 5392 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Hay Plumb
Featuring Walter Ringham, Johnston Forbes-Robertson, S.A. Cookson
What it was: Shakespeare without the words
A Danish prince is told by the ghost of his father to avenge his death by killing his murderer… his uncle who is now married to his mother and King of Denmark.
I’ve heard tell that a full production of the uncut text of “Hamlet” can run more than four hours. Therefore, I’d imagine a silent version of the play (which would have to eliminate a good percentage of the play’s prime ingredient – its words) could comfortably be told in fifty-three minutes, the running time of the version I watched. In fact, this version does tell the whole story at an effective pace. In fact, if the inter-titles had been a little more frequent, it might have passed muster as a version of the story that could have been viewed and enjoyed by someone who went into it without previous knowledge of the original play. However, as it is, it’s another example of a silent adaptation that is best enjoyed by someone already familiar with the original; if you do, you’ll know what’s going on (and its significance) in certain scenes which would leave the more casual viewer in the dust. My guess is that it’s based on a specific stage production of the work; it’s only real concessions to the fact that it’s a movie is that it uses real exterior locations and features a ghost who is indeed translucent. It is well acted, however, and I can say I enjoyed it, but then, I’m one of those who is quite familiar with the work in question. It does point out one phenomenon, though, The role of Hamlet is such a great, enticing part that it often attracts actors who are skilled and experienced enough to handle it but do not fit the role physically, which is my way of saying that Johnston Forbes- Robertson as Hamlet looks older than the cast members playing his putative parents, and indeed, he was – he was sixty whereas his parents were 37 and 41.