King Lear (1953 film)

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King Lear
Genre Drama
Based on King Lear
Written by
Directed by Andrew McCullough
Starring Orson Welles
Theme music composer Virgil Thomson
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Running time 73 minutes
Original network CBS
Original release
  • 18 October 1953 (1953-10-18)

King Lear is a 1953 live television adaptation of the Shakespeare play staged by Peter Brook and starring Orson Welles.[1] Preserved on kinescope, it aired October 18, 1953, as part of the CBS television series Omnibus, hosted by Alistair Cooke. The cast includes Micheál Mac Liammóir and Alan Badel.[2]


A heavily abridged version of the play,[3] this production condensed the play by eliminating the characters of Edgar and Edmund.[4] To compensate for their absence, the role of Oswald is expanded to take Edmund's part in the play's climax, and "Poor Tom" is included not as a disguised Edgar but as an actual madman.[5]

Welles returned to America to star in this presentation. He was guarded by IRS agents, prohibited to leave his hotel room when not at the studio, prevented from making any purchases, and the entire sum (less expenses) he earned went to his tax bill. Welles returned to England after the broadcast.


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