The Real Thing at Last

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The Real Thing at Last
Directed by L. C. MacBean
J. M. Barrie
Produced by A. E. Matthews
Written by J. M. Barrie
William Shakespeare (original play)
Starring Edmund Gwenn
Nelson Keys
Godfrey Tearle
Owen Nares
Norman Forbes
Distributed by British Actors Film Company
Release date
  • 22 April 1916 (1916-04-22)
Running time
30 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language Silent film
(English intertitles)

The Real Thing at Last is a satirical silent movie based on the play Macbeth. It was written in 1916 by Peter Pan creator and playwright J. M. Barrie as a parody of the American entertainment industry. The film was made by the newly created British Actors Film Company in response to news that American filmmaker D. W. Griffith intended to honor the 300th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death with the production of a film version. No copies of The Real Thing at Last are known to survive.[1]


American film producer Rupert K. Thunder (Edmund Gwenn) hosted the 30-minute film live.[2] It parodies the sensationalism of the American entertainment of the day, contrasting it with more reserved British sensibilities. It loosely follows the plot of the play, but two versions of each depicted scene are shown:

In the British version, Lady Macbeth wiped a small amount of blood from her hands; in the American she had to wash away gallons of the stuff. In the British, the witches danced around a small cauldron; in the American the witches became dancing beauties cavorting around a huge cauldron. In the British, Macbeth and Macduff fought in a ditch; in the American Macbeth falls to his death from a skyscraper.[1]



Although nominally directed by L. C. MacBean, Barrie took an active role in its direction.[1] The film featured several popular British stage actors of the period, and thus served as the film debuts of Edmund Gwenn, Marie Lohr, Ernest Thesiger, and Frederick Kerr. Pauline Chase had been part of the original cast of Barrie's Peter Pan and played the title role for seven years; she came out of retirement for this, her only screen performance.


The film was presented at the London Coliseum as part of a benefit for the YMCA raising money to entertain the troops serving in the Great War. This was attended by Queen Mary, Princess Mary, and Prince Albert (later King George VI).[2]


  1. ^ a b c urbanora. "Pen and pictures no. 3 – J.M. Barrie". The Bioscope. Retrieved 11 January 2016. 
  2. ^ a b "Barrie Burlesques Movies", The New York Times

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