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King Lear: Approximately 2½ reels, abridged from the original five reels, December 17, 1916.
Frederick Warde, one of the best known stage actors of his generation, stars in this 2 1/2 reel abridged version cut down from the original five.
Print source: George Eastman House, 35 minutes 56 seconds. A Pathé Gold Rooster Play, released through the Pathé Exchange.
Directed by Ernest Warde. Scenario by Philip Lonergan, adapted from the play by William Shakespeare. Photographed by William Zollinger and John M. Bauman.
Cast: Frederick Warde (King Lear), Lorraine Huling (Cordelia), Wayne Arey (Duke of Albany), J.H. Gilmour (Earl of Kent), Hector Dion (Edmund), Ernest Warde (the King’s fool), Edwin Stanley (Edgar), Boyd Marshall (King of France), Ina Hammer (Goneril), Edith Diestel (Regan), Charles Brooks (Duke of Cornwall), Robert Whittier (Oswald). Music by Raymond A. Brubacher (thanhouser.org/people/Rayb.htm).
Frederick Warde, one of the best known stage actors of his generation, had played King Lear many times since 1896, and had starred as Richard III in the first known feature-length American film in 1912. In 1916-17 Warde was one of only three exclusive Thanhouser stars in these early days of the new “star system” of high salaries and relentless promotion. As seen in the inter-titles, the players are boldly identified, but Thanhouser stubbornly refused to build the full star treatment publicity machine to the extent that competing studios did.
Among the striking advancements of the mid-1910s, as seen here, are much more rapid and fluid editing, an increase in the use of dialogue titles, freer use of close-ups and insert shots, new skills in shallow-focus cinematography, and ever-increasing complexity of narrative. This surviving print, cut down for a later re-release, is half its original length.
Warde gives an admirably subtle performance for the intimate camera, in contrast to the broad stage acting style that prevailed in film acting as well.
Ernest Warde, the director and actor (as the court jester), was star Frederick’s son, and a solid and experienced theatrical director in his own right
This film is available on DVD from Thanhouser Film Company Preservation, Inc. at thanhouser.org.
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