A Whole Range of Richards: Some Actors Who’ve Cracked the Crookback

King Richard III (Richard Plantagenet, 1452-1485) was born this day, and while we do not precisely celebrate the fact, we thought it would be an appropriate time for a brief contemplation of some of the actors who have taken on this very fun role. Richard was perhaps not quite as psychopathic as Shakespeare paints him, but his two year reign was undeniably colorful (red) any way you slice it. Only a villain would not want to play this part. We’ve written about most of the actors listed below. Just click on the link to learn more.

David Garrick

Junius Brutus Booth

John Wilkes Booth

Richard Mansfield

William V. Ranous (Vitagraph version, 1908)

Frederick Warde (1912 film)

John Barrymore (1920 Broadway production)

Donald Wolfit

Basil Rathbone, Tower of London (1939)

Laurence Olivier (1955 film)

Vincent Price, Tower of London (1962)

Ian Holm, War of the Roses (1965)

Denzel Washington, Public Theater, Shakespeare in the Park (1990) — I saw this production! An interesting take. Denzel’s a good looking dude, and he chose not to be ugly or loathesome, merely malformed, He got mixed reviews but I respected his work.

Ian McKellen (1995 film) — The inevitable “Nazi” version. The brilliant masterstroke of linking ancient power struggles to modern Fascism had of course been Orson Welles’s with Julius Caesar 60 years earlier. All similar interpretations since have been mere variations on his conception, and they don’t always scan. The two historical/political situations don’t equate with a one to one correspondence. I thought it was interesting, but not a bull’s eye.

Al Pacino, Looking for Richard (1996) — Pacino’s interesting film about the actor’s process, alternating documentary scenes in which he explores the part (in rehearsals, discussions etc) with scenes wherein he acts the part in finished scenes. It’s doubly interesting because he seems to be approaching the part as though he were doing so from scratch, when he had actually previously played the part on Broadway in 1979. Playing the same role as though he had never done so before. That’s embletic of an integrity not everyone possesses.