Macbeth

Play, 1606
Movies
Macbeth (1948)

Director Orson Welles; writer Welles; featuring Welles, Jeanette Nolan, Dan O'Herlihy, Roddy MacDowall

Joe MacBeth (1955)

Director Ken Hughes; writer Hughes, Philip Yordan; featuring Paul Douglas, Ruth Roman, Bonar Colleano, Sid James

More Macbeths (19571971)

Throne of Blood, originally Kumonosu j; also called Macbeth: Director Akira Kurosawa; writers Shinobu Hashimoto, Ryuz Kikushima, Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni; Toshiro Mifune, Isuzu Yamada, Takashi Shimura

The Tragedy of Macbeth, also called Macbeth: Director Roman Polanski; writers Polanski, Kenneth Tynan; featuring Jon Finch, Francesca Annis, Martin Shaw

Macbeth

COMMENTARY | MOVIES

Joe Macbeth scene

Paul Douglas and Ruth Roman bring Shakespeare's power couple to life and death in 1955 update Joe MacBeth.

A Macbeth named Joe

Much better than Orson Welles's effort, somewhat surprisingly, is Hollywood's next take on the Scottish play, Joe MacBeth, which puts the characters in modern dress and sets them in the criminal underworld complete with backstabbing and machine guns.

Burly American film actor Paul Douglas, better known for his comedy roles, is the Joe of the title who murders his way to the top. He's egged on by his ambitious moll of a wife, Lily MacBeth (Ruth Roman, best known for Strangers on a Train).

The dialogue is mid-twentieth century gangster but it hews quite closely to Shakespeare's plot.

This may sound like a hopeless premise but it's amazing how well it works. The leads and all the supporting actors brilliantly bring it to life. Especially effective is British stalwart Sid James, more sedate and serious than usual as MacBeth's ally, victim and haunter Banky (think Banquo).

The movie is mainly forgotten today though it deserves to be remembered as one of the better updates on Shakespearean classics that became all the rage later.

For a taste of it, at this time of writing you can find most of Joe MacBeth available on video sites like YouTube.

— Eric

COMMENTARY | MOVIES

Related:

Author
William Shakespeare

Play
Macbeth

Play
Hamlet

Play
Julius Caesar

See also:

Movies
Hamlet

Movies
Julius Caesar

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