King Lear (1983 TV programme)

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King Lear
Written byPlay:
William Shakespeare
Directed by Michael Elliott
Starring Laurence Olivier
John Hurt
Diana Rigg
Leo McKern
Dorothy Tutin
Anna Calder-Marshall
David Threlfall
Colin Blakely
Robert Lindsay
Brian Cox
Composer Gordon Crosse
Original languageEnglish
Producer David Plowright
EditorsD.L. Heyes
Ron Swain (video-tape)
Running time158 minutes
Production company Granada Television
Original release3 April 1983 (UK)
26 January 1984 (US)

King Lear (1983) is a video production of William Shakespeare's 1606 play of the same name, directed by Michael Elliott. It was broadcast in 1983 in the UK and in 1984 in the US.


Production and release

Elliott set his Lear in an environment resembling Stonehenge, although the production was entirely shot in a studio. The somewhat out-of-focus effect that one sees at certain moments is because mist pervades the setting in several scenes. In keeping with the primitive backdrop, this production emphasizes the primitive over the sophisticated. Shakespeare's characters use the clothing, weapons, and technology of the early Bronze Age rather than the Elizabethan era.

Laurence Olivier played Lear in this production to great acclaim, winning an Emmy for his performance. It was the last of Olivier's appearances in a Shakespeare play. At 75, he was one of the oldest actors to take on this enormously demanding role. (He had previously played it in 1946 at the Old Vic, without much success.)

A notable cast was assembled for this production, including, in addition to Olivier, John Hurt (Fool), Diana Rigg (Regan), Leo McKern (Gloucester), Dorothy Tutin (Goneril), Anna Calder-Marshall (Cordelia), David Threlfall (Edgar), Colin Blakely (Kent), and Robert Lindsay (Edmund).

The American syndicated telecasts featured an introduction shot at the real Stonehenge, featuring Peter Ustinov as host. (Ustinov was host for all the Mobil Showcase Theatre presentations, of which the Olivier King Lear was one.) It has been released on DVD in both Region 1 and Region 2 editions.



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