‘Chimes at Midnight’ Presents Orson Welles as a Tragic Shakespearean Figure

GameStop, Inc.

chimes-at-midnight-0002

From an early age, Orson Welles had an immense fascination with the works of William Shakespeare. Legend has it that a two-year-old Welles asked his mother to read him the unabridged plays of Shakespeare. Whether or not that particular story is true is immaterial. Before he was scaring countless Americans with his inventive radio adaptation of War of the Worlds, Welles gained a bit of notoriety for his adaptation of Macbeth, transposing the story to a Caribbean island and featuring an all-black cast. Later in his life, after his brief moment as a Hollywood darling had faded, Welles would helm a couple of Shakespeare adaptations – 1948’s Macbeth and 1952’s Othello – as well as a few adaptations that failed to gain traction. In 1965, Welles would embark on an ambitious adaptation of a number of Shakespeare plays, focusing solely on the bard’s recurring character of Sir John Falstaff. Chimes at Midnight presents Welles as ambitious as ever while operating as the culmination of Welles’ larger cinematic work.

In adapting parts of Shakespeare’s Henry IV: Parts I and II, Richard II, Henry V, and The Merry Wives of Windsor, and using narration from the Hollinshed Chronicles by Raphael Hollinshed, Welles focuses the story of Chimes at Midnight on Sir John Falstaff (Welles), a knight and all around unreliable narrator, and his relationship with Prince Hal (Keith Baxter), heir to the throne held by his father King Henry IV (John Gielgud). As Falstaff neglects his debts for room and board while embellishing Prince Hal with stories of increasing grandeur and decreasing believability, Henry IV is facing dissent from the family of Edmund Mortimer, the true heir to the throne, led by Henry Percy (Norman Rodway), known as Hotspur. The forces clash at the Battle of Shrewsbury, with Henry IV’s army being victorious over the sympathizers of Mortimer. But Henry IV is ill, and when he passes Prince Hal takes his place upon the throne. Hearing that his friend is now king, Falstaff rushes to see Hal, who now goes by Henry V, only to be shunned. Heartbroken, not much time passes before Falstaff’s life expires.

Shakespearean themes run throughout Welles’ filmography, right down his legendary debut feature Citizen Kane. Another aspect that runs parallel to Welles’ Shakespearean aspects is a strong sense of autobiography, which also found its way into Kane. With Chimes at Midnight, Welles brings these two elements together as the story is based upon the works of Shakespeare but the character of Falstaff very much mirrors where Welles was at in 1965. This once valiant figure with boyish good looks and carte blanche in Hollywood slowly descended from golden boy to goat, his good looks ravaged by age and weight gain with a predilection for booze. The tragedy of Falstaff being shunned by the very person he entertained reflects his own professional struggles. One could almost see the Falstaff that was befriended by Prince Hal as Welles during Kane and his eventual discarding as the moment that The Magnificent Ambersons was butchered behind his back. He was a respected storyteller, a man revered for his abilities to embellish the facts with an unrivaled flair only to have those talents rejected by those who praised him. Perhaps the greatest Shakespearean character Welles ever played was himself.

Despite the financing issues that would plague Welles’ filmmaking career following The Lady From Shanghai, he never lost a step as a filmmaker. Chimes at Midnight features the stark black and white photography that became a trademark of Welles even after his collaborations with cinematographer Greg Toland ended. Wellesian flourishes of contrasting shadows and low angles remain firmly intact in the master’s late-period masterpiece.

The director claimed that when preparing Kane he watched John Ford’s Stagecoach in excess of 40 times. But while Kane never featured a frenzied action-packed climax like Ford’s legendary western, the lessons Welles took from the film are apparent in the stunning Battle of Shrewsbury. Like Ford’s film, Welles doesn’t bother adhering to the 180-degree rule of cinema. Action comes from all sides in a thrilling melee of medieval mayhem. As all the chaos unfolds, Welles’ Falstaff hides from the battle only to take credit upon his side’s victory. Again, paralleling one of the greatest battles of Welles’ life, as if he was on the sidelines, unable to fight when Ambersons, and thus his filmmaking career as it stood, was taken from him.

Chimes at Midnight represents the culmination of Orson Welles’ lifelong fascination with William Shakespeare, and is likely his finest adaptation of the bard’s work. Aside from F is for Fake, Chimes at Midnight is the crown jewel of Welles’ late-period filmmaking. The director himself held the film in high regard, and said of it, “If I wanted to get into heaven on the basis of one movie, that’s the one I would offer up.” While I may not personally agree with the legendary director’s assessment of his work, Chimes at Midnight is undoubtedly a deeply personal work from Welles, a cinematic cocktail of autobiography and tragic themes that run through his career. This is a singular work from a singular filmmaker.

https://vimeo.com/147403933

The brand new restoration of Chimes at Midnight by Janus Films will play at New York City’s Film Forum from January 1st through January 12th and in Los Angeles at Cinefamily from January 1st through January 7th with a Blu-Ray to come from Criterion Collection later in the year.

Anytime Costumes

Leave a Reply

FanboyNation
Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
‘Dune: Part Two’ is Nearly a Perfect Movie – Review

‘Dune: Part Two‘ is a nearly perfect movie, creating a cinematic...

‘Wolf Pack’ is the Thrill Ride we need and Well Go USA Gives it to Us

‘Wolf Pack‘ is the action film we need right now as...

Lim Kay Siu Talks About His Role as Gyatso in Netflix’s ‘Avatar’

International Star, Lim Kay Siu talks about his role as Gyatso...

Event News Event Reviews
Aiden Sinclair and Michael Rangel Talks ’57 Ghosts’ Aboard the Queen Mary Séance

Aiden Sinclair and Apparitionist, Michael Rangel Discuss their new Theatrical Séance...

Luke and Madison Rhoades Open ‘Slashers Axe Throwing’ – Interview

Luke and Madison Rhoades Open Orange County’s first ever horror themed...

Charity Hill and Steve Sheldon, EPIC Ent. Host Immersive Christmas Experiences Across the U.S.

Charity Hill and Steve Sheldon, EPIC Entertainment Group Host Immersive Christmas...

Automotives Football MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Olympic Runner Colleen Quigley ‘On The Road to Paris’

Team USA Olympic Runner, Colleen Quigley is On The Road to...

Paralympian Swimmer Ahalya Lettenberger On The Road to Paris

Team USA Paralympian Swimmer, Ahalya Lettenberger is On The Road to...

Ultimate Women of Wrestling Comes to the Globe Theatre – Interview

Ultimate Women of Wrestling Comes to the Globe Theatre on Sunday,...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Fantoy Comics Presnts: Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse! Part 3927

I am a demon that has lived forever and that is,...

Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Pahrump Saga! Back to the story!

Alright you monkeys, back to work!

Fantoy Comics Presents: Valentine’s Special 2024: pt 2

Happy Valentines day, Sugar Beet!

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs & Sketches’ – Interview

Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs &...

Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her Career in the Arts

First Generation Assyrian-Chaldean, Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her...

Louden Swain Headlining Los Angeles Show at The Echo

Press Release – Louden Swain are headlining Los Angeles show at...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League Gameplay Trailer

The first Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League gameplay trailer was revealed during...

Wonder Woman Game
Wonder Woman Game Announced By DC and WB Games

Wonder Woman game will feature the iconic hero in a 3rd...

MultiVersus
MultiVersus brings Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny, and More

MultiVersus is bringing Shaggy, Harley Quinn, Jake, Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny,...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
Gary Morgenstein Talks ‘A Dugout to Peace’ the Final Installment of his Trilogy

Gary Morgenstein Talks About ‘A Dugout to Peace‘ the final installment...

Chris Clews Is ‘Raised on the 80s’ and Shares Those Life Lessons

Chris Clews was ‘Raised on the 80s‘ and Shares Those Life...

Roye Okupe Brings Authentic African Representation to HBO Max and Cartoon Network

Nigerian-American, Roye Okupe brings authentic African representation to HBO Max and...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand Demo

The new ‘Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand‘ is ready to ship...

Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the ‘Good Flour’

Canadian Super Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the...

Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide
Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide

The Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide is now available to help...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Episode 38: Hamid Rahmanian

Join Whitney Grace as she speaks with artist Hamid Rahmanian, who...

No Preview
Toon-In Talk Episode 37: Niki Smith

Whitney Grace interviews graphic novel writer and artist Niki Smith about...

Toon-In Talk Episode 36: Rob Paulsen

Rob Paulsen takes some time from his busy voice acting schedule...