So the other day I spot a headline that says something about the worst Emmy Awards in the history of the show. Thinking it’s going to be some sort of slam on the job Stephen Colbert did, I check it out.
Imagine my surprise upon learning that the 1961 Emmy Awards are on the list primarily because a certain movie swept all the major categories. That movie? The Hallmark Hall of Fame production of Macbeth!
Now if you told me, in a year when I was alive, that a Shakespeare production was sweeping the night? I’d watch the whole thing with popcorn. Probably call some friends.
I went to research this production, see if I could maybe find some video. It starred Maurice Evans, who I only knew from such supporting roles as Dr. Zaius in the original Planet of the Apes movies, and The Puzzler from the Batman tv series (in fact I even blogged about him once).
But once you’ve seen his IMDB page you realize just the level of Shakespeare cred the man had in his prime: Malvolio in 1957, Petruchio in 1956, Richard II in 1954, Macbeth in 1954…wait, what?
In 1954, Maurice Evans played Macbeth in the Hallmark Hall of Fame production of Macbeth.
In 1961, Maurice Evans played Macbeth in the Hallmark Hall of Fame production of Macbeth.
That’s not a typo. According to the Wikipedia page:
Macbeth is a live television adaptation of the William Shakespeare play presented as the November 28, 1954 episode of the American anthology series Hallmark Hall of Fame. Directed by George Schaefer, and starring Maurice Evans and Dame Judith Anderson, the production was telecast in color, but has only been preserved on black-and-white kinescope.
In 1960, Evans and Anderson starred in a filmed made-for-television production of the play, also directed by Schaefer for the Hallmark Hall of Fame, but with an entirely different supporting cast. That production was filmed in color on location in Scotland, and was released theatrically in Europe.
These days when we think of a “reboot” we think of an entirely new production with an entirely new cast, usually because of some sort of contract wrangling between studios. In this case we’ve got the same director and the same leads, just a different location and different supporting cast.
Though I’d love to watch them side by side and play spot the differences, I can’t find much video of the 1961 version. However, the 1954 version appears to be complete on YouTube (as of this posting, at least), so enjoy!
All I found of the 1960 version (won an award in 1961 but the film is dated 1960) is the opening credits: