Greatest Literature banner


Critique Quotes At the movies

1948, 1955, 19571971

Macbeth illustrationIllustration, 1858 edition
Publication details ▽ Publication details △

Original title
The Tragedie of Macbeth


First performed

First published
1623, in Folio

Literary form

Tragedy, historical drama

Writing language

Author's country

Five acts, 2,392 lines, approx. 16,500 wordss

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

A Macbeth called Joe

Joe MacBeth (1955): Director Ken Hughes; writer Hughes, Philip Yordan; featuring Paul Douglas, Ruth Roman, Bonar Colleano, Sid James

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 was harshly ciriticized at the time and it is mainly forgotten today. But 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


Critique Quotes At the movies

1948, 1955, 19571971