Sunday, December 22, 2013

In the Company of Hamlets: Milton, Welles, O'Toole, BBC, 1963; Short Note by Payman Akhlaghi (2013)

In the Company of Hamlets:
Ernest Milton, Orson Welles, Peter O'Toole
(1963, Monitor, BBC, ca. 24 mins)

Short Introduction by Payman Akhlaghi (Draft 1)
First Published on December 22, 2013, LA, at,
under In the Company of Hamlets.

Here's a 1963 conversation between stage and film actors, Orson Welles (48), Peter O'Toole (31), and Ernest Milton (73), moderated by Huw Wheldon, (1963, Monitor, BBC, ca. 24 mins), on Shakespeare's Hamlet.

I find it curious that, as far as I know, Welles directed cinematic adaptations of both Macbeth and Othello, but only appeared in the stage productions of Hamlet. In this interview, he provides many insights into the character, that to him, Hamlet was the first genius among dramatic characters, and not just a prince in anguish. Not unexpectedly, he seems to have a preference toward a less affected, more natural, "modern", although he appreciates as well a fittingly "rhetorical" and well-articulated style of delivery. Welles' own genius is all too apparent.

O'toole emphasizes the Elizabethean context of the character, offers an analysis of his psycho-philosophical dimensions in terms of "passion" in the author's body of work; and remembers the humorous side of its production history, including a 19th century musical adaptation under "Hamlet Revamped", and for long a staple of 19th century productions, "Hamlet's dog", a trained company for the Danish prince to talk to on the stage. Note the fine distinction he makes toward the end between verse and prose, that the point of the pentameter is to think of it afterwards. He seems by nature the bad boy of the company, and arguably, the other thespian genius.

Milton, the most mature of the three, personally, and patient, conceptually, speaks of his more imaginative than intellectual approach to the character, that to him, "not everything happens for a reason". He also offers firsthand memories of performance styles from a past generation, and suggests that the most difficult character of the tragedy to play is the Ghost. Unlike Welles, he sees Hamlet as indeed becoming deranged and demented, as the story progresses, and as he finds himself in an unbearably complex and undesirable moral dilemma.

Enjoy this short conversation, even as you may miss to understand some words or references, as this humble did. Incidentally, it would be fun to imagine a 3-year old Kenneth Branagh, sleeping somewhere away from that table, about 50 years ago.

© 2013, Introduction by Payman Akhlaghi. All rights reserved.

(*) Sources for Dates and Titles:
-, general
- Google search.

(*) Payman Akhlaghi is a composer, pianist and piano teacher based in Los Angeles. His repertoire covers Classical music, as well as Persian (Iranian) Music, Pop Music, and Film Music. For information on the lessons in the Greater Los Angeles area, including Beverly Hills, West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Encino, Brentwood, etc. please call: 310-208-2927. Thank you.

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