Although criticized by Shakespeare devotees upon its release because of director, producer, and star Laurence Olivier's decision to excise large portions of the text, his cinematic version of Hamlet is widely considered the best out of several dozens (and counting). Hamlet (Olivier) is a medieval Danish prince who's still melancholy over the sudden death of his father and the quick, subsequent remarriage of his mother, Queen Gertrude (Eileen Herlie) to his uncle, Claudius (Basil Sydney). Informed by the ghost of his father that Claudius murdered him, Hamlet schemes to take revenge. Unsure how best to proceed, his delays and the horrible secret burdening him eventually lead to the violent snuffing out of several lives in both his family and that of courtier Polonius (Felix Aylmer), whose daughter Ophelia (Jean Simmons) is in love with Hamlet. Greatly influenced by the inventive camera work in Citizen Kane (1941) and by modern, psychological reinterpretations of Shakespeare's play, Olivier's masterpiece was the winner of four Academy Awards, for Best Picture, Best Actor (Olivier), Best Black and White Art Direction/Set Direction and Best Black and White Costume Design.
by Karl Williams synopsis