Macbeth (1916)

Sub-Genres - Tragedy  |  
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Synopsis by Janiss Garza

While William Shakespeare's tragic tale of greed and murder had already been filmed several times (including once in 1908 by J. Stuart Blackton), this is the most well-known silent version, probably because it was made by the soon-to-be popular director/screenwriting team of John Emerson and Anita Loos. In addition, famed British tragedian Sir Herbert Tree plays the ambitious Scottish chieftain, while the equally famed stage actress Constance Collier plays his even colder, more ambitious wife. Others in the cast include Wilfred Lucas (one of the silent screen's hardest working actors) as MacDuff, Spottiswoode Aitken (as busy as Lucas in the character actor department) as Duncan and future director Jack Conway as Lennox. Emerson and Loos stayed as true as they possibly could to Shakespeare's story and spirit, even if his words did have to be cut down to fit on a title card. The biggest problem with this film from a box office standpoint, is that it came at the end of a wave of highbrow films, and for the most part, movie audiences were famously lowbrow. Proof of this is that Variety noted that the New York theater manager who was running the film "decided to add a comedy to the show, as the heavy tragedy of the Avan (sic) d'Bard seemed a little too indigestible for the film patrons of the house."